Fontainebleu Forest / by Hannah Harley

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Thanks to the program I'm a part of, we are able to do excursions to amazing places for free! Our first excursion was to Honfleur (see the post here: http://www.hannahharleyphotography.com/2014/09/07/honfleur-day-trip/ ), a little port town on the Northern coast of France. This time, we ventured to Fontainebleu to visit the forest and the palace there.

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We traveled by train, easily my favorite form of transportation. While I do love a good bus ride and I delight in plane rides, trains have a certain characteristic and ease to them. Train stations are incredibly lovely, and there's something romantic about going on a train ride. I'm hoping that I'll have a weekend free soon when I can just go on a train ride and get off the train wherever I think is the prettiest (this is available on the weekends since I bought a monthly navigo pass).

3V2A0453EDITEDWe were met by our forest guide and expert. He was incredibly knowledgable about the forest; my family has foresters and yet I've never seen anyone as excited about leaves as this gentleman. He seemed positively enthralled to share the forest with us.

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As I had predicted, it was a very French hike. The path never got perilous or even muddy, despite the heavy amounts of rain the morning of our trip. It was a leisure stroll through the greenery.

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My friend and I, both natives of Western PA, were reminiscing about the lush green forest and how much it reminded us of home. Paris feels like Pittsburgh in many ways, but this forest felt more like my childhood home in good, ol' Indiana, PA. It felt nice to get out of the city for a day and travel to the clean air of the country.

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The biggest or at least most noticeable difference between this forest and the woods back in the States is the texture of the soil. The soil is, for the most part, sand. It's fine, soft, and white, and yet it still sustains these trees and moss like the dark brown dirt that I'm used to.

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Our delightful stroll lead us to the top of a small hilltop. It had an excellent view of the town below and was a wonderful place to breath in and out. The air felt so good. I realize that I've touched on this before, but it was exceptional in the forest.

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I am privileged to have shared the day with two of my dearest friends in my program. I traveled with one of them to Belgium, but I hadn't yet traveled with both of them. After a weekend spent in their company, I was thrilled to discover that they're excellent travel buddies, and I'm exceptionally excited to go to Italy with them for fall break!

Traveling with other people often reveals a lack of compatibility or even a tension in the friendship. People are not at their best when they're tired and hungry. It's how people interact when they're tired and hungry that matter the most when choosing your traveling companion.

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But then, of course, there's the laughter. That's pretty important.

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After the hilltop view, we made our way down and into the small town, where we met up with the other group for an amazing meal. It was one of the best meals I've had in France. Three courses, including an incredible salmon dish. My one instructor just gave me advice on where to get a decent frozen version of it... Might have to try my hand at the microwave cooking.

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It seems paradoxical that I love the city and the lifestyle that goes with it while I also love dense forests with such fervor. I think I spent most of my childhood in the woods, so it's only natural.

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I'll just mix the two for now, and delight in whichever one I happen to find myself in for the time being.

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Sending lots of love your way!!