September 2017 – While visiting Paris we took an easy train ride out to the beautiful town of Moret sur Loing. With architecture dating back to the Middle Ages, complete with arches and town gates, it is utterly charming and makes for a very fun excursion and change of pace from the big city.
Small towns are my favorite places to visit, and English woman Annabel Simms has written two books describing the many pretty towns a short train ride from Paris that are worthy of a day trip.
Moret sur Loing (officially renamed Moret-Loing-et-Orvanne in 2016) is filled with tiny streets. The homes and businesses are built right to the edge of the sidewalk.
We strolled the streets of town, marveling at the many antique buildings that are centuries old.
The detail in their decorations is wonderful. Doorways aren’t just an opening to get through a wall. Instead they are elaborately decorated. One doorway featured ornately carved wooden scenes and scroll work.
There were arches through buildings on several streets. They were barely wide enough for a car, although I did see a bus squeeze through the taller ones!
The early fall air was warm and clear. Flowers in window boxes gave the stone architecture a colorful flair.
We had gone to the town to enjoy the intimacy, tranquility and history of an antique village, but this place isn’t just a museum piece, and even though the architecture is old, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be used. I had to smile when a fellow rode up on a bike to use a modern day ATM built into the wall of a very old building.
A tall archway leads to a bridge over the Loing River. Looking back at the arch, I half expected to see a row of knights on horseback coming through, their lances raised and colors flying!
Next to the tower was a very cute restaurant overlooking the river. It was the ideal spot for lunch.
The seats on the deck were all full, so we thought we’d walk around for an hour and try again later. Unfortunately, the restaurant is open strictly for lunch, so when we returned it was closed!
Our walk down to the river’s edge was well worth missing a fancy lunch, however. We just grabbed a baguette sandwich at a boulangerie and had a picnic by the water watching the ducks and geese playing in the currents.
A small walking path goes along the edge of the river, and we walked along it to the next village. Rivers and canals connect all of Europe, and we passed lots of barges tied up along the shore that looked like they could really go the distance.
A barge can make a spacious and fun floating home, and many of them looked very inviting to live in!
One thing that is really apparent in France, and especially Paris, is how well people dress. The men are dapper and the women are chic. There is a love of tailored fashion we just don’t see in our travels elsewhere, and as we would wait for the Metro or walk the city streets it was a true delight to see one handsome and impeccably dressed Parisian after another going past.
Well, Parisian chic extends into the countryside too, and French people aren’t the only ones in France who have a true sense of style.
As we strolled along the banks of the Loing River, I looked down to see the most unusual and smartly dressed cat I’ve ever seen. What a coat!
Rivers and canals don’t all have the same water level as each other, so they are often joined together by lock systems where boats can be raised or lowered, allowing them to float from one canal to another.
As we crossed a bridge, we saw a barge coming towards us and noticed that there was a lock system on one side of the bridge right below our feet.
The captain of the barge brought the boat into the lock and quickly tied the boat to the big cleats on the concrete walls of the lock.
He hopped off the barge and greeted the woman controlling the locks with the traditional French kiss on both cheeks. He obviously came through this lock on a regular basis!
As the doors closed behind the barge it was amazing what a tight fit the boat was inside the lock.
For the next few minutes the lock filled with water while the captain chatted with the lady controlling the lock and then with another fellow who rode up on a bike to say hello. Then he climbed back aboard, the lock gates swung open, and he sailed the barge out of the lock.
There was something very heartwarming about the whole thing. There are thousands of locks worldwide, and we’ve read many accounts of sailors taking their boats through the Panama Canal and we’ve watched the huge barges going through the Soo Locks in Michigan.
But this was a little lock in a scenic small French town, and there was something quite delightful about the simple traditions and conventions of moving a barge through the lock that were all in a day’s work for these people.
As we walked along the opposite shore back to town, the Medieval glory of Moret-sur-Loing came into view once again.
In between taking photos, I came across a plaque that told the town’s history. The first date on the plaque describing the earliest recorded events in this place was 1045. Wow!!
That predates many of the ancient Indian ruins and rock art we see in the American West, and it is fairly close to the timeframe that the Mayans were building Palenque in Mexico and the Khmer at Ankor Wat in Cambodia were erecting their massive stone temples.
We made our way back to Paris and decided to catch sunset at the Eiffel Tower. There is a huge plaza overlooking the Eiffel Tower where vendors sell all kinds of trinkets on blankets spread out in front of them.
When the Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair it was the tallest building in the world. The base of the tower is enormous!
As the golden hour just before sunset came, the gold leaf dome of Les Invalides where Napoleon is entombed glinted in the setting sun.
And then, as darkness fell, the Eiffel Tower lit up. How magical!!
Paris is as enchanting by night as it is by day, and we walked around town late into the evening.
The banks of the Seine River are as full of people at night as they are during the daytime. What a fun surprise it was to come across a group of people dancing Argentine Tango right on the riverbanks.
Talk about romantic!!
As we made our way back to the Metro, we passed Notre Dame cathedral. She was aglow with lights.
And the river boats on the Seine kept plying the water long after dark.
My visit to Paris was capped off in the most charming way I could possibly imagine. On our last ride on the Paris Metro, while standing in the aisle hanging onto a strap, I suddenly heard the sound of an accordion. I looked up to see a young man coming through the doors connecting the train cars. He stared right at me and smiled as he played a classic tune.
I grabbed my camera and threw it into video mode as fast as I could. What an absolutely perfect way to bid goodbye to an elegant and inviting city.
So, here it is — a 30 second video from an accordion player on the Metro along with the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower shimmering in the dark and dancers on the Seine:
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More info about Moret sur Loing and other Paris excursions:
- Paris to Moret sur Loing – Locations of Paris and Moret and the train ride on the map
- Moret sur Loing Reviews – TripAdvisor comments and suggestions
- An Hour from Paris – Fun day trips outside the big city
- A Half Hour from Paris – Don’t have much time? Check these out!
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- An American in Paris – Ooh La La! 09/30/17
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