May 16th, 2023, 04:10 PM

AUP Green Beyond City Limits

By Clayton Wilson
Image credit: Clayton Wilson
Follow AUP's Sustainability and Green club on a nature reset in the Paris suburbs.

Paris is intoxicating and easy to get swept up in, but it is also easy to feel enclosed in a concrete jungle just the same. While the city of Paris offers a handful of nature attractions and simply beautiful landscapes just outside the city limits, it can be hard for students to get out of the city once in a while, especially if they are venturing off alone. Thankfully, AUP Green has considered just this dilemma. I was lucky enough to get to join AUP’s sustainability club on one of their most recent hiking excursions outside the city. This hike was particularly special because we were guided by AUP Professor Oleg Kobtzeff, who shared his knowledge of the nature and area along the way. 

The group walking through Parc de Grouchy. (Image credit: Clayton Wilson)

We met at 10 am on Sunday morning at Saint Lazare Station. Once the group was gathered (about 13 people and two stragglers right behind us) we boarded the 10:34 J train to Pontoise. Once we arrived we wandered around the small square outside the train station for about 30 minutes, gathering snacks for the trip and taking pictures of the Pontoise Cathedral, and a few others to prove the beautiful weather. 

The side of Château de Grouchy and gardens. (Image credit: Clayton Wilson) 

We started off walking through the streets of Pontoise, admiring the architecture and history of the city, and made our way to Osny. We continued on through Osny until we entered Parc de Grouchy where we stopped to admire the Grouchy Chateau, gardens and pond. A few of us also stopped to look at the books and writings the MéMO’ Troc (the public exchange library) had to offer to passersby. We continued on towards Boissy-l’Aillerie, making our way through the gardens and greenery of Parc du Grouchy, indulging in lively conversations with students and professors. 


Phone booth turned public library in Parc de Grouchy. (Image credit: Clayton Wilson) 

After a quick lunch, we continued on and found ourselves walking along a more residential back road. As we wandered through the residencies towards Boissy-l’Aillerie, we were able to see the houses, yards, and sometimes the nervous and loud dogs of the residents. While on this back road, we approached a farm and made our way through to discover it housed many cats and birds on its grounds. 

Some of the group being led by Professor Oleg Kobtzeff. (Image credit: Sarah Galvan) 

Back on track we continued walking through the woods and getting to know one another. While the last week of classes and finals were approaching, the student turnout was incredible for an AUP event. When speaking to many students on the hike, they noted that even though the hike was scheduled during a busy time of the year, it was the perfect excuse to get outdoors and get moving. One AUP student, Alessandra Grassi, said that the hike was "a great mental break and excuse to look away from school work for a day.” Other students agreed that being outdoors and active helped ease stress of the upcoming weeks. 

AUP Green’s hikes are planned accordingly with students busy schedules in mind. Along the route, students were made aware of train stations nearby that could take them back into the city with one swipe of their Navigo card. At about the 9km mark in the hike, it was reaching 3 pm and the thought of the upcoming school week was creeping into some students minds. Half of the group bid the rest of the hikers farewell and boarded the J train at the Boissy-l'Aillerie station and headed back into the city. The remainder of the group carried on walking for another hour through Courcelles and Montgeroult and towards Ableiges. With many stops scattered along the way to admire the 17th century mills and manors, the group made their way to the end of the hike and was welcomed in to Professor Kobtzeff's home for a cup of tea before heading back into the city and the last week of school. 

A patch of flowers along the hiking trail. (Image credit: Sarah Galvan)

AUP Green has hosted four hiking excursions outside the city during the 22/23 school year and hopes to host even more in future years. It can be daunting to leave the city all on your own, so if you are looking to meet new people and discover new parts of the Paris area, then look out for AUP Green events and hikes on their Engage page.