Thursday, November 12, 2009


My last day in Paris was spent visiting another kingly estate, this one south of Paris in Fontainebleu. Napoleon was the last royal, an emperor, to use this place and he put his mark on it. I don't know the history of the place well -- it seems as though both Fontainebleu and the Chateau at Versailles were being built and occupied contemporaneously but how one relates to the other I haven't studied. It was another extravagantly built and furnished seat of the French royal power in the years from about 1660 to sometime around the time Napoleon lost power, maybe 1820 or thereabouts. I won't overload you with photos but here are just a few for flavor.

Anyway, Arnaud decided to come along and I'm glad he did. He hadn't been here in many years and being my guide allowed him a chance to reconnect with the place. We had a good time together and I enjoyed another fine picnic, French style. The weather was good, if gray. The sun came out briefly, lit the foliage and buildings nicely, and then ducked back behind the clouds again.

Once again I was impressed with the woodwork and carvings. You're pressed into the realization that the talent and  artistry that went into creating a place like this just isn't available anymore at any price. To inspect a modern building oftentimes is to see how efficient or how cost-effective a structure can be made and still perform its intended function. There is nothing efficient about these designs. They are beautiful, ornate and labor intensive. The design on the right was part of a heavily carved door.

To the right is one of the strangest sculptures I saw in my tours.  A many-breasted woman, Diana of Ephesus
perhaps, suckling chimeras.

And below, the throne upon which sat Napoleon, Emperor of France. You can see the "N" on the uprights to either side of the throne. There are eagle feathers in the very top, the crown, of the backdrop and the symbol of France, the fleur-de-leis, decorate the red side of the backdrop. Another stunning ceiling treatment is also in evidence. One rapidly runs out of adjectives sufficient to describe such opulence.

After touring the place we headed out onto the grounds and walked here and there until we found a good spot in the woods to have eat our picnic lunch. I always describe the food we ate because those of you who know me or know other Swarthouts know we always plan our next meal while we're eating the present one. And we constantly talk about food in the interim.

Below is one of many ornate doors we saw:

Here are Arnuad and I clowning around during lunch. We found the best Cote du Rhone yet at the supermarket in town, and at only 3.45 euro for the bottle it was a good deal too.