Life in Fontainebleau

I’ve been meaning to write this post pretty much since I arrived in France, which was 6 weeks ago. Can’t believe how fast the weeks are flying by. The reality that the MBA will soon come to an end is becoming horribly clear and I’m feeling really sad about it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed the freedom of the experience- managing my time, having the world at my feet- first South East Asia, and now Europe. I’ve travelled on a whim practically every weekend, made a group of fantastic friends, broadened my horizons, expanded my ambitions. the list goes on. I’m not the same person I was a few months ago.

You can definitely expect a more detailed “reflections” post in a few months from now, but today I wanted to write about life in Fontainebleau, the French village where INSEAD’s Europe campus is situated.

Fonty, as we like to say, is situated about an hour out of Paris, and is accessible from Paris by train. We’ve hired a car, because we wanted to do lots of road trips. So far we’ve done Belgium, Burgundy and Bordeaux- getting that bucket list ticked off slowly! J

A village with only 15,000 people, Fonty really only has 2 main streets. On these streets, there are 2-3 grocery stores, 1 drycleaner, a cinema, about 15-20 restaurants/ bars, 10 hairstylists and another 10 pharmacies. Plus 10 boulangeries, which is my favourite part, naturally. I must say that I found the abundance of hairstylists and pharmacies weird. There’s no nail salon in sight. I love walking around the cute French streets and admiring the doors, balconies and architecture. Here are some snaps of what I see everyday.

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The drawcard of Fontainebleau is its beautiful chateau, which brings in busloads of tourists and which I’ve still not visited. Unlike Versailles, this chateau apparently has more of a “house” vibe, so you can see the bedrooms etc. Just across from the chateau, there’s a beautiful carousel with a few open air restaurants and cafes.

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Speaking of chateaus, many of my friends live in large chateaus just outside of Fonty. The village is surrounded by a forest, so it’s a 10-15 minute drive to one of about 5 neighbouring villages. It’s not uncommon for up to 16 people to share a house, and these are gorgeous old properties with massive gardens and lovely, cozy living rooms.

We wanted our own place, so we stay on one of the main streets, in a gorgeous studio apartment that I found on Airbnb. We’re paying a third of what we paid in Singapore so definitely saving money being here- and ironically, even though the apartment is far smaller, we’re so much happier here. What it lacks in size it makes up for in character and quirkiness. Every morning, Rishav and I debate over who is going to do the daily baguette run- the nearest one is about a 5 minute walk from our house, but we like to alternate between a few bakeries. It’s such a dream to have freshly baked bread everyday. Here, no one buys loaves of bread, it’s unheard of. In the mornings, you’ll see kids walking to school, people cycling up and down, baguette in hand. Also, you’ll seldom find pre-made things like crushed garlic for example. There’s a huge focus on quality and freshness, and the fresh produce in the grocery stores is amazing. Grocery prices are comparable to SA, and the wine is great! Needless to say, we’ve been eating at home a lot more and also doing lots of dinners at friends’ houses which has been great.

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In the evenings, there’s not much to do, which has been good in terms of preparing for interviews and stuff I guess. If we’re not travelling on the weekends, then we go to Paris for the day or for dinner.

Paris is just incredible… if you haven’t been yet, you have to go! It’s like New York for me, in that no matter how many times I visit, I’m still as much in awe as I was the first time I went. It’s just so beautiful. You can walk around aimlessly and still be wow’d.

Sometimes I’m in disbelief at the fact that I can just hop over to Paris to run errands, and that I live in a little French village. I’ll be here till the end of June- come visit!