When you’re been living a bilingual life, life in one language can become a little frustrating.
Yes really! During a language or cultural exchange you can get accustomed to life in two languages, with two language’s worth of words and all their nuances. How do you go back to monolingual life after all that possibility?
Moving back to the UK after living in France, one particular word that I wanted to pack in my suitcase and bring home with me was profiter. A French – English dictionary would have you believe that this means take advantage of or make the most of… but there’s a nuance to the word profiter that just doesn’t seem to translate into English.
That got us wondering about other words in other languages that just don’t quite translate…
Café customers who sit at the table for a long time without spending much money.
That embarrassing feeling of watching someone else be humiliated
香 / xiāng (Chinese)
Literally translates as ‘fragrant’, but when applied to food it describes an intense, often meaty aroma that gets your mouth watering.
Literally translated as ‘I ate the whole thing’: when you keep on eating an entire meal despite being full
The distance a reindeer can comfortably travel before taking a break.
L’esprit de l’escalier(French)
Literally translated as ‘stairwell wit’ – a retort that you only think of when it’s too late (one of those ‘I wish I’d said…’ responses).
The moment when you’re still at the table after finishing a meal – the food is still gone but the conversation is flowing.
A feeling of enjoyment that comes from learning of the troubles of others.
The ring left on the table by the bottom of a cold glass of water.
孝順 / xiào shun(Chinese)
Obedience to your parents by being dutiful, respectful, and taking care of them in their old age.
What words have you learned that you would add to the list?
Jobs for bilinguals: what’s in store for language learners?
What if you could hop into a time machine to see what you might be doing in 20 years? We can’t deliver a time machine, well not yet anyway, but we can give you an idea of what kind of jobs will use your language skills.
As a general rule, knowing a foreign language is brilliant for your employability: it shows that you are tenacious, assiduous, and adaptable. However there are some jobs where knowing a foreign language is a huge advantage, and sometimes even essential.
We’re not sure about you, but we think the future’s looking bright for bilinguals!
Have you ever seen a TV programme with someone signing the dialogue in the corner? This person is an interpreter.
Interpreters convert spoken or signed language from one language to another in a variety of settings. They can find themselves working at conferences and exhibitions, community events, criminal justice proceedings, and event on the television or radio. In fact, as interpreters often work freelance, they can end up working in all of these settings! You can be sure that a career in interpreting will give you a huge variety of experiences: you’ll need a good memory, excellent communication skills, and a high level of your second language… Better get practising!!
Like an interpreter, a translator converts one language into another. However, a translator deals with written material, rather than spoken.
Translators can specialise in a huge range of sectors, including literature, scientific and technical documents, legal documents, and even films. That’s right – translators have even written the subtitles when you watch a foreign film!
Translation is a hugely competitive field, especially as translators are often freelance, working from anywhere that they want to in the world.
Many bilinguals go on to share their passion for languages by teaching others. Language graduates are highly sought-after for school teaching roles, however you can teach languages in other settings too. Many bilinguals work as private tutors, both online and in person, whilst may teach language evening classes or head abroad to teach English as a foreign language. Where ever you teach, you’re sure to meet a whole range of interesting people!
Travel writer or photographer
Although you may be telling stories through the lens of your camera or in your mother tongue, speaking the language of another culture will enrich these stories as it is a great way to encourage the locals to open up to you. Travel writing and photography is competitive, however you can start practising right away by writing about your language exchange abroad!
During a language exchange, your partner often acts as a guide, taking you on a tour of the region. In some ways, this is also the job of a tour guide.
Tour guides accompany visitors around towns and monuments to give them the inside story on the local area. These visitors often come from foreign countries, so speaking another language is a huge help!
Flight attendants make the jet-setting lifestyle their occupation, much of their role takes place up in the air en route to far-flung corners of the world!
Cabin crew often work unsociable hours (evening and weekends) however they enjoy many benefits when it comes to travel.
Speaking another language can be essential for flight attendants, putting bilinguals in a great position to take to the skies!
Speaking another language isn’t necessary for journalism, however it is hugely beneficial for finding stories and communicating with the locals, especially if you’re working abroad as a foreign correspondent!
Every culture has its customs. When you greet a friend in Paris, you kiss them once on each cheek; in Provence you kiss them three times. Tibetans stick out their tongues to greet one another, whereas in some cultures it’s customary to press your forehead onto the hand of your elder. In Anglophone communities we tend not to do anything, unless we’re in a formal setting, then like a good firm handshake! Finally, in China a weak handshake with the right hand is the customary greeting…
Phew! If something as simple as saying ‘hello’ can be that complicated, however do we manage to get through cultural exchanges without offending everyone the moment we meet them? You’ll be relieved to learn that allowances will be made for you when it comes to etiquette in your host country, but it’s always handy to do a bit of homework beforehand so that you know what to expect.
Good etiquette is very important in China; good manners are believed to invite luck whereas bad conduct brings shame.
It’s traditional to bring someone a gift when invited to their house in China, however there is certain etiquette that must be observed when choosing and wrapping your gift.
Food or traditional items from your own country are often well-received, as are scarves for adults and toys and games for children. Gifting someone a clock is unacceptable in China, as it implies that you are counting down the minutes until their death.
Take the number of gifts and to wrapping paper colour into consideration, avoiding unlucky numbers and colours, (red is very lucky!). After all that, you may find that your hosts don’t even open the gifts in front of you! Don’t be offended, it’s customary to wait until the giver has left before you open a gift in China so as not to appear greedy.
Eating out is one of the most common ways to honour a guest, socialise, and deepen friendships; so you’re pretty likely to go for a meal with your host family!
Dishes are often shared and are served on a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table. Be considerate of others when serving yourself; try not to gobble all of one dish or take more than your fair share and allow your elders to serve themselves before you. Also, resist the temptation to spin the Lazy Susan around too much, especially when others are using it!
Chopsticks are used to eat most meals in China, although you can request a spoon or fork. They’re tricky to get used to but you’ll probably have fun learning to use them. Never do any of the following when using chopsticks:
Point at others with your chopsticks,
Wave you chopsticks about,
Stick chopsticks vertically into your food (this reminds people of funerals),
Stab or skewer your food,
Use your eating chopsticks to serve food.
Food and drink
With all the Chinese restaurants in the west, at least our stomachs know what to expect, right?
In fact, western Chinese food is nothing like the real deal and varies hugely according to the region you visit.
Our top tip for Chinese cuisine is to be adventurous but not reckless! China has rightfully earned an excellent reputation for scrumptious street food. Entire markets are dedicated to cooking up colourful and exciting treats. A great way of finding the tastiest delicacy is to head for the stall that’s attracting all the locals, but be cautious when eating meats – some travellers fall victim to food poisoning when being a little too adventurous with food.
Some western foods are available in Chinese cities, although they are more expensive, but if you’re worried about the food it’s worth taking some dry snacks along with you to keep you going.
Avoid drinking tap water in China and opt instead for bottled water.
What to expect
It’s hard to know what to expect before you go to China: even walking down such unfamiliar streets is an exciting experience. However, there are some aspects of Chinese culture that would be considered rude in English-speaking societies. These can take time to adjust to!
Staring and Pointing
As a westerner you’ll no doubt attract quite a lot of attention when exploring China, especially if you have a fair complexion.
This attention comes in the form of pointing, staring, and taking photographs. Such practice is more common in rural areas where less Westerners venture and tourist destinations where rural dwellers tend to visit. It’s strange to be starred at, but try not to be offended as this is usually an expression of curiosity and no harm is intended. In fact, it can even be fun to pose for photos with the locals! If you’d rather not pose for photos with people, ask your host family to help you decline politely.
Street vendors can be far more persistent in their sales pitches than we’re used to in the west; don’t be afraid to say no, more than once if necessary.
If you would like to make a purchase, bargaining is standard practice in many regions of China, there’s no harm in trying to get the price down!
Us Anglophones are known for our orderly queues. However this is a practice that you’ll have to leave behind in many areas of China unless you want to be waiting around all day! Remember: not queuing is not rude!
This is not the case in every region, so if people are queuing , for example in large supermarkets, don’t just push to the front!
Crossing the road
Crossing the road in Chinese cities can be a little tricky. Scooters and bicycles don’t always stop at crossings, and cars won’t stop for pedestrians unless they really really have to! Never jaywalk and do your research to find out what the road signs and lights means.
Oddly enough, the end of an adventure always seems to come out of the blue. It’s not that we’re not expecting it, but we never expect it to be quite so tricky… On the one hand you’re happy to reunite with family and friends, but on the other, the trip you’ve spent so much time preparing for is all of a sudden behind you! How did the time pass so quickly? Did it really happen or was it all just a dream?
Don’t worry, here at Kinder Exchange we’re no strangers to going off on adventures and the inevitable return to our ‘normal lives’, so we’ve put our heads together and come up with a list of ways to make the coming home a whole lot easier…
Stay in touch
By keeping in contact with your host family and friends, you not only nurture lifelong friendships and keep your exchange experience alive, but can keep speaking the language, and make plans to visit them again! Technology makes staying in touch easy, but who doesn’t love a postcard every now and then?
Take home some customs
Staying with a native host is a truly special experience and gives an extraordinary insight into another culture. Of course, you’ll learn about the a country’s more prominent traditions, but you’ll also discover and adopt more nuanced customs. Why not take a few home with you? Adopting aspects of your host’s culture when you return home will help you to feel connected to the country and people that you’ve met and will also serve as a little reminder of your experience.
Take home some recipes
We can’t deny it, one of our favourite things about travelling is all of the amazing cuisine we get to taste… (you haven’t lived until you’ve sampled the Fontainebleau puddings just down the road from Kinder Exchange HQ!). Food doesn’t always travel so well in a suitcase, so why not ask your host family to note down the recipes for the meals you’ve eaten? As a bonus, you can impress your family with a taste of your adventure when you get home!
Keep speaking the language
During your exchange abroad you’ll have oodles of opportunities to speak another language and maybe even learn to talk like the locals! Nothing is more inspiring than putting your linguistic prowess to practical use, try to harness that inspiration when you get home and continue to use the language. Whether you’re reading magazines, comics and books, listening to podcasts, or chatting to your host family on Skype; the more you keep using the language, the more you’ll keep reaping the rewards of your exchange even after returning home!
Plan your next adventure!
There’s nothing better to keep the post-exchange blues at bay than planning your next adventure! Where would you like to go next? Maybe you want to return to a country to get to know it better; maybe you’re hankering for unexplored lands… Whatever you’re planning, we’d love to hear about it! (Why not tweet us to tell us about your next destination?)
New member of the Kinder Exchange team, Juliana Huber, tells us about German customs and why she loves discovering new cultures.
We can’t help but get excited when a new school year starts.
Sure, it may signify the end of summer, but it also seems to signify new beginnings. With a new school year comes new challenges, new projects, new adventures, and a lot of new faces!
One particular new face here at Kinder Exchange is Juliana Huber. A French and P.E teacher based in Freiburg, South-West Germany, Juliana will be looking after our Anglo-Germanic exchanges.
Juliana’s passion for languages and travel was sparked by a love of all things French. Having started to learn the language at the age of 8, she pursued studies in languages and sport and was soon packing up her suitcase and venturing off to live in France.
Living abroad, she not only developed her language skills and understanding of French culture, but her outlook changed too. Spending time in another country led Juliana to become more open towards other people, as well as towards their traditions and customs. It was this that motivated Juliana to join the Kinder Exchange team, where she would be able to help young people to meet exchange partners with common interests and to support them in making the courageous yet wholly rewarding step of embarking on a language exchange.
After hearing about Juliana’s experiences in France, we were pretty keen to learn what she made of her own country’s culture! We asked Juliana to tell us about life in Germany, here is what we discovered…
You only have to take a quick look at the world-renowned Christmas Markets in Germany to understand how important Christmas is there! In Germany, presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve and families typically have a feast of carp and potato salad in the evening.
In German schools, students tend to start the school day at around 7:30am. Sounds early right? Perhaps, but they finish school earlier too: usually at around 1pm in the afternoon. This gives young people ample time for extra-curricular activities.
Germany is very mountainous, which means that lots of Germans love going skiing and hiking. However, unlike here in the UK, a very small portion of Germany is by the sea, so they have to go a little further afield for those long stretches of sandy beaches that we like to bask on!
Nature is very important in Germany, and people are willing to go to great lengths to protect their environment.
Rugby is barely known in Germany (despite studying sport, Juliana hadn’t seen a rugby match until she was 21 years old and living in France!); so what sports are popular? Handball, football, and volleyball are very widely practiced in Germany, as well as gymnastics and mountain biking.
You can’t mention Germany customs without talking about the food! Particular favourites include Brezeln (Pretzels) and Bratwurst (sausages). We can confirm that they’re extremely tasty, and definitely worth the trip!
Finally, Juliana explains, Germans are very proud of their high quality automobiles. Well after all that daydreaming we’ve been doing about Volkswagen Campervans, who are we to argue with that?
If all that hasn’t whet your appetite for a trip to Germany, well, we don’t know what will! To find out more about exchanges in Germany, give us a call or drop us an email before completing your registration.
Part of going on adventures abroad is sharing them, and the internet sure has made sharing easier!
In the days of yore – before social media – getting hold of information involved a load of cumbersome Encyclopaedias and showing your holiday snaps to your faraway friends meant posting them your only copy.
But in 1991 the World Wide Web became publicly available for the first time. As little as 26 years later, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Snapchat, Amazon, Instagram and Google sit among a myriad of social media platforms, search engines, and apps that bring the world to our fingertips. Imagine how difficult it would be to find a language exchange partner before the internet, these days you can log onto a platform like Kinder Exchange and contact prospective host families with the click of a button, all from the comfort of your sofa.
These apps have become such as staple of daily life that the prospect of leaving Facebook, Google, and Instagram behind during your exchange in China… well, it’s a little unnerving to say the least (and that’s before we’ve even thought about the FOMO).
What? No Facebook?
In China, the internet is restricted by what is referred to by us Westerners as the Great Firewall of China. This is a system of filters that block certain websites, creating a kind of huge, national intranet. This means that Chinese residents don’t have access to the same websites that we do. In China there is no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, and no Google.
A world without Facebook, a world of opportunity
To many of us this is unfathomable, but getting out of your usual social media sphere for a few weeks can’t be a bad thing, especially when there is so much new and innovative technology to try out. This is especially the case in China, where the gap left by Facebook and Twitter has been filled by a new generation of innovative mega-apps that are rapidly gathering momentum.
If follow Kinder Exchange’s facebook, you may have read that we’ll soon be launching cultural and linguistic exchanges in China… Naturally, we’ve been getting to know Chinese social media a little better… After all, what better way overcome your Facebook cravings than to try out some of your host country’s new technology?
Wechat – 微信
With over 900 million users every month (CNN) , WeChat is setting a standard that Western apps are now scrambling to meet. Like Facebook, you can use WeChat to chat with your mates, share your thoughts and photos,
and search for like-minded people, however its functions stretch way beyond what we’re used to. For example, WeChat can also be used to find a restaurant, order a meal before you arrive, tell the restaurant you’ve arrived and then pay for your food at the end of the meal. You can even look at a heat map to see how busy it is before you get there… With WeChat, it’s hard to imagine ever needing anything else.
Baidu – 百度
Your homework’s due in tomorrow and you have no idea about who built the Great Wall of China nor why… Who do you turn to? Google of course! However, in China you may want to click onto Baidu instead. Also known as China’s Google, Baidu is said to be the second most popular search engine in the world.
Sina Weibo – 新浪
With 340 million users at the start of this year (that’s more than the population of the USA), Sina Weibo is now even more widely used than its Western counterpart, Twitter. Having started off with the same functions of Twitter, Sina Weibo had become more interactive and is relaxing its 140 character limit, and adding features similar to that of Pinterest and Tumblr to its inventory.
Did you know?:In Chinese you can say a lot more in 140 characters than you can in English, which means that posts on Sina Weibo are often longer in meaning (albeit the same length in characters).
Youku – 优酷土豆
If we were to find a Western equivalent to Youku, it would probably be YouTube. However, that’s not to say that they are exactly the same! Whereas YouTube is geared at individuals sharing individual videos, YouKu focuses primarily on semi-professional videos and is often used for streaming films and TV shows. This means that a lot of the videos have a fairly high production-value!
Douban – 豆瓣
Stick Spotify and Soundcloud and Myspace (if anyone even remembers Myspace) together and you’ll get Douban. Created as a platform for sharing music, discussing and buying books and movies, and booking tickets for events, Douban is designed to bring people together with the same cultural tastes.
Why not give a few of these apps a try during your exchange in China?
More and more people are beginning to understand why learning a language is important. As a result we’re all wondering what the best way to learn a language is. The immersion technique through cultural exchanges is quickly becoming a favorite.
So what’s so great about cultural exchanges?
There are so many advantages of learning a language through a cultural exchange that we can’t list them all. So here are our top ten reasons why young people benefit from cultural exchanges…
Learning grammar and vocabulary in the classroom is all well and good, but is it all that inspiring? Visiting another country on a cultural exchange gives a context to language learning because young people can apply their language skills. As a result they’ll be amazed by how much they’ve already learned and will discover the purpose of all that spelling and conjugation practice.
Develop communication and problem-solving skills
A cultural exchange is a great way for young people to prove what they know, but on some occasions they may find themselves lost for words! Such situations are often hilarious as your son or daughter will have to get creative to communicate with their host family. This will improve their communication skills and problem-solving skills, and help them to remember new vocabulary too!
Stop worrying about mistakes
As soon as speaking a language is necessary to communicate with those around you. In consequence it becomes easier to shed that self-consciousness about making mistakes or looking silly. Such sheepishness is found in abundance in secondary schools, and as such adolescences often benefit both linguistically and emotionally from cultural exchanges.
Learn the living language
Languages are living: they change and evolve with society. This makes learning a language all the more difficult yet all the more interesting. Through immersion in a family on a cultural or language exchange, young people can learn the language of young people. They’ll also learn to speak more idiomatically, just like the natives!
Experience a different culture
Some things just can’t be taught in a classroom, to some extent culture is one of them. The best way to learn about a country’s culture is to experience it in the native language. Cultural exchanges also give young people an important insight into other perspectives, broadening their horizons and encouraging them to develop their opinions and ideas.
Cultural exchanges can be challenging, but therein lies their value. Facing hurdles during an exchange gives young people a sense of accomplishment, boosting their self-esteem and self-awareness. As a result they return home with the ambition and confidence necessary to take on new challenges and pursue new goals.
Become socially adaptable
Immersion in another culture often involves engaging in new and unfamiliar social situations. Through navigating the social customs of another country, young people become more flexible and adaptable to unknown situations in general. They also learn to appreciate other cultures and ideas, and become more open to compromise.
Build lifelong friendships
During a cultural exchange young people participate in the day-to-day life of a host family, effectively becoming another member of the family. They will return home to their actual family at the end of the exchange having formed long-lasting bonds with their hosts and with many new friendships. Many young people stay in contact with their hosts long after their exchange has ended and even continue to visit one-another in the future.
Get accustomed to foreign environments
Young people who participate in exchanges are often more comfortable in multicultural and multilingual environments in the future. Not will they go on to feel more at ease when abroad and traveling, but will adapt better to new environments.
Become a host
A cultural exchange is as much about hosting as it is about traveling abroad. For many young people this may be their first experience of hosting someone that they have not met before. As a result they will develop vital social skills, learning to be sensitive to the needs of others and to analyze group dynamics.
So what are the disadvantages?
Cultural exchanges sound perfect, right? However, there are a few challenges…
Finding a host family
So you’ve decided that a cultural exchange is the best way for your child to learn a language? Now it’s time for the mammoth task of finding a trustworthy host family. For those fortunate enough to have friends in far-flung places this poses no problem, however we aren’t all so lucky.
That’s where online platforms such as Kinder Exchange come in. Although there are many exchange services out there, Kinder Exchange is one of the few platforms that takes on the matchmaking process themselves. Platforms such as Kinder Exchange allow you to rest easy knowing that your child is in safe hands.
Going away from home is daunting
Being separated from your friends and family can be daunting for a young person as well as for their family. However such challenges make participating in an exchange all the more enriching. At Kinder Exchange, we help you to get to know the partner family before the exchange so that you know when your child will be staying. By speaking via email, Skype, and social networks, young people can get to know their partners too so that they know what to expect before arriving.
Nestled in the heart of the Champagne region lies one of the most significant, beautiful, and well-preserved Medieval towns in France. Stepping through the gates of Provins feels a little like stepping back in time as it’s not only the buildings that have been preserved, but the medieval traditions too.
Believed to have been medieval France’s third largest city, in its heyday Provins was a commercial hub, envied for its wealth and famed for its biannual Champagne fairs which attracted merchants from the length and breadth of Europe. These fairs doubled up as celebrations, complete with singing and dancing, and served as a cultural melting pot where ideas could be shared and connections made. Flourishing in the spotlight of European global trade, Provins even minted its own coinage, which was recognised and accepted throughout Medieval Europe.
Discover ancient architecture…
It is said that the Champagne fairs of Provins owed their success in part to protection that the Counts of Champagne offered to journeying merchants as they travelled through the region. Whilst highwaymen are certainly less of a concern on today’s roads, it’s not difficult to imagine the impression that the Provins skyline would have made upon a visiting merchant. Possibly the most striking feature of this skyline is the Tour César. Built between 1152 and 1181 as a symbol of the Count’s power, the Tour César was originally used as watch tower and prison and is an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.
The Tour César also offers panoramic views of the defensive walls that surround Provins. The innovative design of these ramparts served as much to showcase the skill of Provins’ craftsmen as to protect the town. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the 1200m town walls are made up of rectangular, octagonal, and trapezoid (among other shaped) towers which were a true feat of medieval engineering.
Whereas the Tour César evokes the wealth of the town, the church just metres aways tells a different story. Begun in the 12th century, the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church remains unfinished to this day as its constructionwas halted due to financial problems throughout the French kingdom. Now the starkness of this colossal building adds to its beauty, and it is an unmissable monument to the fascinating history of this extraordinary town.
Experience medieval customs…
The traditions of Provins are as well-preserved as its monuments and, in tribute to its medieval history, activities such as Equestrian Falconry are still practiced, and it’s not uncommon to see knights galloping within the city walls in the daily shows put on by the town throughout the spring and summer. The Champagne Fairs may have seen a decline in the 14th century, but the tradition has been upheld all the same and Provins plays host to Champagne Fairs, nocturnal celebrations and musical events which celebrate the customs of the region.
On top of the excitement and drama of the medieval shows, peace and tranquility can also be found in Provins by visiting its rose garden. Here you’ll find a quiet place to relax whilst learning about the history of the rose, its contribution to Provins’ success and, of course, its place in French cuisine!
Just 50km from our hometown of Fontainebleau, Provins is one of our favourite places to explore. We especially recommend tasting Confit de Pétales de Roses: a delicacy of the region!
If you’ve never done it before, the process of organising your exchange might seem like a mammoth task; and the idea of finding the perfect family and location – nigh on impossible! This is why we try to make your planning your exchange as simple as possible by taking on some of the legwork ourselves and supporting you every step of the way! Here’s what you can expect when you join the #Kinderexchange community…
Questions, questions, and even more questions!
Don’t worry, it’s not a test! Our aim is to find you an exchange partner who will become a friend for life! To do this, we’ll be asking you lots of questions in an informal interview before matching you up. Give some thought to what you want to get out of the experience, where you want to go, what you enjoy and what type of people you get on with. This will help us to find you the most compatible partner possible! We’ll also be asking for you to send us some photos of you, your family, and where you live to give your exchange partner an idea of what you’re like, so we love to receive photos where your personality is really shining through!
We understand that going to stay with a family that you’ve never met before can be daunting. For extra assurance that you are in safe hands, we ask for two references for each family involved in the exchange. This reference must be from someone who isn’t related to you and has known your family well for a long time.
Sit back and relax!
We really do mean it! As we do all of the searching for you, your next step is to breathe easy whilst we search our database for your perfect exchange partner. Once we’ve found them, we’ll send out the your profiles to the other family, and their profile to you and if everyone’s happy you can start getting to know one-another!
Over to you!
Once you’ve been matched up, it’s time to get to know your exchange partner and their family and start preparing for your cultural adventure! Make sure to talk to your partner and their family about the logistics of your trip, such as the length of the visit; arrival times and meeting points; dietary requirements; and house rules. It’s also worth doing some research about the local area (you could ask your partner about this) so that you know what to expect and how to respect the local culture. Finally, we advise all exchange students to take a gift for their host family, this might be a game, something that represents your culture, or even food! More detail on our Guideline
Remember: if you have any questions or worries, you can always contact your country’s Kinder Exchange partner who will be happy to answer any of your queries!
Just a stone’s throw from the capital, Fontainebleau is a favourite weekend destination for Parisians looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and to breathe in that fresh countryside air. If you have already visited #Fontainebleau this will come as no surprise, nestled in the centre of a tranquil forest it’s hard to believe that you’re only an hour from Paris. It is also home to #KinderexchangeHQ and when we’re not busy organising exchanges we enjoy discovering the hidden treasures and exploring the rich history and culture of our town.
Fontainebleau’s history boasts as many exciting tales as a BBC period drama, many of which revolve around the beautiful palace in the town centre. A former hunting lodge transformed into a one of the largest French royal châteaux, the Château de Fontainebleau served as the home to the kings and queens of France and witnessed many momentous historical events over the ages, even hosting Pope Pius VII (be it for an involuntary visit) during the French Revolution. These days thePalace of Fontainebleau is open to the public, including its throne room, allowing you to immerse yourself in the extravagant and meticulous decoration and furnishings of the French monarchs. In every direction stretches innumerable gardens, courtyards and parkland, providing the perfect setting for enjoying a picnic or for basking in the splendour of French renaissance architecture.
Surrounded by forest, it’s easy to understand why Fontainebleau became “The True Home of Kings”. (Napoleon in Saint Helena)
Whilst the building has medieval origins, French Monarchs were later compelled to develop the site in order to benefit from the abundance of game in the surrounding forests. Although the eight centuries of sovereign residence in Fontainebleau have long since come to an end, the forest still plays host to a thriving population of game and other wildlife and the tradition of hunting is still practiced. In addition, the forest plays an important role in the history of mountaineering and is now known the world over for walking, horse riding, climbing, and mountain biking.
In order to make the most of the diversity of foliage and the extraordinary rock formations which comprise the unique landscapes of the forest, many walkers take to the “sentiers denecourts”. These walking paths, traced in the 19th century, were initially created to allow visitors to explore the massif. Now maintained by volunteers, these routes are signposted by blue marks on the rocks and trees along the route and guide visitors through areas of remarkable beauty throughout the forest. Although these footpaths are reserved for walkers, a myriad of trails and paths throughout the forest provide a source of adventure for mountain bikers and horse riders alike.
Choosing to view the forest from an entirely new perspective, climbers flock to #Fontainebleau from the world over to test their strength on the boulders of the forest and to make their mark in climbing history. Whilst Fontainebleau is celebrated among the climbing community for its powerful and technical style of climbing, it is also renowned for its accessibility and you certainly don’t need to be Tarzan to enjoy climbing here! Climbing circuits and painted onto the rocks and range from absolute beginner (marked in yellow) to world-class athlete, and offer an alternative way of exploring the forest.