For fans of Jean Cocteau, or just those looking for a day out of the city, I recommend a trip to Milly la Foret. This lovely little town 50km south of Paris is where Jean Cocteau bought a house in 1947 with Jean Marais, living between there and Paris until his death in 1963. Several rooms have been restored exactly as they were during his life, and the upstairs has been transformed into a small museum, showing pictures, writings, portraits of him by Man Ray, Andy Warhol and others, as well as posters and excerpts from his films.
The house is set in beautiful gardens by a small river close to the centre of the town. A short walk away is the 12th century chapel of St Blaise des Simples. Once part of a community housing and treating lepers, this small building is all that remains. Saint Blaise was reputed to have treated the sick with medicinal plants, or ‘simples’, and the chapel is surrounded by a small botanical garden growing such plants. But the most interesting aspect of the chapel nowadays is that Jean Cocteau entirely decorated the inside in 1959, and is now buried there.
Cocteau depicted these medicinal plants on the walls of the chapel, along with a scene representing the resurrection, and designed the stained glass windows too. The chapel is tiny and very beautiful, a commentary read by Jean Marais is played over a speaker, and if you can manage to be inside when nobody else is, it’s quite magical.
- Maison Jean Cocteau and La Chapelle Sainte Blaise des Simples, 91490 Milly La Foret
Both websites are only in French. We drove and it took under an hour from Paris. Otherwise you can take the RER D to Maisse which takes 1 hour 15 minutes and is 6km from Milly. If you want a taxi from there you need to order it in advance. Milly Tourist Office (taxi numbers) or if you’re feeling energetic you can take your bicycle on the RER!