Fontainebleau is a commune in the metro area of Paris, which is about 45 minutes away from the Gare de Lyon in the city center. To the Parisian, Fontainebleau is a nice getaway spot from the hustle and bustle; to the tourists, Fontainebleau is merely an optional excursion whenever they visit Paris. It’s Paris after all! I believe most would barely have enough time to cover all the highlights in the city in a few days. Furthermore, the widely-known and extravagant landmark, Château de Versailles, is closer to the city than the historic Château de Fontainebleau. I did mention that the Château de Fontainebleau is a hidden gem in Paris’s backyard. While we were there, we did something more – the historic town could also be exciting and active with the beautiful scenic forest.
Hotel Aigle Norie in Fontainebleau
We didn’t actually plan it, but so happened we were in the midst of the Django Reinhardt Festival. We stayed at the Hotel Aigle Noire, a boutique hotel right on the main street, Rue Grande, which is also the core of the music festival. With the festival in full swing, the only thing that affected us was that the street was blocked for buses to pass through from the train station. To be honest, even if the music festival was not in the same week, I would have chosen this hotel because of its location and classical design. Château de Fontainebleau is only within walking distance from the hotel, and many restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and interesting stores are all nearby. Right after we checked into the hotel and settle down, we immediately headed outside and check out about the festival.
Django Reinhardt Festival
Fontainebleau hosts various festivals that attract lots of locals throughout the year (also, tourists, of course). It was nice to get a feel of the festivities and music scene in France. In fact, another jazz music festival, Django Reinhardt Festival, is around the corner!
Taking its name from one of jazz music’s most famous and influential figures, Django Reinhardt Festival is an annual musical celebration of the genre and its enduring legacy, all held on the grounds of the Chateau Fontainebleau, France. The festival was first organized in 1968 featuring performances from musicians that span the lifetime of the festival. With the spirit to commemorate the eponymous legend, and paying tribute to the roots, the festival also looks to future generations, celebrating young talent and offering a platform to rising stars.
During the music festival, the main street became the stage of musical talents. Booths were set up at different spots along the street. Once the sun went down, the music came on. Each booth was separated by a distance so that it won’t interfere with the other, and they played music in a different genre: party music, disco, live bands, and salsa. Anyone was welcome to just stand there, or hop into the front and dance! They may not be world-class musicians but I just think it was great that there was a platform for them to share their passion and love, and the audience participated and showed appreciation. We enjoyed the music yet we didn’t stay out late as we have something else planned really early the next morning with nature. 😊
Forest of Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a beautiful existence apart from the historic architecture but its scenic forest; we decided to go for a hot air balloon flight and it was my first time on a balloon! The hot air balloon covers the emerald green forests, rivers, and romantic villages. The flight was about an hour and it was an amazing experience.
Balloon rides in Fontainebleau are scheduled basically every day in the morning and evening if weather permits. They would release a small balloon beforehand and make sure the weather was calm enough for the flight.
I had a few helicopter rides in different places before (while the helicopter ride in the Grand Canyon National Park was still by far THE BEST in my life – Flying over the Grand Canyon), it was my first flight in a balloon and at the same time, my nasty (basically asshole-ish) “friends” kept pinpointing and showing me YouTube videos about the horrific hot air balloon accidents all over the world. You know what, the pilots were experienced and I had a great experience in the air.
Up! The balloon flights above the scenic Forest of Fontainebleau
The difference between the helicopter and hot air balloon was that hot air balloons are “less intruding” in a certain way. As we took off, we immediately soar through the farmlands, farmhouses, and forest quietly and the view was amazing. We rose and sank as we (actually the pilot) wished. Sometimes we were so close to the top of the trees or the pond, I felt like I could almost touch the water, sometimes we were hovering above fields and farmhouses that dogs would bark at us as they saw a giant UFO above them, and then we rose high up and had a panorama of the entire forest up and above.
The entire flight was a pleasant experience with an experienced pilot to control the flight as we go up and down above the forest and enjoy the beautiful view from different angles. Had we be able to see the top of the Château de Fontainebleau, it would have been a perfect experience. After all, Fontainbleau is famous for its forest, (for being a hunting ground of the royal families) and also part of the reason why many French monarchs liked the residence of Fontainebleau so much. It was a special moment and as I know that there are other different types of flying options, leave a comment below if you have tried the other balloon ride and how was your experience!
After about an hour we were steadily landed (and I don’t know how every pilot did it) exactly on a spot where the crew greeted us with hot coffee, bakeries, and champagne to toast to a successful flight!