Fontainebleau is a temporary palace of French kings for the purpose of entertainment, especially hunting. Also, this palace is one of the most important ones during the French renaissance after its reconstruction then. Napoleon has put the pope in captivity, but he was also forced to abdicate right in this palace.
Fontainebleau is far away from Paris. To be exact, it is 65 kilometers away from downtown Paris. Therefore, for the visitors living in Paris like us, the best way to get there is taking a train.
However, it is not very easy for visitors who do not speak French to figure out the procedure. At first, we went to the subway station. Since it was our first time taking a subway in Paris, we asked a guy waiting for the subway there as well in case we got on the wrong one. Getting off the subway, the train station, Gare de Lyon, was right above us, but we could not figure out which way it was to get upstairs.
After many problems like finding the place to buy tickets and the right train on time, we finally got on the train. There were three stops between Gare de Lyon and Fontainebleau-avon. Here is some pictures which I took on the train.
We reached the town of Fontainebleau, a small and quiet town comparing to many tourist attractions. It was approaching noon, so we had a drink at cafe near the train station.
We didn’t take the bus to the palace. Instead, we went there on foot, so we need to go across the town.
We had to admit that the best way to know a place is by walking. On our way, I saw many families and their houses, which gave me a deep understanding of their slow and relaxing life.
Fontainebleau is surrounded by forest, and spending half an hour rambling in the forest made us all in a good mood. The time in the forest flew so fast that we did not even realize that we were at the end of the forest.
When we went out of the palace, we were all impressed by the moat. The water was very clear connecting to the sky perfectly. There were several ducks swimming on it, and everything looked really peacefully.
The garden consists of many flower beds and a pond with a fountain in it. From the garden, we had a clear view of the palace as a whole.
We entered the palace from the backyard. Down the winding road, we saw a very pretty statue of Artemis (or Diana), in charge of hunting. The goddess looked very perfect here because Fontainebleau is also a palace for French kings in terms of hunting.
This is a picture of Cour du Cheval Blanc. In 1814, before Napoleon was exiled to Elba Island, he had bid goodbye to his guards on this staircase right in front of us. Therefore, it is also called Cour des Adieus.
A couple was taking wedding photos here.
Although there are not a lot visitors everyday in Fontainebleau comparing to the palace of Versailles, we were still in a long queue because it was afternoon. After rending an audioguide, we went from rooms to rooms following the route.
Many artists from different time period were involved with the design of this palace. We saw many bedrooms, reception room, and galleries in different styles, but all of them were resplendent and magnificent.
Coming out of the palace, we had a view of it as a whole again and a lake at a different angle before leaving.
It wasn’t my first time being in Paris. Four years ago, my parents and I went to Europe as I graduated from my elementary school that summer. We visited UK, France, Switzerland, and Italy with a group of other people from China and a tour guide, but this time, we got a chance to visit on our own. In his memoir, A Moveable Feast, the famous American author Ernest Hemingway has written,
If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.
A feast of opera
Europe is the home of opera. Started in Italy, the quintessence of Italian opera was absorbed by French artists. In 1861, Charles Garnier took the responsibility to build a new opera house to replace the old one which had been burned down. Therefore, the famous Opéra de Paris is also called Opéra Garnier. I was really lucky that I visited such a fabulous place on my first day.
The front door of Opéra de Paris was pretty magnificent. With the combination of the ancient Greek and Baroque style, it had many famous composers’ statues, including the ones of Mozart and Beethoven, on it. However, we do not enter from the from this gate.
We entered here behind a statue of the famous designer, Charles Garnier. Below it was a map of the whole opera house. Visitors might not realize how big and amazing it was by only looking at this map. According to the audioguide, it had 2531 doors and 7593 keys for them. In the basement, there was a big lake. The story of The Phantom of the Opera, by Caston Leroux, happened just in this opera house, and the phantom lived in a house on the lake.
After going into the opera house, I was attracted by the staircase at once. It was designed like the ones in castles where the rich and elegant hostess used to walk down slowly. Nevertheless, here, I imagined the scene that many nobles, in fabulous clothes at that time, walked upstair talking to each other.
On top of the stairs, we were approaching two sculpture works standing for comedies and tragedies. Passing them, we finally reached the place where people enjoyed opera more than two hundred years ago. The horseshoe-shaped theatre had the biggest stage in the world then which could contain 450 actors and actress and 2200 audiences. Some of the audiences sat in the middle, while other rich people sat back in small and private boxes. I didn’t take a picture because it was too dark inside.
One room which I found pretty amazing was the room of the sun. On the ceiling, there was a huge image of sun shining out with great brilliancy in all directions. Four mirrors were placed around a light reflecting the light of the sun to infinity.
Here is the place where people had a rest during intervals. The whole room appeared to be golden, and I felt the extreme luxury of people watching the play. It also had a balcony which could provide people with the view of the Place de l’Opéra.
Looking from this quaint opera house, the view of the street was pretty modern, though.
A feast of art
Paris has various museums. I visited two of them during my trip, Musée du Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. I will talk about them specifically in my later post.
A feast of fashion
The center of fashion in Paris should be on Avenue des Champs-Élysées. On the 2.5-kilometer avenue are the stores, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, etc. Also, there are people, people, and people, everywhere, since it attracts tourists all over the world. They shop for all kinds of fashionable clothes, perfumes, handbags…
One end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is Arc de Triomphe. On the wall of the arc are four huge reliefs about the war. They are departure, triumph, peace and resistance. In the arc, the names of the generals traveling with Napoleon and victories are all carved. The 12 main avenues in Paris are centered around Arc de Triomphe spreading in many directions.
A feast of food
Paris has food from all around the world.
On my first day’s visit, I was not feeling well, so I had some simple Japanese food instead of steaks and dessert.
We had dinner at Hippopotamus near our hotel on our last day at Paris. It was a relatively cheap restaurant with delicious food and drinks.
Besides, we also had some Chinese food at a restaurant called 国宾 near Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The food was surprisingly tasty and authentic.