This walk is lovely at any time of year, and in fact views of the rivers are easier in the winter when the light is soft and you can see through the leafless trees. But the cooler air outside the city in the summer is also a reason to take this short trip west of Paris. You’ll enjoy bird life, impressionist history, passing barges, superb mansions and people to watch.
Take the RER A to St Germain-en-Laye. Walk across the terrace past the château of St Germain-en-Laye built in the time of Henri IV (17th century). Exit the park through the Boulingrin gate on the right. Follow rue des Arcades to the left, then left on rue Thiers. Go past the Pavillion Henri IV. At the foot of the stairs take the rampe des Grottes on the right. Cross the street and continue down the steps to place de l’Eglise St Wandrille. Continue down to the bottom then go straight to the Mairie of Le Pecq.
At the traffic light, go up the steps and across the bridge over the Seine, note the sculptures Seine and Oise on the bridge (the department was named Seine et Oise prior to 1968, currently it is called Les Yvelines). On the other side of the river take the stairs down to the quay. Walk along the Seine past the sailing school & municipal park to the towpath. Continue past the water pumping stations where 320,000m3 of water are pumped each day from the aquifer (not from the Seine). Keep your eyes open as the infiltration and treatment bassins are an ideal place for migrating and nesting birds. 106 different species have been seen here.
Continue along the quai de l’Ecluse, past the British School. When you come to the bridge pass it then turn left twice to go up and over following the GR2 markings (one white and one red line on a post). Half way across the bridge go down on the left side towards the Golfe de la Grenouillière on the Ile de la Chaussée. Follow the path along the north side of the island and over the dike that connects it to the Ile des Impressionnistes. Along the way you’ll see several signs indicating painting sites where Monet and Renoir worked. The path leads to the Parc des Impressionnistes in Chatou.
At this point you can choose from of three options:
– Option 1, enough walking time to head back to Paris: cross the Seine, walk under the RER bridge and turn left twice to access the RER station
– Option 2, a little more walking: 10 minutes each way up the Ile des Impressionnistes to the famous Maison Fournaise, the last of the guinguettes (a suburban café often in open air along the riverside with music and dancing). Many painters spent time here including Renoir, Degas, Manet, Caillebotte, Morisot, Derain and Matisse. The writer Guy de Maupassant mentions the Maison in several of his stories. The Maison is currently a restaurant. Boat tours on the Seine leave from here in the warm weather.
– Option 3, walk 2½ hours back to the RER at Le Pecq or St Germain-en-Laye. You’ll pass the Le Musée de la Grenouillère in Croissy which offers more guinguette and impressionist history, open Thursday through Sunday 14-18h.
The towpath is also an excellent place to bike. You can take your bike on the RER off peak times.