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Bois de Vincennes
Charenton-le-pont borders directly on a pleasant wooded area called the Bois de Vincennes, which actually belongs to Paris. It's a good place for strolling, cycling or boating.
In the 13th century this woods was used as a royal hunting grounds. King Philippe Auguste (a.k.a. Philippe II, 1165-1223) had a 12-kilometer wall built around it, and stocked it with deer and other huntable animals. (Just in case you thought game reserves were a modern invention.)
In the 18th century, under Louis XV (1710-1774) this woods was turned into a public promenade, only to be closed again in the 19th for use as a military training camp.
Then in 1860 the emperor Napoléon III (1808-1873) had it transformed into a park similar to the Bois de Boulogne at the other end of Paris, for reasons of symmetry, evidently. But the Bois de Boulogne has always been more fashionable because it borders on one of the more affluent districts of Paris, and this one doesn't.
Parts of the Bois de Vincennes were used for the notorious International Colonial Exposition of 1931.
Second photo: Lake Daumesnil in the Vincennes Woods.
48°49'46.48" North; 2°25'4.50" East
Chateau de Vincennes
A medieval fortress built in the 14th and then again the 17th centuries. King Henry V died here, the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned here, and Mata-Hari was executed here. Another claim to fame is that the first public clock in France was built here, above the gatehouse, in 1369 by Charles V. It recently underwent a complete cleaning and restoration.
There are two main parts, the chapel and the donjon, or fortress.
Metro: Chateau de Vicennes, last stop of Line #1.
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This fortified royal residence dates back to the 12th Century when it was established as a royal hunting lodge. It has served as a fortified castle for centuries with its large walls surmounted by 9 towers until Napoleon levelled some of them for the installation of artillery. There is a prison in the donjon which at one time housed the infamous Marquis de Sade before he went to the Bastille and on to an insane asylum. The lovely chapel, Sainte-Chapelle was built in the 16th Century to house holy relics (part of the true cross, crown of thorns, sponge) and is modelled after the church of the same name on Ile de Cite. Unfortunately it was closed for renovations the day we were there. Tours are either conducted or self guided and about E 7.50 and free for under 18. Less for shorter tours.
Address: Avenue de Paris 94300 Vincennes
Metro: Chateau de Vincennes
Chateau de Vincennes
While most people visiting Paris make their way to Versailles, Chateau Vincennes, dating back to the 13th century (the Midevil Versailles), provides a great escape from the bustle of the City.
Used by every monarch from Charles V to Henry IV, it was used as a hunting lodge. The Castle has a real moat, ramparts, and a midevil prison. Mata Hari faced a firing squad here in 1917.
Open Apr.-Sept. daily 10am-noon and 1:15-6pm; Oct.-Mar. 10am-noon and 1:15-5pm. Tour of the Ste-Chapelle (45min.) 10:15, 11:45am, 1:30, 4:15pm, in summer also 5:15pm; €4, 18-25 €2.50, under 18 free. Tour of Ste-Chapelle, ramparts, and moat (1¼hr.) 11am, 2:15, 3, 3:45pm, in summer also 4:30pm; €5.50, 18-26 €3.50, under 18 free.
Chateau de Vincennes
Any kid wants to go to Disneyland Paris, so Eva, my daughter as well. I agreed to go there, but I wanted her to see a real castle as well after all this fake stuff. And I found out that you don't need to go far to find a beautiful fortified castle just outside of the Peripherique, next to the RER between Marne-La-Valle-Chessy and Chatelet-les-Halles. You can also take the Metro to the final stop Chateau de Vincennes.
Vincennes was in the dark ages a wild forest where the Kings of the Franks unleashed their great dogs of war. In the 12th century it became the site for a hunting lodge, a fortified mansion, an oak tree from which justice was meted out and a chapel. A royal town appeared encircled by huge walls, a large charch was built, palaces and gardens, etc. Since 1990 the casle and palaces are being renovated, but more and more areas are open to the public.
After seeing the Chateau, I made a large walk through the forest (Bois de Vincennes) with my daughter. There is an interesting Boudhist temple and a zoo with a huge rock near the Lac Deaumesnil.
Chateau et Bois de Vincennes
This is not really a must see activity, but if you have some more time in Paris, and are sick and tired of the busy downtown Paris you should really pay a visit to the town of Vincennes.
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