Fontainbleu was mentioned to us by another travelling couple as a must see if only for the magnificent chateau with 1500 rooms and 130 acres of surrounding parklands. It is quite close to Paris and is a very popular tourist destination. It has been the home of an unbroken line of french sovereigns from Francois I to Napolean III. We drove into the forest-like surrounds and drive down a very bumpy cobbled drive where we are going to park for the night which backs on to the rear of the chateau lake and expansive gardens. There are cars and a few vans, and while not stated as a overnite stay everyone says it is ok.
We settle in then go for a walk to see the adjacent town as we are not sure if we have enough time to tour the chateau. However we are assured that the 1 1/2 hours left is adequate to see it all and it will also free up tomorrow morning. The crowd is relatively small as we start the tour. It follows a set course through all the rooms and it is truly stunning and even after all that we have seen I think this is the best even above Cheverny. The main reason is that it has been in the same family for over 600 years and they are still there.
We do get the tour groups but for some reason they are courteous and quiet which makes it easier to take it all in and not have to move along with the crowd. I think that the fact we are all heading in the same direction helps and you are not trying to get around or through the masses. The art and furnishings are so eye hurting beautiful and in such excellent condition. Some have been restored to the original specs- furniture for example- and still keep their originality. Even the hundeds of year old tapestries are still colourful and not faded and, as it has not been looted and changed owners, there are still all the day to day items in the rooms such as the ladies bedrooms. I especially liked a room called the Plate Gallery with 128 Sevres hand painted, gold gilded porcelain plates fitted into the woodwork, such exquisite, detailed scenes of everyday life. It is well worth Wikipedia-ing the chateuu to get a true idea of it’s beauty. Fortunately we did have enough time to do it justice but another hour without people jostling would have been great as you do seem to rush the last bits and do suffer from a bit of sensory overload. We head back to the van as the gate will close at 7pm and if we go to the town we will have to walk all the way round so decide to see it in the morning.
The fine weather continues in the morning, we have been very lucky, and we wander around the little town area and then head off back to Orleans to take the opportunity to give the van a huge spring clean as it is on the market and we have people to see when we get back to uk and we feel that the time invested will make it easier to keep clean later on than doing it in the uk. After that it is back to the Brittany coast first then the Normandy coast to visit the D-Day Landing sites and museums on the way to the port of Caen to head home (Not sure where home actually is – seems to be anywhere we are headed….Vicki).