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Eat local produce The valley includes part of the ancient forest of Rambouillet, former hunting ground of French kings, where you can still see wild sangliers and graceful deer through the whispering trees. Close to the Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay is a large network of paths, many of which converge on the sparkling green Étang des Cernay, from where the monks replenished their water supply; a little further on, you can view the cascades which powered the Petit Moulin de Cernay. The sandstone under your feet is lucky to be there - in the beginning of the 19th century, much of it was excavated and sent by train to Paris to become its cobblestoned streets. You won’t even need to pack your picnic lunch on your day in the valley. Whether you’re in the car, on foot or on your bike, stop in one of the tiny village boulangeries for a warm and fresh baguette, and at La Ferme de Coubertin for a round (or two) of cheese. This locally recognised farm raises its own cows and goats and makes award winning cheeses of all varieties. Make sure you pick up some flavoured yoghurt for your dessert. For something a little bit different, yet completely French, why not visit a snail farm? Snails are not just for the tourist restaurants in Paris, they are a popular dish in their own right all over France, especially at Christmas. The Ferme de Fanon, in Senlisse, emblematic of the Valley region, has been raising their own snails for almost 20 years. The thousands of snails here snack daily on fresh parsley, shallots and
garlic for around 14 months, before they are sent off to restaurants or sold in the small boutique store on the farm. It is also possible to take a tour of the farm, before you head home with your chewy snails for dinner. Other highlights of the region: Domaine de Dampierre This magnificent château dominates the small village of Dampierre. The château itself has been under restoration for several years now, but it’s a beautiful walk around the estate with its magical pond and 17th century outbuildings. Port Royal des Champs The sister Abbey to that of Vaux-de- Cernay, there is not a great deal which remains of this 13th century nunnery. Largely destroyed under Louis XIV because of religious conflict, later buildings were used as a school, or to keep the memory of the abbey alive. Located in Magny-les-Hameaux, the ruins are a tranquil place to spend an afternoon, and some of the buildings have been converted to a museum. Rambouillet This restored château, former royal palace and now one of the official residences of the French President, has seen the likes of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Napoléon Bonaparte and Josephine, and Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron. In the sweeping grounds, which include an artificial lake populated with white
Chateau de Chenonceau The white fa
Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau Standing
Royal Fortress of Chinon The royal
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