We decided to try out one of the unmissable activities in the destination: Exploring the Saclay Plateau waterways by bike. Just like countless joggers and other cyclists, we took advantage of the adapted paths to ride through this rural area.
Project manager for soft mobility and natural heritage sites at Essonne Tourisme
"This relatively easy route will lead you into a rather unexpected rural area!"
And we were off!
It was a sunny day but there were also a few black clouds in sight. We met in front of the Syndicat d’Initiative de Vauhallan. This charming village is just on the edge of the plateau. It's difficult to believe that we are only 15 km from Paris. The stream bearing the same name runs through the village, forming a small valley with steep hillsides before flowing into the Bièvre. Don't miss the picturesque 13th-century church perched on the top of a small hill.
These waterways, known as 'rigoles' in French, are narrow channels, designed to enable the flow of water.
The channels around the lakes in Saclay were dug out under orders from Louis XIV in order to supply water to the fountains at the Château de Versailles.
We get on our bikes and set off for the Abbaye Saint-Louis-du-Temple, up a fairly moderate uphill slope. We didn't find it particularly challenging or have to get ourselves in 'spotted jersey' mode, but this of course depends on your physical condition.
From Vauhallan Abbey at the top, our efforts were most definitely rewarded. There's a bench to sit down for a rest (yes already). We admired the meadows all around us and caught a glimpse of a nearby dovecote.
I got a puncture!
We rode along a narrow path through tall grass.
Then we came to a gravel track through the fields when suddenly a very loud 'pschhhhh' sound broke the silence. It was my back tyre!
I had already previously repaired it but it wasn't enough. Right then, the image of a cyclist putting their bike into the back of a van and sitting in the passenger seat flashed into my mind. It's always frustrating for a cyclist to suddenly find themselves with their helmet on their knees, their gloves wiping a mixture of tears and sweat from their face.
I decided to buck up and started repairing the puncture with tools I had brought with me. Normally, I would repair the puncture by replacing the inner tube. But before doing that, I pressed down on the puncture with my thumb and then I used a sort of liquid glue to fill in the hole. The tyre had lost a bit of air but at least I could carry on cycling. I wasn’t about to start riding like Julian Alaphilippe along the tracks, but that wasn’t the idea behind this outing anyway.
After that incident, we got back on the road and reached the first waterway of the day: the Domaniale. There was hardly any water there on that day, only the surrounding reeds were proof that it was an area of wetland. We then rode along a very pleasant gravel path for 4.5 kilometres. We could see the abbey from a different perspective here. In the background, we also caught a glimpse of the towns of Massy and Antony. All this scenery gave the impression we were on an island of greenery, perched up above Paris.
Along our way, we passed the Ferme Trubuil and farm shop which sells all the fruit and vegetables produced on the farm. At the end of this track, we reached the Rigole de Favreuse. The scenery here was much greener than the last waterway. This time, the cycle path was covered in tarmac and was much more shaded. The trees surrounding the waterway made it look like a miniature canal. There were openings here and there through the woodland and we could see the village of Vauhallan. On the way back down, we made a quick detour via the historic wash-house.
The Saclay Plateau waterways are ideal for walking or cycling. Come and explore them yourselves!