Situated within the Île-de-France region, Seine-et-Marne is one of the largest of the French departments with a population of roughly 1.2 million. It has an area of approximately 5,915 square kilometers and accounts for a significant fraction of the Paris conurbation. Seine-et-Marne is bordered by Val-d'Oise, Val-de-Marne, Essonne and Seine-Saint-Denis to the West, Aube and Marne in the East, Yonne and Loiret to the South and Aisne and Oise in the North.
Seine-et-Marne is noted for its natural and cultural diversity. Despite being situated just outside Paris, it boasts over 120,000 hectares of forest and 2,000 kilometers of creeks and rivers. In the past, it was a haven for Impressionist painters and writers. Today, it is home to Disneyland Paris and Sea Life Paris both of which require little introduction.
Seine-et-Marne was one of the original eighty-three departments formed in 1790 in the throes of the French Revolution. The historical town of Fontainebleau was the residence of choice for French monarchs for over seven hundred years. The battlefields of the Marne, also situated within this region, attest to the fact that this department has witnessed more than just royal splendour.
Seine-et-Marne is characterised by a temperate Atlantic climate; winters are generally cold whilst summers are mild. Average temperatures for January and July (in degrees Celsius) are 3.2 and 18.6 respectively.
The historical town of Provins has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site. Its principal attraction, the Caesar Tower, dates back to the 12th century. An excursion to the nearby medieval village of Saint Loup de Nord is highly recommended, in particular to its famous 12th century Romanesque church.
The Château Fontainebleau, as well as being the home of many a monarch in centuries past, possesses numerous historical treasures – in particular, a rare collection of Chinese artifacts previously under the ownership of Empress Eugénie. Other châteaux of interest include the Château of Champs-sur-Marne, home to one of Louis XV most illustrious mistresses and the French Baroque Château of Vaux-le-Vicomte, famous for its landscaped gardens designed by André Le Nôtre.
The town of Meaux is renowned for its beautiful cathedral. The neighbouring Bishop's Palace is home to a sizeable collection of paintings spanning three centuries. This, the Bossuet Museum, is named after the distinguished Bishop of Meaux and proves to be a site of great historical and cultural interest. Indeed, Seine-et-Marne is noted for religious attractions. The Basilica of Larchant has attracted pilgrims from the 12th century onwards and was witness to the religious turmoil that characterised medieval French history. Elsewhere, the Institute of Music at Saint Martin de Champeaux, a hub of French sacred music from the Middle Ages, holds annual performances, and must not be missed by anyone of a musical persuasion.
Disneyland Resort, Paris, located in Marne-la-Vallée, is easily the most outstanding source of family fun that this department has to offer. The Disneyland and Walt Disney Theme Parks are the main attractions here. However, the resort is also home to the Disney Village – a commercial and entertainment district – and dozens of hotels ranging from the deluxe Hotel New York, to Disney's Davy Crockett Ranch which provides an alternative for those traveling on a budget.
Seine-et-Marne is part of France's Champagne producing region and her wine yards are located principally within the town of Melun.
Opportunities for shopping are anything but limited in this department. Most of Seine-et-Marne's towns have branches of key high-street chains and the choice is indeed limitless. Markets, however, must not be overlooked especially as many offer unparalleled bargains on traditional crafts, gourmet delicacies and vintage haute couture. The Vallée Shopping Village (located in Marne-la-Vallée) stocks designer fashions from previous seasons at bargain prices and must not be missed.
Food and Drink
As with many French departments, Seine-et-Marne is famous for its gastronomical pleasures. The town of Meaux is unquestionably noted for its culinary delights. Its popular cheese, Brie-de-Meaux, is perhaps one of the finest that the region has to offer. The town of Meaux is also famous for its gourmet mustard, first created by the Pommery family in 1890. The recipe employed in Meaux mustard production today is identical to that which was used some two centuries ago.
The department of Seine-et-Marne is well known for its natural beauty and opportunities for walking abound, with over 2,800 kilometers of marked hiking routes. The Forest of Fontainebleau offers, in particular, many rock-climbing and hiking excursions.
Golf Disneyland, part of the Disneyland Resort Paris, consists of 9-hole and 18-hole courses. Those seeking a golfing experience beyond that offered by the aforementioned resort will no doubt be wholly satisfied by Golf de Fontainebleau, a championship course located in an idyllic setting just outside the historical town of Fontainebleau.
Ease of Access
The Seine-et Marne department is well served by air and rail amongst other forms of transport. Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport is partly situated within the northern sector of this department. Seine-et-Marne also possesses two high-speed train (TGV) stations: Marne la Vallée and Roissy Charles de Gaulle. Travel by train from London takes approximately three hours.
Value for Money
Seine-et-Marne offers unquestionable value for money. As with any holiday, however, it is necessary to plan well and bear in mind one's personal budget. Small family-run hotels tend to provide an affordable alternative without compromising on quality and service. Off-peak season travel also lowers transportation costs.
Seine at Marne has much to offer to all visitors. Its Disney attractions make it well suited to families. On the other hand, its picturesque villages, historical sites and champagne wineries provide a stunning alternative to those who wish to enjoy a unique French holiday, whether it be a short weekend break or a long summer retreat.