The King of France most Americans can name is Louis XIV, who ruled for 72 years, and who built and lived in Versailles. What most Americans don't know is that he was born in another Château, in St. Germain-en-laye, which is about 8 miles away. St. Germain-en-laye is only 30 minutes from Paris, but it is a very green suburb, boasting a forest that is approximately 14 square miles, and immaculately manicured gardens along the Seine.
This was the last town my friend saw before her flight back to the US. After all the hustle and bustle of Paris, this was a nice respite, with charming pedestrian streets, friendly English speaking shops used to international visitors (there is an international school in town), and lush lawns with plenty of benches in the shade. If you are visiting for more than a few weeks or you have been to Paris numerous times, you might want to visit during the Sunday Marché when Parisians flock to the town square for the largest open air market in Western Paris.
She spent a day wandering the streets, tasting the pastries, visiting the Château, and peering through the gates of the wealthy residents. I joined her in the evening for dinner at the Brasserie du Theatre. A three course dinner for 30-40€ ($40-50US) with a view of the Château and very generous servings makes this a reliable stop, especially if the weather is nice enough to sit outside on the terrace (it was drizzling, so we ate inside). I chose the 30€ menu which included a dessert, but since I knew there was no way I would be able to eat three courses, my friend would get her sweet tooth satisfied. I started with oysters, which always make me smile, and segued to a steak in peppercorn sauce. Since I forgot my camera (which happens when you carry a small purse and wear a skirt with no pockets), you'll have to take my word for it that the steak was very large by Parisian standards.
My friend ordered the whole grilled bar (European sea bass) with vegetables. She was shocked that the fish arrived with head and tail intact, but after a little coaching, she enjoyed performing "surgery" to get to the tender filets. I finished up the surgery by switching plates with her and coaxing the last morsels from the bones :)
Dessert was a variation on profiteroles, done with whipped Chantilly cream in a caramel sauce, my friend said she was too full to finish this, but with slowly and surely, she managed to accomplish the task.
Even though they speak English, it was wonderful to be the only English speakers in the restaurant. It seemed that all the other tables were local residents enjoying the pleasure of living with a royal view.