Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cerise went to #Paris and came home in raptures over #Fontainebleau, Part 5

The main entrance
The wonderful bit about my latest trip to Paris was that so many of the sights we wanted to see had double or triple significance for my research.
   I know. I know. Your eyes glaze over. You want to get to the good stuff!
   Hmm. Licking my lips.
A closer look at the main entrance
Okay. One fine day, hubbie and I traveled to Fontainebleau. Gorgeous serene Fontainebleau at the end of an RER ride from our apartment in Montmarte was such a treat (at the end of a bus ride after the train). All worth the effort!
   We stopped before we entered the chateau to have lunch. In a cafe on the main street, we walked in to order champagne (because what else would you have, if not a bottle of Sancerre from the nearby Loire Valley). We each ordered the mussels, too. And let me say, OMG (like a screaming girl) I counted no less than 5 dozen mussels in my fabulous white wine broth. Served, yes, it was, with French bread . We were stuffed as we crossed the street and took our first look at this building.
   Famous for the attention given the original hunting lodge by Francis I, the chateau was occupied by many French kings and queens. Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV, loved this palace and her receiving room and bedroom are grandiose examples of the sumptuous appointments in which French royalty lived.

Fontainebleau was also a favorite of Napoleon. In fact, in 1814, he abdicated his imperial throne from here and spoke harshly to his generals whom he felt had deserted him in his time of desperation.
The enormous tombs of Francis I and his wife, Claude of France in the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris suburbs.
This cathedral, one of the first examples of gothic architecture is where all French kings and queens are buried.

This relief is life size, which means Francis was at least 6 feet tall. 
And let me just say, his feet had to be size 15!
   From here in southern areas of Paris, Napoleon left for Elba in the Mediterranean for his first exile, but returned only months later to rouse the country to his cause. Arriving in March 1815 in Paris, he gathered troops but the latest alliance of Allies met him on the field at Waterloo in June 1815 and defeated him.
   The furnishings are scrumptious, many assembled from lesser castles and chateaux and restored. The friezes and art, including innumerable tapestries, take your breath away. But the sight that stopped me cold and kept me enchanted was the hallway you see pictured here.
This picture does little justice to the high relief of these whimsical plaster casts. They fairly leap from the walls.
This was a hallway constructed by Francis I to allow him to meet with his advisers easily, passing from the far part
of the monarch's residence to that used more by his ministers. The art is high Rococco, 

glorious in depiction of humans and animals.
   Other rooms, many of them redecorated by Napoleon, Josephine and the emperor's second wife, are as stunning for their color and form. In the enfilade type of French architecture, where one room empties into another, you also gain the sense that no one had much privacy. Nor heat! That, too, is another reason why people died young and/or suddenly of horrible maladies.
Napoleon's throne room with his famous imperial bees decorating the canopy.
The side apartments to the left of the main entrance where
attending ministers and servants lived when the king or emperor was in residence.
   Originally a hunting lodge, successive kings of France enlarged Fontainebleau into a sprawling entity, requiring hundreds of staff and enormous amounts of money to run.
   Seeing the gilded splendor on the walls and door knobs, the richness of Aubusson carpets and fine Sevres china on the tables, you do understand why and how the French ultimately revolted from a system that favored the few above the many.
The far gate, looking away from the cobblestoned main entrance, adorned with Napoleon's imperial Eagles.

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