Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live outside of Paris? I don’t mean in a little village where the boulangerie and cathedral are the village. No, I mean what it’s like to live just outside of Paris. Why would you do that?
Well, I did it because I wanted to improve my French and I’ve not stayed in Paris since! Don’t get me wrong. I love Paris but have expanded my French experiences repertoire to include finding a second home outside of Paris. It’s a dream come true. All I had to do was step out of my comfort zone.
Like any major US city, Paris has suburbs. The suburbs can be as active or quiet as you wish. For example, two NYC suburbs are Ridgefield, CT (quiet) and White Plains (active). What do these suburbs have in common? Easy access to NYC = best of both worlds!
In March of 2022, as we finally escaped COVID, I made the decision to re-start my French journey with Experience France (XPF). I was looking forward to renting for the first time an apartment in Paris and jumping in with both feet to start my XPF immersions. During a planning conversation with Carl Adkins, the XPF Founder, he presented the benefits to me of renting an apartment just outside of Paris. Specifically, he suggested Saint Germaine-en-Laye ( SGL).
Before I go further, SGL is only 12 miles from Paris. There is an RER station in the center of town which I will discuss later. Basically, SGL is a mini-Paris in EVERY way.
But allow me to share how I went from renting a Paris apartment to discovering a second home in SGL.
The local XPF immersions are coordinated around the Yvelines area, (aka county) in which SGL is located. SGL is a small but vibrant town. Residents enjoy a variety of restaurants, the National Archeological Museum, a Chateau ( I so do love a chateau!), a royal park, historical sites such as the room where Louis XIV was born (for you history buffs like me), Fete de la Musique, neighborhoods to explore, a trolley to Versailles and easy access to Paris. But most importantly, staying in SGL allowed me to commit to the XPF plan vs the XPF plan accommodating me.
This was the moment I stepped out of my comfort zone. My biggest concern was that in SGL I would be in a sleepy suburb. Evening would come and there would be no activity. As we say in the states, the sidewalks would roll up.
Carl assured me this was not the case and I just decided to do it. Rent an apartment in SGL, embrace the XPF experience and finally hopefully find the right path to continue my French language journey.
Well, this was the best decision I made. I could not have been happier. During 2022, I visited France two more times and stayed in SGL – in the same apartment!
The town is lovely and now feels like my second home. The tabac owner greets me and we converse in French about what’s happening in SGL. For lunch I have a 3 minute walk to the café where I can view the chateau while enjoying a French omelette. If you ever have lunch with me in France, don’t be surprised if I order “une omelette aux fine herbes“!
And after dinner and a walk, I can enjoy the sunset from my SGL apartment. In the photo the market setup was in process; I had became an SGL neighbor, not a Paris tourist in SGL.
Let’s talk about SGL’s chateau. Yes, this was my view at lunch. Today the chateau is the home of the National Archaeological Museum. This royal palace has been a very important royal residence since the 12th century – it was Louis XIV’s residence until he moved to nearby Versailles.
The archaeological exhibits are impressive and well worth your time. But for me, I was enthralled with the architecture and stepping back in time. I love a chateau or an historical French building that has not been “touristified”.
Versailles is amazing but, for me, Fountainbleu is exhilarating – it too has not been “touristified” and I will share my Fountainbleu experience with you in the future, promise.
But let me share with you the moment my breath was taken away at this chateau. When I entered the chapel, I stopped. “Chapel” really does not describe this amazing structure. Dare I say it’s a mini-cathedral. I will let the pictures speak for themselves but being in the chapel alone was amazing. Quiet, a bit cool for a very hot day and with a greenish aura from the windows, this required a moment of appreciation, reflection and awe.
Across the street from the chateau is the RER station. Going into Paris could not be easier and the RER station was literally a 3 minute walk from my SGL apartment. I will share that experience with you soon,