As I've mentioned on several occasions, we live west of Paris between Versailles and Rambouillet, which by a happy coincidence puts us in the real countryside, just 30 to 40 minutes outside the center of Paris (depending upon the traffic).
Another upside of our bucolic situation is the fact that we reside in a protected environment. No, not a double locked, security guarded, coded, password community -- not at all. We are surrounded by the Rambouillet forest which "protects" us. Strict laws preserve its ravishing beauty and many of our friends and neighbors whose houses are directly behind or in front of the forest need permission to cut down old trees on their own property (after all their property was once part of the forest). Then, they must replant.
The forest, once a favorite hunting ground for "les chasses royales" from the 16th to the 18th century, is as breathtakingly beautiful today as it was then. Anyone is allowed to collect large branches that fall on the ground to take home for the fireplace and pick all the mushrooms one can carry. The cepes are already popping up all over. Many families have their secret spots in the forest where they go every year to pick their mushrooms and they rarely, if ever, share this inside information.
Walking paths and bicycle lanes discreetly crisscross throughout. For someone who is more of a city girl than a country girl, I find the Rambouillet forest one of the most thrilling experiences I have ever had in France. Every time I enter into its mysterious depths it's an adventure -- the light, the animals, the odors, the plants. It's a wonderland.
At a fast clip, it takes me five minutes to reach the forest from our house and two minutes of furious pedaling on my slick, chic black velo. The top pictures I took not far from our house and the lovely cerf was taken by an association that protects the forest.
Ed. Note: My tech problems simply disappeared. I tried everything in my very limited repertoire to fix the "error 400" and right before the stroke of midnight last night it fixed itself. I think it was the full moon. . . Thank you once again for your help and sympathy.