Getting back to nature: Day trips to beat the urban stress of Paris

A new website is helping stressed-out Paris dwellers who don't have the time or money to escape the urban grind. The French capital is surrounded by pockets of quiet parks, lush forests, waterways and open fields – all just a short train ride away. "Randonnée Autour de Paris" helps you get there.

According to Candice Poitrey, all you need is a train ticket, a good pair of shoes, a hat (or raincoat, depending on the weather), lunch, and your sense of adventure.

And perhaps a decent map.

This is where Poitrey's website, Randonnée Autour de Paris (Hiking around Paris), comes in handy. It is an interactive map featuring over 20 itineraries she has tested ranging in distance from 7 to 44 kilometres per round trip.

They are based on the trails already marked out by the French Federation of Hiking, known as the GR1, which tally up to some 550 kilometres around Paris.

Each walk fits into a day trip which involves jumping on a train at one of the major Parisian stations and heading to the "mysterious" land beyond the suburbs.

“When you live in Paris, it can feel like you’re living in a jail, with walls and pollution,” says Poitrey. “But if you know how to find nature – and how to get back – it can ease the frustration. I have 20 possibilities and honestly I feel freer. It's really empowering."

When she moved to Paris, Poitrey, an amateur hiker originally from Dijon, found it hard to reconnect with nature – one element which led to her creating the website.

Beyond the city walls

She also felt it was interesting to show people what she found, in a light-hearted way, to motivate them with tips accompanied by images of beautiful nature scenes.

Her love of media and photography led her to create mini films, complete with music, for each of the walks which provides a preview of what to expect. Without giving it all away, of course.

“I think we’re luckier than other people in France – we have access to nature with public transport.”

Poitrey is now looking into making an English language edition of the site – and maybe even taking it further, extending to other cities.

“I hope it will change the lives of Parisians, because it changed my life,” she enthuses.