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Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay

Stone ruins of an abbey, ivy growing through empty rose window frame 
A short drive from Paris, the Parc Naturel régional Haute Vallée de Chevreuse encompasses more than 25,000 hectares. Located in the Yvelines department Ile de France, there are castles, pictures postcard villages, wonderful walks, authentic farms and much more to see, including the lovely Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay…

Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay


Fountain inside a tiny stone built hut

Beautifully restored by the outrageously wealthy Rothschild family in the late 19th century, the buildings and extensive grounds of the Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay are the perfect setting for a peaceful wander on a sunny afternoon. Only the shell of the ancient abbey remains, but one can imagine coloured shards of sunlight streaming through the rounded rose window a thousand years ago. Now, the ravages of time and greenery have taken their toll. The abbey was long associated with the pious Saint Thibault, abbot of the monastery in 1235. A famous legend rose up around the fountain in the abbey grounds. It’s said that after the infertile King Louis IX and his wife Marguerite of Provence were invited by St Thibault to drink the water at this miraculous fountain (above). They went on to have eleven children.

A perfect place to stroll

Ruins of an abbey surrounded by a park

The Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay is now run as a luxury hotel and function centre. But you can visit the ruins and the fountain and walk around the lake at your leisure (it’s free during the week). On Sundays there are guided tours of the grounds. If you’re looking for some fine French dining, take your seat amongst the vaulted arches in the restored priory which is now La Table du Prieur. When the weather is lovely, drinks and delicate pastries can be purchased from the tearooms. Sit on the paved terrasse and contemplate life with a view of the captivating abbey.

Discover the Vallee de Chevreuse

The Chateau de Breteuil, Valley de Chevreuse


Melissa Barndon lives in an old woodshed in the Yvelines department with her French husband and two children. She thinks there is no better place to be than France for its rich and turbulent past. Her blog MadameMellissane.com is about the delights of French history.

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