Weekend around an artist’s house: Jean Cocteau and Milly-la-Forêt
Jean Cocteau fell in love with the authentic charms of this part of the Essonne département, south of Paris. With its fresh air, rural scenery, cultural and architectural heritage, food and know-how, you too are bound to fall under its spell.
We would like to inform our kind readers that a vehicle is required to follow this itinerary.
Milly-la-Forêt, the home of an artist, and a village of real charm.
Your walk begins in Milly-la-Forêt, just one hour’s drive from Paris, in the place Jean Cocteau chose to make his home in 1947. Sick of the hustle and bustle of Parisian society, and attracted by the charms of this village near Fontainebleau and its forest, he purchased a Louis XIII-style house, formerly an outbuilding of the Château de la Bonde. It was in this beautiful property, discreetly nestled at the end of a pathway, that he spent the last 17 years of his life.
A signposted 3km walking route will enable you to explore Milly’s most beautiful landmarks and curiosities: the 15th-century market halls, admirably preserved from the ravages of time, the dovecote, the wash houses, the drinking trough, the Porte du Moustier, an architectural marvel that bears witness to the city’s medieval past, the cross of Saint James, and the Chapelle Saint-Blaise des Simples, the former leper house decorated by Cocteau himself, now his final resting place.
The power of plants
Milly-la-Forêt is also known for its aromatic and medicinal plants, particularly its peppermint, which you can still buy today at L’Herbier de Milly-la-Forêt in the form of cordial, herbal tea, liqueur and sweets, thanks to knowledge and know-how passed down through the generations.
To learn more about its virtues, head for the Conservatoire National des Plantes, just a stone’s throw from the Chapelle Saint-Blaise. A rich mine of knowledge for novice gardeners, green fingered veterans, and anyone else who happens to be curious!
The flavours of the Gâtinais
Feeling peckish? Indulge yourself at Aux Saveurs du Gâtinais. With its homemade dishes, local produce and warm welcome, this restaurant is a safe bet for high-quality traditional French cuisine.
The mythical monster of the forest
After lunch, your walk continues outside of the city, in the heart of the forest, where a steel giant weighing 300 tonnes and measuring 22 metres high awaits you like a recluse. The Cyclop is a disconcerting work of art built between 1969 and 1994 by Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely in collaboration with his wife Niki de Saint Phalle. Step inside his body for a unique artistic experience!
Coq a doodle doo!
The chef of the Les Coqs restaurant knows exactly how to satisfy your appetite and tickle your taste buds with a constantly updated menu that uses fresh, seasonal produce straight from the market to showcase French cuisine. A great place to linger over an indulgent meal at the heart of Milly-la-Forêt.
A night at the château
Just a few minutes’ drive from Milly, discover the elegance of the Château de Courances. This magnificent 17th-century construction featured prominently in French history, while its grounds, which have been awarded “remarkable garden” status, are a marvel of landscape architecture. Nestled next to the magnificent Japanese garden is a picturesque hamlet made up of three handsomely restored houses, former outbuildings of the neighbouring château. Spend a night with your partner or your family in one of the Paris region’s most beautiful historic country estates and become lord or lady of the manor for the evening!
After savouring the tranquillity of the surrounding area, and perhaps making a stop at the Moulin de Dannemois to visit the former home of iconic French singer Claude François, it is time to discover the magic of caneworked glass. Watch the master glassblowers of the Verrerie d’art de Soisy-sur-Ecole bring the molten material to life before your very eyes and see the finished products in the adjoining shop. A unique encounter with the work of passionate, highly skilled craftspeople!
Gâtinais honey, a local speciality
To finish on a sweet note, discover honey in all its forms at the Miellerie du Gâtinais in Boutigny-sur-Essonne, at the heart of the Parc naturel régional du Gâtinais français. You will learn all about beekeeping, the construction of a beehive, and how honey is extracted. A free and fun visit suitable for all, with plenty of sweet treats on sale to take home with you!
More famous artists' houses in Paris Region
- Copyright image: © ADAGP Paris Ronis Willy (1910-2009) © RMN - Gestion droit d'auteur Willy RonisPhoto © Ministere de la Culture