Chateau Fontainebleau - 2016
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There are three main, giant and outrageous chateaux in France, all in the Ile-de-France: The Louvre, Versailles, and Fontainebleau. One is probably the world’s most famous museum, the second its most famous palace, and the third, its least known, but best example. You take a 40 minute commuter train ride from Gare de Lyon to get to Fontainebleau, now a bedroom burb of Paris. The price includes public transport there, which is a simple ride on the Number 1 bus that is timed to the arrival of the train. The only stop the bus driver announces is the chateau, in the town center.
|Greeting Hall||Ballroom with chidren visitors in costume||King's Bedroom|
For hundreds of years, kings made their mark on the chateau, adding rooms and wings, redecorating, and expanding. Today it wanders off in all directions, and one wing - the most important, with actual living quarters - is open as a museum. Unlike Versailles, which is largely bare, or the Louvre, which is an art museum and no longer a palace, Fontainebleau has maintained its personality. The pope’s apartments are preserved, as is Napoleon’s throne room, and various bedrooms, nurseries, waiting rooms and halls. They are fully equipped with original furniture, encased in plastic or behind glass. The walls are covered in tapestries ordered by their occupants, and the ceilings are stunning. It is a trip through extravagance. The ballroom in particular is full of the vibes of centuries of entertainment.
|Napoleon's throne room||Floor detail||Marie Antoinette's bed canopy|
The gardens are richly appointed with ponds, fountains, statuary and two hundred year old trees bending back, away from the manicured paths. The gigantic forest where royalty rode and hunted is thick and lush. Having been to all three chateaux, I can say without hesitation that Fontainebleau is the best experience.
We arrived at ten and took a two hour walk through. Then lunch in town, followed by a long walk through the gardens, and back to Paris by about five. A full day, close to home, but in another world.
|Rear Courtyard to Gardens||Gardens causeway||Gardens|