If you were to ask me “where” I live, the short answer would be Paris, of course. However, I actually live in a suburb located to the northwest of the city. Maisons-Laffitte is an adorable village known for two things: a château and a horseracing track. I can honestly say that I never thought I would reside a few hundred meters from a famous French château, but here I am! The Château de Maisons was designed by François Mansart between 1630 and 1651. Mansart, you may know, is famous for his extensive use of a four-sided, double slope gambrel roof that eventually was named after him. You can read more about the château here: but for now, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The village of Maisons-Laffitte was initially called Maisons-sur-Seine (meaning “Maisons upon Seine”). The Seine river, the very same one that passes alongside Notre Dame in Paris, forms the southeast border of the village. The northeast boundary of the village is created by the Saint-Germaine-en-Laye forest. In 1882, the area was renamed Maisons-Laffitte in honor of banker Jacques Laffitte who financed housing developments on the estate of the Château de Maisons. A 20 minute train ride from Paris, this suburb is the perfect blend of old-world charm and natural beauty.
A walk by the Hippodrome de Maisons-Laffitte will orient you with the proud history of turf thoroughbred horseracing in the area. Nicknamed Cité du Cheval (City of Horses), you will see them everywhere in Maisons-Laffitte! We walked by many luxury stables and saw a few horses out for a stroll. They have the right-of-way ahead of all car traffic-watch your step! The racetrack has the second longest home stretch of any track in Europe, further adding to its mystique. You can read more about the racetrack here.
If you decide to head west from my host home, instead of east to the horse stalls, you will see the château on your way into town. Being the avid photographer that I am, I stopped to take pictures of some of my favorite houses along the way.
There are a few things that differentiate America from France. OK, maybe more than a few. One that I actually found quite nice was the fact that most of the businesses are closed on Sundays. The restaurants remained opened, but all of the stores in Maisons-Laffitte were closed today. Pictured below is the town hall, and a view of the main street.
Any village in Europe would not be complete without the requisite cathedral. Maisons-Laffitte is home to the Église Saint-Nicolas. Construction began on the church in 1868 after the original was deemed too small for the congregation. Open in 1872 for worship, work on the church continued unti 1878, with the installation of 8 bells in the tower. Read more about it here.
I am excited to get to know my new hometown better. The history is evident in every piece of architecture. I look forward to watching a horse race and to traversing the large forest area. Picturesque and family-friendly, Maisons-Laffitte is the perfect introduction to la vie en France!