Last Sunday a group of eleven of us spent the day hiking in the woods around Fontainebleau. The walk (la randonnée) was organised by one of Derek’s OIE workmates, Catherine a keen hiker. The eleven were made up of workmates, their family members and friends. Between us there were four different languages spoken – French, German, Spanish and English – so the conversation along the trail was lively and varied in choice of language depending on who was talking to whom.
Fontainebleau is a town 55 km south of Paris and very easy to get to by train. It’s famous for its beautiful Chateau de Fontainebleau dating back to 1137, initially a relatively small hunting lodge then extensively added to, renovated and embellished over the centuries and always favoured as a country escape for royalty to get away from the rigours of ruling. The surrounding forest was used for hunting – the royal hunting park – and now the forest is most popular as a place for hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and horse trekking.
We departed from Gare de Lyon where I noticed that there were many groups of people all dressed for hiking, some looking very professional with proper walking sticks, heading off for various destinations. It’s quite the thing to do on a weekend it seems. We started our walk from the train stop at Thomery and headed off under the expert guidance of Catherine and her husband Christian. It had snowed several times in the last few weeks in the area so there was still a thin layer of snow on the ground.
Along the trail we could see evidence of the wild pigs (les sangliers) that inhabit the area; disturbed patches of ground where they have dug with their snouts. Even in the forest the trails have street names – very French, very proper.
According to the signs en route you can, in moderation, pick the daffodils, chestnuts and mushrooms and you can walk your dog off the leash except between 1 April and end of July when the birds are nesting and forest animals giving birth.
The weekend weather forecast had been for snow falls, possibly hail and rain, so we felt fortunate that Sunday dawned fine, continuing on from a very nice sunny, blue-sky Saturday. However, just as we stopped for our picnic lunch it did start snowing and continued on and off the rest of the afternoon. It was one of the coldest picnic lunches I’ve had! (But not THE coldest.)
Despite the snow flurries we carried on and walked on to the gardens of the Chateau, had a walk around the very pretty village and then on to the train station at Avon-Fontainebleau. All up we walked just a smidge over 13 km – a wonderful day in great company enjoying another beautiful part of greater Paris. We will go back in the spring to see the forest complete with leaves on trees and properly visit the Chateau and the village.