Monday, 29 October 2012

Trip Report: Fontainebleau

This is our trip report from Fontainebleau. We went a little while ago, as you will be able to tell from the photos - the weather was much nicer when we went down than it has been recently. We had tried to make it to Fontainebleau three times before, but for various reasons we never quite made it down. Finally we made it down. We only knew three things about Fontainebleau:
1) It has a famous chateau
2) The town is reportedly well worth seeing.
3) It has a famous forest where the kings used to hunt.

So again, we took the train out of Paris (from a new station this time: Gare de Lyon) to Fontainebleau. Train travel is getting much easier to manage.

We arrived in Fontainebleau at around lunchtime, and scorning the bus (which was packed with tourists) decided to walk the 4 kilometres to the Chateau, thereby seeing the purportedly cute town on the way:

The Chateau is similar to the others we've seen in that it has an open U shaped forecourt, with the entrance at the "bottom" of the U, but

The rooms inside are as ornate as Versailles, but somehow manage to feel more homely, and less ostentatious.

Key differences from Versailles:

1) Many of the original furnishings are still at Fontainebleau;
2) There's no consistent theme to the rooms' decor, or even their layout - many of them represent different periods in the royal history of France;
3) The ceilings are way cooler- lots of different geometric patterns and decoration styles;
4) There are many walls entirely covered in amazing tapestries;
5) The walls are also decorated with sculptures as well as paintings.

For example- the tapestries and other furnishings:

One of the cool ceilings:

The amazing library:

Another tapestry and furniture inside the Chateau:

The King's bedroom:

The roof of one of the staircases:

The chapel inside the Chateau:

Fontainebleau also has formal gardens - the largest in France. Again, these are less coherent than Versailles, but also more charming, but also designed by Andre le Notre. This is the view back over one of the lakes to the side of the palace:

One of the main lakes, with a summerhouse set on the lake, and the chateau in the background:

Another view of the formal gardens, with Fontainebleau's Grand Canal (much less grand than Versailles's: about 1/5 of the length, less than 1/2 the width, and without the cross bar) in the distance. We ate lunch by the right hand side of the Grand Canal in this photo but got chased away by swarms of midgets who liked our apples.

After lunch (at about 4 o'clock!) and some roaming around the gardens, we saw a little path leading as far into the distance as we could see. It went into the forest. Knowing that the forest was also famous, we decided to follow the path. This is about halfway down; you can see there's a hill at the far end:

In yesterday's photos there were some shots looking back from the top of the hotel toward the chateau. This photo is on that same line, but within the grounds of the chateau (about 2 kilometres from that hill).

We climbed up the hill, and took this photo looking back over the Chateau. If you follow the line as far as you can, the Chateau is there:

A photo from the same location, but zoomed so you can just identify the Chateau above the trees:

Another view from the top of the hill, this time over the countryside and forest:

Part of the walk to get there- nice to have something approaching a bushwalk!

We explored through the forest for a bit, and then decided to walk the approximately 6 kilometres back to the train. Once we were out of the track in the previous photos, we cut through the park at Fontainebleau. It was very beautiful- so much greenery! This is one of the glades we walked through.

Returning through the glades at the end of the day, we caught this glimpse of the chateau through the trees:

We arrived at the train station just a few minutes before the next train, and arrived back in Paris about 10 pm. Another very good day. 

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