Paris to Fountainbleau: 70 kilometres
Sunday’s are a favourite day for me in Paris. The streets are quiet and calm and no one seems to be in a hurry. Even the church bells are gently pealing on this their busiest day of the work week. It is nice just to laze in bed over coffee and yesterday’s Herald Tribune. But we do have a plan and it is to pick Francois and John up at their apartment and drive the 70 or so kilometers to Foutainbleau (pronounced Foun-tain-blow, as Francois continuously points out to me!) which is south east of the city and spend the afternoon there.
Welcome to Fountainbleau
We arrive at John and Francois’ in the early afternoon and John easily navigates the Paris traffic and quickly we are out of the city and into the fields and farmland that surrounds Paris to the south. We arrive in Fountainbleau just as the sun starts its slow fall from the late afternoon sky. The town of Fountainbleau is renowned for its enormous 1900-room Renaissance chateau which has played host to the who’s who of French royalty since the 12th Century. It is one of France’s largest royal residences and full of period furnishings. Comparing it to Versailles and considering the time of year, we hope for an easy visit. We wander in and about the enormous chateau and realize that we are only seeing a small part of the huge site. The courtyards and wings were expanded by Francois I, Henri II and Catherine de Medicis to name a few and it is difficult to discern where exactly modifications were made. There is much more natural wood carving and paneling in Fountainbleau compared to the other chateaux we have seen and it lends itself very well to Fountainbleau’s overall warmth and welcoming.
Les Jardins de Fountainbleau
We move outside and have a look at the beautiful gardens in the late afternoon sun. There are a few locals out with strollers and grandparents enjoying the park and we wander amongst them snapping photos and enjoying the vistas. It is now well after 5 and we decide to stop at a local coffee shop for some hot chocolate and Madeline’s. We walk through the remnants of the Sunday flea market, the last of its buyers and hawkers packing up in the setting sun. The music and laughter from the carousel close by contribute to the overall scene and we sip our chocolate and talk away the hour.
Traffic is horrible on the way back to Paris and we stop near J & F’s for bistro food of, 3 hamburgers and steak tartare (for François, the true Frenchman!) We will leave Paris tomorrow and I am sad to do so.
Paris is one of my favourite cities and it has been an easy and comfortable fit. Easy to navigate, easy to communicate and especially easy to live in.