Paris Day Trips: Château de Courances, Near Fontainebleau Forest

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Paris Day Trips: Château de Courances, Near Fontainebleau Forest
With its majestic avenue of plane trees dating to the 17th century, Courances, the moated chateau, has gardens described as “the most beautiful in France”. Owned by the de Ganay family since 1872, the 17th-century chateau sits at the edge of the Fontainebleau forest. The locals say that the name Courances is derived from the “running waters” present in the park. There are 14 natural springs in the park, a river (the Ecole) and 17 ornamental pools added by the different owners over the centuries. The earliest pools date to the 16th and 17th centuries – the most recent from the last century. During World War One, Courances was a hospital. In World War Two, it was occupied by the Germans, then the Americans, and finally the British with Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery in residence from 1947-1954. Save the date: La Foulerie, the chateau’s atmospheric 18th century tea room – a former hemp mill – is hosting (June 11th at 7.30pm) a “four hand” gastronomic dinner created by two top French chefs. In the kitchen: Julien Dumas, from the prestigious restaurant Lucas Carton – one of Paris’s top restaurants – located on place de la Madeleine since 1839. Formerly part of the Alain Ducasse team, he now heads the Lucas Carton brigade, having replaced retiring chef Alain Senderens in 2013. Dumas snagged his first Michelin star in 2016. And joining Dumas: Clément Leroy, apprentice, then right hand man to Guy Savoy, the multi-star chef, with whom he opened – the fish restaurant Etoile-sur-Mer, rue Troyon in the 17th arrondissement. From July, Leroy will be the Executive chef at La Table de Connétable at L’Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly. It’s as a duo, with unusual style and flair, that these two chefs will cook together using vegetables and herbs from the chateau’s organic garden. Lucas Carton’s chef Dumas is very proud to have his very own allotment inside Courance’s vegetable garden through organic gardeners Tomato & Co. When asked for the menu the chateau’s spokesperson said, “It’s a surprise!” But, you can be sure the chefs will be using the “forgotten vegetables” and herbs from the chateau’s potager. The menu, including apéritif, starter, main course, and dessert, costs 75€ and includes wine and drinks. Reservations can be made here. The Château de Courances’ organic vegetable gardens are hoed with tender loving care by market gardeners, on hand to provide guided visits of the vegetable garden. You can certainly visit on your own and the gardeners will always be happy to answer your questions! And check out the Farm Shop “Les Jardins de Courances” for fresh and fragrant organic garden produce. Note to music lovers: On Saturday, June 18th at 5pm, the Hélios ensemble (flute and strings) will play a musical promenade in Courances’ magnificent park. Concert goers will be guided by four musicians through the emblematic park locations: La Baigneuse, Le Dôme, Le Grand Platane, finishing at La Foulerie,in front of the Japanese Garden. The program: G.F. HAENDEL: Passacaglia for violin and viola; W.A. MOZART: Quartet for flute and strings in D Major; J.SERNEE: “The Sunflowers”, Quartet for flute and strings. Creation; G BIZET: Suite on Carmen, Quartet for flute and strings. The entry is at 15 rue du Château, and the departure from La Foulerie is at 3pm. The price is 20€. Reservations recommended. Normally one needs a trust fund or a title to play polo but at Courances you can learn the rudiments of the sport of kings with expert polo manager Patrick Deedes and coach Didier Lapôtre. “We aim to democratize the game”, he says. Training sessions take place Saturday – Sunday at 1pm and, as well as the green and pleasant grass field, there’s a covered indoor ring in case of bad weather, located in nearby Milly la Forêt. And, if you’re tempted to stay the night and experience “life at the château” there are attractive stone gîtes (traditional cottages) available to rent (with wi-fi) in a bucolic garden setting. Château de Courances, 13 rue du Château, 91490 Courances. Tel: 01 64 98 07 36

Lead photo credit : Château de Courances

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !


  • Michael James
    2016-08-29 09:26:10
    Michael James
    Re: transport to Courances. No direct train service; Courances is ≈50km from the centre of Paris. Driving: the A6 Autoroute (Route de Soleil) has an exit (#13) only 4km east of the town. Train: Closest is the RER-D2 (Paris stations at Gare de Lyon, Chatelet & Gare du Nord) which currently terminates at Melun which is about 17km NE of Courances. Note that Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte is just a few kilometres outside Melun. Alternatively RER-D4 gets a little bit closer (14km west) at Boutigny, and apparently is the recommended tourist route. Courances is a similar distance (about 20 km) west of Fontainebleau served by a Transilien train from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau–Avon station. Obviously one could do all three famous chateaus (Courances, Vaux-le-Vicomte & Fontainebleau) plus the Foret de Fontainebleau in the one trip. Probably too much for a single day trip but it would make a good weekend break from Paris, probably based in Fontainebleau town. My advice is that only very confident and experienced drivers should drive, at least from central Paris (where you will have to survive the Peripherique too, as well as the A6, one of the busiest autoroutes in Europe!). This area is excellent for cycling with much of the distance from Fontainebleau to Courances being thru the beautiful and huge Foret de Fontainebleau. The foret is very popular with Parisians, with 11m visitors each year. There is cycle hire in Fontainebleau town.


  • Joan Hollis
    2016-06-14 03:52:18
    Joan Hollis
    Thought I read in one of your past articles that there was a woman in Paris who offered private (or small group) dinners in her home? I can't remember if it was in our newsletter, but in any case Iwould appreciate a referral of someone that does this type of things ..something in the more reasonable price range for a birthday dinner while we are visiting in Paris.. please answer to JH


  • Del Guillo
    2016-06-10 20:50:18
    Del Guillo
    I agree! How does one get there! Frustrating.


  • P Manze
    2016-06-09 18:42:08
    P Manze
    Wonderful article but would be even better if you included how to actually get there!