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Blame Dervla Murphy
By Gabrielle Massey - (contact)

38. Noisy-sur-École: Fun in the Fontainebleau Forest

Wednesday June 29, 2011

It only took a few days to get used to the everyday luxury of a shared bed with sheets instead of separate side by side sleeping bags and proper towelling bath towels instead of quick-drying sports towels. It took a little longer to get out of the mindset of one or two pot quickly cooked meals but it wasn't too long before we were using the four burner gas cooktop, microwave, oven and griller with abandon. And the fridge ! And a coffee pot !

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Lovely rose climbing over the gite

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Inside our gite

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Our gite at the edge of the village

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Dining alfresco

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Neil coming back from the next village on the daily baguette run

But the main reason we are here is the bouldering. For those not in the know, bouldering is rock climbing but on boulders rather than big cliffs. You don't need a rope, you rarely climb more than 4 metres off the ground, but the moves are generally harder and more technical, more condensed, or intense you might say. And the Fontainebleau Forest is one of the best, if not the best bouldering area in the world, with thousands upon thousands of bouldering routes spread through the forest centred around the town of Fontainebleau.

If you've not had the fairly intense pleasure of climbing, do yourself a favour and give it a go. An exhilarating whole mind and body exercise, the closest thing I can compare it to is a really strong yoga session. After your really strong yoga session, just for verisimilitude, grab a piece of medium grade sandpaper and give your fingertips a good going over. Then elbow tips, a few scrapes on the forearms, shins and knees and you've a fair approximation of a good mornings bouldering. All in the natural forest environment. Think convoluted sandstone boulders basking in the dappled sunlight of a tall forest of pine, chestnut, oak, birch, hazel and beech with birds and squirrels overhead.

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Heard of tree huggers ? Well, sometimes I like to hug rocks too

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Neil climbing, Rocher de Potets

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Coming to grips with sandstone boulders

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Neil concentrating on a difficult climb

During our two months here we have climbed but we have also explored the forest and the villages around the area by bicycle. Seen the interior of the chapel of St Blaise painted by Jean Cocteau, interesting old buildings around Milly-la-Foret including the 500 year old open air market hall, and the Fontainebleau Chateau. We have been lucky enough to find wild mushrooms and strawberries to eat and our landlords have given us much fresh produce from their garden - red currants, endive, peas, lettuce, broad beans, eggs as well as home made bread and jams.

Many of the locals get around by bike and we have had a great time meandering around the villages along back roads without a helmet (we wear helmets when riding on roads with traffic, as Australians it is drummed into us from a young age). While we have been here the wheat fields around the village have turned from tiny green stalks into ripe golden heads, the canola has finished flowering, it's seed pods expanded and now it is being harvested (but it still has the same strange plasticky smell). Roses have almost finished blooming and hollyhocks are the main colour against the pale stone village walls.

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Outdoor workshop - Neil putting on his new tyres and back rack

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A great day with everything - 40km bike ride, couple of hours climbing in the forest, an excellent picnic lunch with treats from a nearby boulangerie, and sunshine. Why can't every day be like this ?

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Sandstone formations in the Fontainebleau Forest

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Fresh produce from our landlords - spinach, free range eggs and quince jam

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Le Vaudoué, neighbouring village

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Unpacking the new tent

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Checking out the new maps, just arrived by post

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Chapelle de St Blaise, Milly-la-Foret. A 13th century chapel with interior painted by Cocteau in the 1950's. Also contains his grave.

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Milly-la-Foret street sign

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Colourful shutters in Milly-la-Foret - we saw all colours of the rainbow.

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Picking wild strawberries in the forest

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Freshly picked Fairy Ring Champignons

And now the road is calling. We have re-organised our cycling gear. Neil had his crank set replaced in Fontainebleau, we mail-ordered a new Tubus Cosmo rear rack to replace his broken Blackburn Explorer 2 and new tyres (Schwalbe Marathons) to hopefully end his run of punctures, as well as new pumps. We also bought a new tent, a Nemo Losi 2P, mail-order from the USA.

And finally we ordered some maps following the Euro Velo 6, the rivers route to the Black Sea. And an eastern European phrasebook.

Turkey, here we come...


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"Blame Dervla Murphy" Copyright © 2012-2014 By Gabrielle Massey - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on October 22, 2011 20:37 PDT, last updated on October 22, 2011 21:13 PDT
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