Fontainebleau Forest, winter. Stillness…..
Winter weekend about an hour south east of Paris, staying in Malesherbes, a little town nearby, at a hotel called “L’écu de France.” The word écu has linguistic cred because it originally meant a long shield or support for a heraldic coat of arms, then designated a medieval gold coin, and more recently was almost used as the official title for European currency. Thank heavens “Euro” won out because l’écu is a homonym for les culs (the asses) in French. (So we were staying at “the asses of France” = Gallic in-joke….)
Anyway, great place, modern accommodations, good food (more about that later) with outbuildings, foundations and ground floor dating back to the 17th century, timbered ceilings, a huge fireplace in the breakfast area, and a stately staircase up to the rooms. Ours was so silent, it was like an isolation pod: no humming refrigerator, no sloshing-gurgling washing machine, no fingers pounding on keyboards, no voices seeping through the bathroom wall, no doors slamming on the landing, no sirens from the street, no motors vibrating the buildings, no neighbor child practicing the saxophone…. People always remark on how calm our place is, but I realized the sound effects are frequent, if muffled, and how strange and velvety smooth real quiet can be.
Couldn’t wait to walk in the forest… 35 million years ago it was under the ocean and over time, compressed sand formed huge boulders that cover almost 10,000 acres of the total 60,000. They huddle together like trolls turned to stone in The Hobbit. Off season is perfect, very few hikers and climbers, only the occasional trail biker. Calm, alive, natural matrix, network of living creatures, communicating in subtle ways underground and through the air. Peace.
Recalled running across a new term: “forest bathing,” translated from Japanese and Korean, meaning to spend relaxing time in the woods. (French version: “sylvothérapie“)
Highly recommended reading, how trees secrete natural antibiotics, essential oils, and other substances that heal infections, comparison of number of germs found in cities (lots) and in forests (none), beneficial effect on stress symptoms such as blood pressure…etc
Disturbing to think that seeing the information presented scientifically is more persuasive than just being there. Are we so removed from our senses that we can only take them seriously when they are expressed in statistics? Why not trust what we feel when we’re there?
Now the food:
Assortment of terrines made on site by the chef (pork, pheasant, rabbit)
Selle d’agneau au jus (roasted lamb saddle in mouth-watering sauce)
Fontainebleau maison (fromage blanc, mixed with whipped cream)
Pithiviers pastry (almond cake, very good with the Fontainebleau cream)
Fresh baguette bread from local bakery
Wine: Saumur Champigny (red), Saint Cyr en Bourg (Touraine), Domaine Saint-Just vinyard, Cabernet Franc grapes
Lovely service, price reasonable… Generous breakfast, full lunch menu…
Vive la France