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April 2000 - Adventure Travel In and Around Paris

Does the idea of hiking along forest trails or practicing rock climbing seem out of place to you when you envision a trip to Paris? Well think again! Paris and the surrounding départements (divisions similar to counties in the U.S.) in Ile-de-France offer several such diversions, and are actively promoting them.

Biking/Hiking

Paris itself has roughly 130 km of paths reserved for bikers 100% of the time, including extensive trails in the Bois de Boulogne immediately to the west and the Bois de Vincennes immediately to the east of the city. Additional routes within Paris are available for bikers and pedestrians on Sundays when automobile traffic is expressly prohibited in designated areas.

La Coulée Verte provides an additional 12 km of trail for bikers and hikers wanting to visit the region immediately south of Paris. Roughly 124 acres of greenery in the form of public parks, woods and basins, and even a bird observatory are found along this route. It is directly accessible from one of the Paris biking paths leading south, and traverses two départements, Hauts de Seine and Essonne. Of course there are regional museums and châteaux to visit as well.

The forests of the départements of Yvelines and Essonne are crossed with specially designated paths for bikers and hikers. In some cases, cycling paths are distinguished from mountain biking paths. Bikes are readily available for rental in Paris and throughout Ile-de-France, and can be transported on the regional trains serving this area.

Rock Climbing

Walls open to the general public are found in Val-de-Marne to the southeast of Paris. But the Forêt de Fontainebleau is “the place” to go for the real thing. This forest is found in the Gâtinais area of France, an area renown for its sandstone boulders, clearings, and medicinal and aromatic herbal agriculture. In the forest, paths for climbers are well marked, and three particular sites within the forest provide marvelous venues for climbing. Several additional sites are to be found in Essonne and Val-de-Marne.

Horseback Riding

Extensive bridal paths exist in Essonne to the south, Val-de-Marne to the east, and Yvelines to the west of Paris. Equestrian centers catering to tourists abound. Riding schools, such as the one at the Forêt de Fontainebleau, organize periodic outings. And certain regional farms propose riding weekends. There also exists a guided visit for horse lovers at the Haras National in Yvelines, a 125-acre stud farm of woods and pastures where all the breeds of French draught horses, historical carriages and other equine paraphernalia can be seen.

Water Activities

Canoeing, kayaking, sailing, wind surfing and water skiing are all possible on the rivers and canals and at the nautical and leisure centers around Ile-de-France. Pleasure boats (barges) can be rented in Paris and the neighboring départements for navigation of the Seine, Marne, and Yonne rivers and the Ourcq canal. You can combine boating with biking or hiking on these trips, docking at defined areas and touring the countryside. Fishing (with a permit) is also allowed in certain areas.

Other possibilities for communing with nature in Ile-de-France include a visit to the butterfly gardens and the arboretum in Yvelines, hang gliding in Val d’Oise, and myriad flower and vegetable gardens throughout the region.

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Paris Panorama Newsletters for 2000