Venturing outside of Paris’ city limits, we found a diamond in the rough at Le Zoo de Thoiry. This unique zoo, 40km west of Paris, flips typical zoo experiences on its head, as you are the ones in an enclosed space (your car) staring back at free roaming creatures. At Thoiry, wild and exotic animals such as lions, buffalo’s, rhinoceroses, bears and elephants, roam freely as wide-eyed visitors in vehicles explore this African Reserve.
We had an ostrich walk right up to our window and peer back at us with huge round eyes and feathery eyelashes, then happily stand in the middle of the road stopping traffic for five minutes. A baby zebra obediently followed his mom as she sniffed out each passing car and intimately introduced herself by thrusting her head into open car windows.
Amazing… and a bit terrifying as we casually drove by wandering lions, bison and bears.
After this leisurely hour drive full of excited finger pointing, surreal sightings and apprehensive drive-bys, we were anxious to stretch our legs and explore the walking zoo, gigantic labyrinth, the 16th century chateau, and the seemingly endless grounds of leafy canopied paths and manicured grounds.
The imaginatively conceived playground area is completely surrounded by a small stream. Children are transported into an adventure playground as they cross the suspension bridge and inevitably enter a world of their imagination.
We stayed longer than anticipated and spent late afternoon leisurely wandering the Chateau’s forested grounds, enjoying the slower pace of the countryside, spotting wild rabbits and colorful birds, and snapping pictures of the beautiful gardens. I do suggest packing a lunch, as we found the food less than desirable. It would have been fun to picnic in the various picturesque grassy spots.
http://www.thoiry.net; consult website of hours as it varies, Admission, adult 24 euros, children 16.50 euros.