In the 19th century, many Parisians left the capital for a weekend to enjoy the countryside and the banks of the Seine. The first railway line linking Paris Saint-Lazare to Le Pecq (near Saint-Germain-en-Laye) was inaugurated in 1837 and allowed many Parisians to reach the banks of the Seine in a very short time. It was the time of public-houses and canoeing, bathing in the Seine, organizing jousts on the water, and enjoying the good life. In this joyful and festive atmosphere, artists, writers and political personalities mingled.
The Impressionist painters left their studios to come and paint “on the ground.” They were attracted by the Seine and its banks and, captivated by the reflections of the sun on the water, they immortalized these landscapes in paintings that are known throughout the world today.
Follow in the footsteps of the Impressionists via four hiking trails, on foot or by bike
About 30 reproductions of paintings have been put in the same place where the painters had put their easels; these works allow you to appreciate the landscapes as the painters saw them and to see how they may have changed, or not!
From Chatou to Carrières-sur-Seine, following the Renoir course:
The tour begins at the Hameau Fournaise, an emblematic place since it is here that the Maison Fournaise public-house was located. The building now houses the Fournaise museum, which offers you an immersive experience to meet the artist Renoir, along with a restaurant called La Maison Fournaise, currently closed for renovation but which should open its doors in September.
Take the time to discover this place where there is also a contemporary art gallery, the Galerie Bessières. It’s located in the Levanneur house, the former studio of painters Derain and Vlaminck, and a beautiful wooden building that houses a restaurant and a water station. If nowadays you can’t rent a skiff to compete in a joust on the Seine, you can still go to Sequana where a happy team of passionate volunteers restore boats from the Belle Epoque! In season, cruises leave from the Impressionist Island; ask the Tourist Office for the program.
This course will take you to Carrières-sur-Seine, a very pretty village that will surprise you with its authenticity. From the heights of the city, you can see the towers of La Défense, very close, and below, along the Seine, the market gardens which supply the best Parisian restaurants. At the bend in the streets, you will come across unusual buildings such as troglodyte houses and underground quarries.
From Chatou to Croissy-sur-Seine, following the Monet course:
Renoir and Monet, with their easels and tubes of paint slung over their shoulders, loved to stroll along the banks of the Seine, sitting side by side and immortalizing the river banks. On the site of the Grenouillère, they executed six world famous paintings. To discover the history of this public-house, no longer in existence, a museum opens its doors to you. Located in the outbuildings of the Chanorier castle, in Croissy-sur-Seine, the Grenouillère museum evokes the history of this public-house and the Belle Epoque. A local history pavilion is located just underneath and recalls the history of market gardening, which was very important for these towns on the banks of the Seine where “pot au feu” vegetables were produced to supply the markets of the Halles in Paris.
From Port-Marly to Le Pecq, following the Sisley course:
You will follow the towpath along which pretty barges lounge. The setting is bucolic and it’s easy to see how painters have long been fascinated by these places. Climb on the footbridge of Port-Marly and enjoy an improvised picnic on the grass on Ile de la Loge! On the heights of Port-Marly is the castle of Monte-Cristo, home and park of the famous writer Alexandre Dumas. In Le Pecq, you will walk along the Coulée Verte site, a classified natural area where the Suez water treatment plant is located.
From Louveciennes to Marly-le-Roi following the Pissarro course:
The most courageous will be able to climb along the old pipes of the Machine de Marly to discover Louveciennes and its beautiful landscapes. You will stroll through its picturesque streets and walk under the arches of the aqueduct. Located on the heights, it watches over the city and its inhabitants like an immutable guardian. Your steps will then lead you to Marly-le-Roi through the park of Marly (a visit to the royal domain’s museum is a must if you want to learn more about the history of the place), concluding in the old village and the last reproductions of this route.
These routes can be done on foot but can also be done by bicycle by following one of the two bicycle routes that cross the territory, you will take the Monet route, then you are free to choose the route that suits you best: to find out more: the green avenue Paris London or The Seine by bike. If you don’t want to go all the way to London or Deauville, you can stop before!
Suggestions for your stay:
To spend the weekend, discover a range of delightful accommodations in hotels or guest rooms offering you the tranquility of a stay “in the country”. For more information, click here.
The Saint Germain Boucles de Seine destination can be discovered on foot, by bike and … by boat! Two Saturdays a month, from July to September, embark on one of the cruises along the Seine. From 1h30 to 3h, the cruises are commented by a guide-lecturer, for some of them you can take your picnic on board.
Lead photo credit : Musée Fournaise (C) Saint Germain Tourisme