Thursday
May
31st
2007
4:07 am

Fontainebleau

This week’s little excursion was to Fontainebleau, about 1/2 hour (by train) southeast of Paris.

The trip and Avon, where the station for Fontainebleau is located, are not particularly interesting. The suburbs of Paris through which the train passes look largely industrial; it doesn’t get pretty until after Melun. As for Avon, I suppose I really shouldn’t judge by what I could see from the bus, but I certainly didn’t see anything that made me want to linger.

The château has been there since the 12th century, and was used and renovated by kings and emperors through the Second Empire in the 19th century. Most of what remains now was built on what François Ier put in place in the 16th century, but very little is in an "original" form. There are rooms where the ceiling panels are from the time of François Ier, but the panelling on the walls dates to Louis XIV, while the furniture is from the reign of Napoleon III. (In fact, one of the artists who worked on the restoration painted DeGaulle and one of his ministers into some of the trim in the Hall of Trophies, so you could even argue that the renovations continued right on up to the Fifth Republic.)

The main approach to the Château is now across the Court of the White Horse (named for a statue that’s been gone since the 17th century); also known as the Court of Adieux, since it was from here that Napoleon made his farewells before going into his first exile.

The audio guide that’s included with the price of admission to the Château is very good, and quite complete. The guided tour, on the other hand, was pretty much a waste of time. It mostly covered rooms that are also done in the audio guide, and the tour guide was uninspiring. She seemed more interested in getting the tour over with.

The gardens are lovely, through: spacious and green, with lots of fountains and ponds. I don’t quite get what’s going on with the topiary cones, though.

The carp pond in back of the Château has this little pavilion in the middle, where the King could entertain his mistress. One hopes that they remembered how well sound carries over water!

And a view of Fontainebleau from the far side of the carp pond.

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