Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Royal Treatment

Walls made of gold, gardens that stretch out for kilometers in every direction, and lakes and ponds flowing through the grounds, this is luxury! One day at Fontainebleau and the other at Versailles, there is no question in my mind what lead to the French Revolution!

Fontainebleau is located 50 minutes outside of Paris and, according to Napoleon, is the “true home of kings.” There are over 1500 rooms and 130 acres of parks and gardens, and it is the only royal and imperial chateau to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. But enough with the history lesson…

Mikayla and I took a morning train and went to Fontainebleau excited for our day of history and grandeur. We arrived at the chateau astounded at the size and lay of the grounds. First off was to tour the palace, so we picked up audio guides and wove through the hallways of the palace. Peaking in rooms that were once kings’ bedrooms and observing the difference between the private and public or business rooms of the palace was fascinating. The palace screamed wealth, it was unbelievable to see the rooms and imagine people actually lived there!

The afternoon was spent in the grounds of Fontainebleau, walking around the ponds and exploring the forest. It was beautiful! I don’t know why people don’t visit it more often because it was magic, and far less crowded than Versailles.

Versailles was the next day! The palace of French Kings from Louis the XIV and on until Louis the XVI, the palace was astounding. It cost equivalent to 2.5 billion euros to build it! All the fountains through the gardens were set to turn on as the kings walked by so that he thought they were always on and the garden stretched out endlessly. Each part of the garden was supposed to be decorated like room in a home. It was meant to offer a different mood in each ‘room’, the way a house does. 

That day I went with bike about tours and road my bike all around the gardens. Mikayla was working that tour so we got to see Versailles together after having been at Fontainebleau the day before and compare and contrast between the two.

We biked down to Mary Antoinette’s village and spent an hour exploring the cottage and checking out all the animals. We made a quick stop at a French market for picnic fixings, then headed off to the canal and set up for a picnic by the water surrounded by the gardens with a perfect view of the palace. Finally we headed back up to the palace and walked through the inside. It was remarkable! While the décor was a bit much for me or, as my Grandma would describe, ‘busy’, it was really neat to see. Seeing the wall of mirrors was one of my favourite places and the galerie des batailles with paintings depicting many of the wars fought by Napoleon.

After two days of exploring these enormously luxurious palaces you can probably imagine my apartment seemed a bit small and simple! 

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