Something I find really special about France as an American, is the amount of châteaux in France. As a “young” country in comparaison to Europe, we don’t have centuries-old castles. For the past two Saturdays, I escaped the hustle and bustle of Paris to visit a couple of whimsical castles only an hour outside the city.
The first château I visited was Fontainebleau with a small group of other American students from my Master’s program. This specific castle is unique becuase it was built in the 12th century, but so many French rulers lived in it ( François 1er, Louis XIII – XVI , and Napoleon just to name a few), that the interior design has many different styles from different eras.
As we explored the castle, we were guided by one of Middlebury’s history professors. During our tour, he was stopped by some of the staff who demanded to see his tour guide permit, but he explained to them that he was a professor so he didn’t need one. He later told us that as a professor, he has the right to teach anywhere (as long as he’s not teaching false or revisionist history) and that was the first time he’s ever been asked for his permit before.
I always think it’s interesting to see the bedrooms in châteaux. The silk bedding has very intricate designs, but honestly the beds don’t look very comfortable, well maybe more comfortable than my current twin-sized bed in my student residence hall… Seeing all the furniture and interior design is kind of like watching a historical version of HGTV. My favorite part of a room to look at are however, is the ceiling. Adorned with gold and strung with sparkling cristal chandeliers, the styles in Fontainebleau could not be further from today’s minimalist trends.
My favorite room in Fontainebleau would probably have to be it’s most famous: la galerie François 1er. It’s like a mini version of the Hall of Mirrors at the palace of Versailles. On the walls of the hall there are salamanders surrounded by flames, a symbol of François 1er that represents his power and strength.
The Galerie de François 1er is also known for it’s rare Fresque and Stuquer (fresco and stucco) paintings and sculptures inspired by mythology and honoring the king.
One of the last rooms we visited was a chapel, which has a rare painting representing the holy trinity.
At the end of the tour, we decided to have a snack and enjoy the beautiful fall weather on the steps outside of the château before heading back to Paris our schoolwork.
Thanks for reading! Next up: a interesting day trip to a small château outside of Paris.