Fontainebleau 2006

A nice day-trip from Paris is the Chateau de Fontainebleau, which we did in late October.

Fontainebleau is about 45 miles outside of Paris, easily reached by either car or train. Fontainebleau earned royal esteem as a hunting base for the French kings. It started as a hunting lodge (on the same site as the current chateau) along with a chapel, which was built in 1169.

This is a picture of the current Chateau de Fontainebleau, which dates from the 16th century. The palace started under the Renaissance king, Francois I, the French contemporary of England's Henry VIII. It was done by two Italian artists: Il Rosso and Primaticcio.

This is the famous Horseshoe Staircase at the front of the house, which opens onto the Cour du Cheval Blanc (White Horse Courtyard). The courtyard was built by Androuet du Cerceau for Louis XIII. If you look closely, you'll see Susan (that little tiny blip in blue) at the bottom of the stairs.

Behind the Chateau are great gardens. The Sun King, Louis XIV, commissioned Andre Lenotre to replant the gardens here, where he and his court returned every fall for the hunting season.

Another courtyard, the Cour de la Fontaine (Fountain courtyard) was commissioned by Napoleon in 1812 and adjoins the Etang des Carpes (Carp Pond) shown here. Ancient carp supposedly were in this pond in those days. Allied soldiers drained the pond in 1915 and ate all of the fish, and then Hitler's men did the same in 1940.

There are extraordinary frescoes and stuccowork throughout the chateau. This is one of the rooms that we photographed. You can see the wonderful stucco above the 2 doors, and the ornate walls and doors.

This is the Queens' bedroom. Occupants included Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon's second wife, Marie-Louise.

The "jewel of the interior" is the Salle de Bal, which is the ceremonial ballroom. It is nearly 100 feet long and is decorated with 16th century frescoes and gilding. The lovely parquetry floor reflects the patterns in the ceiling. Its Renaissance style instead of Baroque is a reflection of the chateau as a whole, which has a wonderful sense of style and elegance but on a smaller, more intimate scale than Versailles.

The walls of the Salle de Bal also has these wonderful wood panels. This picture shows what they look like. The "F" is the seal for King Francois I, who started the Chateau here.