Château de Fontainebleau (nr Paris, France): the other (nicer) royal palace

The wonderful facade of double horseshoe stairs. Note the super-chic French woman in the foreground.

Remember my trip to The Palace of Versailles?  It rained all day and I suggested skipping the actual palace in favour of the grounds and the Petit Trianon.

In contrast, a couple of days later we took the train from Gare de Lyon, descending at the Fontainebleau-Avon train station, after which we took the No. 1 bus; it dropped us off outside the gates to the palace.  And I can heartily suggest that you go inside this palace.  Sadly, its gardens aren’t quite up to par.  They are half-public park, half English landscape garden.

Fontainebleau is the real deal: a former royal palace and hunting lodge, that Napoleon “napolean-ised” in the 19th century.  See more on the history here.

Beyond the entrance hall, it’s all rather bling.

And virtually empty, which was a nice surprise after the horrific crowds of Versailles.

A word to the wise: it helps to have French if venturing this far from Paris.  No one tried to speak English and the security guard at the entrance (whose clearance we needed to enter) didn’t understand a single word of D’s attempts to communicate (other than Manchester United!).  Fortunately I speak French.

Napoleon’s office – desk in the foreground and bed, just in case he fancied a lie down.  Napoleon was at Fontainebleau when he abdicated his throne, before being sent to the isle of Elba.

The “Fs” on the panelling stand for Francis I
Imagine the clutter of carriages…

On the practical side, the cafe was closed (I suspect September is out of season – we were there on a weekday), but fortunately we had brought sandwiches, and there are handy lockers near the entrance for leaving behind heavy bags.  Also, if you plan to look around the town, remember that as this is typical France, most of the shops will be closed 1-3pm.  We walked back to the train station at 1.30…  ah well, we did a bit of window shopping instead.

When visited: September 2015


House out of 5: ***

Garden out of 5: * (it’s an English landscape)

For a video of the château, see below

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