Twenty Days--Base Camp: Saint-Witz, France
St. Witz is a quiet suburb located north of Paris and is only a fifteen minute drive from Charles de Gaulle airport. Free from the noise and activity of Paris, its pastoral setting makes it an ideal location to recuperate from a transatlantic flight. I realize that most travelers might wonder why we would choose to stay outside the world’s most beautiful city, but since we have visited Paris several times before, we wanted to focus our adventures on places we have never visited. Also, we wanted to make our car rental return and check-in for the flight home as easy as possible after three weeks of traveling. St. Witz seemed like an ideal location to both begin and end our journey!
Why We Chose This City As a Base Camp
· Its proximity to Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) is ideal. Approximately fifteen minutes by car!
· Paris was not the focus of this particular trip because we wanted to explore points north of the city like Giverny. St. Witz is located in and around beautiful pastoral areas that are prime for exploring!
· Survilliers/Fosses train station is located on RER Line D, which takes you directly into Paris. There is free parking by the station. (We felt completely safe during the day on this line, but I’m not sure if I would feel as comfortable at night as the line stops in areas in northern Paris known to have an inflated crime rate. That being said, we felt completely safe on our trip into and out of Paris, even though we happened to be in the city on the day that major riots broke out, resulting in a few Metro lines to be shut down in the area we had to pass through.)
· The cost of hotels is MUCH CHEAPER than what you’ll find in Paris.
· We wanted to begin our trip with the ease of not having to navigate through Paris traffic.
Where to Stay: We spent the first night and last three nights of our trip at the Novotel Survilliers St. Witz. It is located on the A1/D16 Autoroute and is an easy drive from Charles de Gaulle airport. Make sure you have money to pay tolls for the autoroute!
Novotel is a popular European chain that caters to travelers on a moderate budget. It is affordable and costs much less than comparable properties in Paris. Breakfast was included with our room, but double-check when you make your reservation. Internet access is free. Our room was clean, average in size, and included a mini-fridge. The shower was outstanding! There is a swimming pool on the property, and parking is free. (If you decide to stay in Paris, you most likely will not have a pool, nor will parking be free.) In addition, there is a restaurant on-site that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Where to Eat: You will find an assortment of chain restaurants across the A1 from Novotel. We found that the prices were moderate but less expensive than what you’ll find in Paris. We ate at Pizza del Arte, which is like a French Olive Garden. The food was fine, but nothing spectacular. However, we found the food at the Novotel restaurant was fine and served our needs after a long day of exploring.
· While waiting on our room to be prepped, we were able to stock up on snacks and drinks at a local grocery store. I’m sorry to say that I cannot remember the name of the store as it was small and locally owned. However, if you decide to venture into the tiny town, turn right out of the hotel parking lot, stay on the main road for about ten minutes, and you’ll see it on the left. There is a pizza place located next to the store.
· There are several gas stations located in and around St. Witz/Survilliers on A1. You will have ample opportunities to gas up before hitting the road!
· Again, make sure you have cash on-hand to pay for tolls!
· The Survilliers-Fosses train station is located approximately fifteen minutes from the Novotel.
· Take the RER Line D straight into Paris. You may purchase your roundtrip tickets at both the windows and kiosks located in the train station.
· We found that the prices at the local grocery store were much less expensive in St. Witz than in other cities on our route, so stock up!
Suggested Daytrips From St. Witz (All times are based on the drive from Novotel St. Witz and are approximate)
· Parc Asterix (10 minutes)
· Monet’s Gardens in Giverny (1 hour and 15 minutes)
· Palace of Versailles (1 hour)
· Domaine de Chantilly (20 minutes)
· Paris (RER Line D to Châtelet – Les Halles station) (45 minutes)