Fontainbleau is of course a world class bouldering destination, but what to do on a rest day? There are a number of cute little villages to visit, open air markets, trips to the patisseries to stock up on vital calories and so on and so forth. I was also quite keen on a walk in the forest. A combination of rain and inexcusable sloth unfortunately conspired to limit me to just one day’s walking.

The whole forest is criss crossed with big wide paths, presumably a remnant from royal hunting days. The forest is also (terribly conveniently) marked with numbered zones. You simply look at the nearest two signposts and compare those zone numbers with the numbered map. Wherever those numbers meet on the map must be where you are, so it’s fairly difficult to get lost. The GR 11 passes through the forest and there are a number of other marked transverse routes. However there are no marked day circuits so you more or less have to choose your own adventure from the map (or just walk around until you’ve had enough and then work out how to get back).

The even terrain, wide paths and lack of change of elevation mean that the forest doesn’t offer too much in the way of a challenge. You could certainly entertain yourself with quite a number of day walks on climbing rest days or if you need some space away from Paris, but you couldn’t really say that Fontainebleau is a stand alone walking destination.

The forest is however extremely pretty (especially when I visited in autumn). There were long stretches where broad trunked red gold trees lined the path, then you might come across a quiet nook of mossy green, then an expanse of slim saplings. After a slight rise a view of the forest might open up: subdued greens and greys sprinkled with russet, all rippling in a light breeze. Of course there were also boulders dotted about, some in weirdly contorted shapes, others smoothed into waves and folds by giant hands.

Every now and then the forest opens up and you’ll find yourself in green fields, conveniently dotted with comfortable park benches. These tempt the perambulatist to rest a short while and perhaps indulge in a bite of crisp french apple and a nibble of wild mushroom quiche. It’s all very civilised and extremely pleasant.