Chateau de Fontainebleau, the faces of the French kingdom

One of the most important, lovely ,and special castles in France. It was my first introduction to French cultural and historical life back in 1990, as was visited with my girlfriend who is from the region,and now my wife.

I like to give you the details of getting there first, usually is last but I think it should be first so you know how to get there.  First the individual visits are done in the tour of the Grands appartements ,including those of the Pope,the renaissance rooms,sovereigns apartments and the interior apartment of the Emperor, the museum of Napoleon Ier, and the French and English style gardens covering 50 hectares ( 123,50 acres. You are given free audioguides ,and the admission is 10€ adults (if you come  an hour before closing you get in for 5€) . You are given guided tours of the Petit Appartements, the spaces link to the Second Empire (Napoleon III)  as well as the galerie des meubles (gallery of furnitures),this admission of 6,50€. You can visit the museum of Napoleon on a guided tour as well as the appartements the admission is 14,50€. It is well advised to reserve in advance the guided tours of the Chateau. The contact info is tel +33 01 60 71 50 60 or 70 and email : chateau-de-Fontainebleau@culture.fr The main webpage of the castle museum is at http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/

The city of Fontainebleau tourist council webpage is here for information not only of the castle but of the city monuments as well : http://www.uk.fontainebleau-tourisme.com/  The tourist information site for the region where Fontainebleau is its call Seine et Marne or dept 77 east of Paris, and the webpage in English is at http://www.tourism77.co.uk/. For a magnificent ride into the forest of Fontainebleau ,one of the biggest in ile de France region and considered the “GREEN LUNG OF THE REGION”  and full of interesting sights you go here at the region council page in French with plenty of links to more specifics areas for walkers and outdoor lovers http://www.seine-et-marne.fr/la-foret-de-fontainebleau

The best way to reach it from Paris as most usually come from there is by train from gare de Lyon direction Montargis, Sens or Montereau and stop at station Fontainebleau-Avon, and then take bus Line A direction Les Lilas to the stop La Poste-Chateau .  The tour bus Parisvision has a regular bus from Paris at 214 rue Rivoli to Fontainebleau inquire at http://en.parisvision.com/36,41-visit-fontainebleau-castle.htm

Now  a bit more about this wonderful property, the Chateau de Fontainebleau. It was king François Ier who seduce by the beauty of the area ordered to demolished the feodal castle done by king Louis IX (Saint Louis)  and built a renaissance castle instead.  It was the home of the French kings/emperors from the 16C to the 19C from François I to Napoleon III. All of them at one time or the other had something to do with the castle, a window, a door a renovation a construction a garden they all left their imprints here.  It is ,also, the site of a painters school from the 16C started by le Rosso ( a disciple of Michael Ange ) and le Primatice. The school is still there on a side building.

A bit of a tour of the exterior, the most imposing is the cour du Cheval Blanc ou des Adieux ( horse shape court of the white horse or of the goodbyes). This exterior tour can take from 1h to 2h according to your pace. It starts here at the cour du Cheval Blanc as I like to call it. It was the honor court of the Emperor, then you go by the cour de la Fontaine, located by the etang des Carpes or the lake of Carps ( a fish); the fountain gives you a very pure water and was only used by the king which he had it guard daily. The current fountain dates from 1812 with a statue of Ulyses. Then , you cross the porte Dorée or golden door dating from 1528 with a sculptured salamander the symbol of king François I. You make your steps backward coming to the chapelle du Baptistére (baptismal chapel not visited only by groups but gorgeous inside), and you arrive at cour Ovale or oval court, the oldest at the castle as it sits at the courtyard of the old feodal castle first built here where today you only see the donjon or tower, at the other end you see the porte du Baptistére. You continue your tour with the cour des Offices or Cuisines, where the entrance is guarded by two impressive heads of Hermés (1640 AD) ;this courtyard was built in 1609 AD by king Henry IV, and you can see from here the front of the place d’Armes and its magnificent architecture.  Once you noticed the gardens, oh la la la! First come into the jardin de Diane or Diana’s garden created by Catherine de Médicis.You should make a brief walk by the grotte du jardin des Pins or cave of the garden of pines, decorated with frescos by king François I. Come across from here to the English garden where the water flows on a small fountain call Bliaud or Blaut that gives the name to the Chateau in old French,until you reach the Parterre design by gardener Le Notre . The park is a creation of king Henry IV that created the canal in 1609 AD (about 60 yrs before the Grand Canal at Versailles), and planted oak,pines, and fruit trees all around it. You can ride all these gardens in horse wagon or attelages starting from the porte Dorée in season (mostly summers) for about 4€, you can reserve it on weekend and off season ahead of time. Contact tel + 33 01 64 22 92 61 or Mob +33 06 81 50 09 20. You can ,also, see the jeu de paume de Fontainebleau by the side of the jardin de Diane, where from 1601 AD tennis and squash are still practice from 11h to 19h for free, you can watch others play or play yourself. Contact tel +33 01 64 22 47 67.

Coming inside the castle, of course, you cannot missed the Grands Appartements where you will see the splendid galerie François I or the chapelle de la Trinité, the chapel where Louis XV marries Marie Leszczynska and where the future Napoleon III was baptised. Stop by the escalier du Roi( king’s stair) built under king Louis XV where the theme is the history of Alexander as seen by the Primatice painter. You will end up at the salle de bal or ballroom where the paintings and the layout are absolutely marvelous. To the side you will see the appartements royaux or royal apartments where Catherine de Médicis and Henry IV lived;just gorgeous. Here the galerie de Diane long of 80 meters (264 ft)  was transformed into a library under the Second Empire. After you walk thru numerous rooms, boudoirs,and galleries take a look at the appartements intérieur de l’Empereur or the interior apartments of the Emperor;  where it is the bedroom and the salon de l’Abdication or abdication room where the Emperor Napoleon I abdicated on April 6, 1814. The furniture has remain the same here ever since. You go to the ground floor of the galerie François I that gives way to the jardin de Diane to visit the Petits Appartements or Small apartments that were used by Napoleon I and Josephine. These are the private apartments of the monarch first used by king Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry …… The smaller ones are decorated under Josephine (1808 AD) such as the salon Jaune or yellow bedroom that is exquisite. You come into the galerie des Cerfs or Gallery of Stags that was given the name because of the heads of stags that is decorated with and were a replacement to the statues done by the Primatice in 1540.

You have two museums into the museum castle of Fontainebleau, one is the Musée Chinois or Chinese museum, the collection was started by emperatrice Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) coming from the loots of the chinese emperor by the English-Franco expedition against China in 1860. You have to advance book the tour at the castle or tel +33 01 60 71 50 60, admission is 6,50€. The other is the musée Napoléon 1er or the Napoleon I museum. This is dedicated to the Emperor and his family, occupying 15 rooms on the first floor(2 FL) and ground floor (1 FL)at the wing Louis XV. The museum has souvenirs, objects d’arts,furniture,, ceramics, arms etc etc of the family. Contact tel +33 01 60 71 50 60. guided visit last about 1h15, admission is 3€ upon request from June to September. Otherwise open every day from 9h30 to 18h October thru May.

In more lasting visits I have stayed at the Mercure Royal Hotel  , a wonderful property just walking distance from the chateau and city center,  webpage in English http://www.mercure.com/gb/hotel-1627-mercure-royal-fontainebleau/index.shtml . For eating my all time favorite was the Le Caveau des Ducs at 24 rue de Ferrare, but upon checking it just today it has closed sadly. So we began a new relationship today with La Salamandre, 76 rue Grande, tel +33 01 64 22 28 16 ,no webpage. It is right on main street to the right of castle near church of Saint Louis. The terrine de poissons, and osso bucco was very good indeed, formules from 12€ entrée+main dish or main dish + dessert. Coffee 1,60€ at counter 1,10€ quart of wine 3,20€ for two persons; nice view of people watching in city center.  

Enjoy the castle, I am there regularly.And see the page Fontainebleau of kings and emperors for further material and photos.

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