“My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.
You’ve done all of it: sightseeing, fashion shopping and boulangerie hopping searching out the best French macarons in Paris. For a change, why not take those twitchy feet off the concrete circuit of city pavements and go walk on green grass and fill your lungs with fresh air? Go for a hike in the lush Forest of Verriere (Fôret Domaniale de Verrières). This enchanting area just outside Paris is our idea of a velvet escape.
Although not considered part of the Ile de France region, Verrière is still considered by many as a Parisian village due to its proximity to the city (13 km maximum from Paris). Located at the south-west border of Paris, it is only 45-60 minute train ride from Gare du Nord (RER train to Igny). Your hike starts as soon as you leave the train station. Sitting atop a hill overlooking the Bièvre Valley, the Forest of Verrière was a former hunting ground in the time of Louis XIV. Later, the entire hill was heavily fortified and used by the French artillery to defend Paris in 1815 then in 1870. Towards the end of the 18th century, the family Lévêque de Vilmorin (horticulturists) bought it and transformed it into a botanical haven.
The Bièvre Valley also inspired some of the fête champêtre paintings of Antoine Watteau. Later, midway through the 19th century, it became a frequently used motive for painters such as Corot and Redon, not least because this part of the outer Ile de France was one of the most convenient to reach by the new suburban railways.
It is a lush 550-hectare forest canopied by oak, chestnut, ash, lime and birch trees (some of which have been standing for more than 100 years). With very few steep trails, the hike in Fôret Verrière is really a walk in the park. The trails are well marked (map; or with a high resolution camera or phone camera, you can take a picture of the maps found in the park itself). You can have a long or a short hike depending on the circuit you choose.
Next time you visit Paris, a day’s hike through the Forest of Verrière may just be the idyllic and unique way to wrap up your stay in Paris. And don’t forget to pack a picnic.
About this week’s guest writer
Michael Schuermann, journalist, author of guide book Paris Movie Walks, hubby to Marlys.