(Fontainebleau, we discovered, is pronounced fon-ten-blow, or something like that. Definitely ‘blo’ not ‘bleu’ like the colour.)

There are about a gazillion castles/chateaux in France, and we’ve seen a few in our time here, but one of the bigger ones nearby, we hadn’t got to till yesterday. La forêt de Fontainebleau was recently featured in Castle, the TV show… perhaps that’s why it was in our heads. But we didn’t spend any time in the forest because it’s all dry sticks and rocks (remarkable but more fun in summer). Instead we went to the chateau.

chateau de fontainbleau

 We walked past the gates, appropriately awed, then (first things first) we found some lunch.

lunch in Fontainbleau

Yummy food, though Louis didn’t appreciate it much, nice wine, and Elena charmed everyone.

OMC on the tv in France

And what was playing in the background but OMC’s How Bizarre? A New Zealand band all the way over here? Bizarre indeed.

Anyway, back to the big fancy castle, eh?

panorama fontainbleau

Luuk used his phone’s panorama function, so that’s why the long picture is a bit distorted.

elena and me at FontainbleauI carried Elena around in our new sling, care of Marcelle Leo’o… not yet for public sale but watch this space.

Luuk looks at the ceiling

We spent quite a lot of our tour of the castle looking up. Some of the most remarkable decoration is on the ceilings.

Paintings on the ceilings

This was my favourite. If I was an angel I’d definitely use my powers to read more. And master a musical instrument, obviously.

Napoleon's throne, where kings once slept

This was Napoleon’s throne-room. His throne sits where the kings before him had their beds. Apparently this was because he didn’t dare sleep where the kings had… but putting your throne in the same place doesn’t scream humble to me. Perhaps Napoleon wasn’t going for humble then. Heh.

And there’s me, on the left in the picture above, listening to the audio guide. I was the lucky one, with Elena asleep in my pushchair (provided for us, free, at coat check! Awesome!) Louis preferred to push his buggy than sit in it. Needless to say I heard a lot more of the audio tour than Luuk who was shepherding Louis.

Josephine's bedThis bed was set up for Marie Antoinette but she never got a chance to sleep in it. So Josephine did. (And on a side note: the first time I ever heard of Napoleon and Josephine was when our neighbours named their cats after the pair.)

Jealous of this library

A definite highlight of the chateau – the library. Gorgeous, light, gallery-style room, but not very cosy for long reading sessions. Still, a few cushions in a corner and I’d hardly complain.

PS. must get us a globe like that.

giant ducks

After the castle, there was of course the grounds to explore. And we weren’t the only ones. The biggest ducks I’ve ever seen were enjoying the scenery too.

the park at fontainbleau

We enjoyed the fountains, the birds, the view of the chateau and formal gardens.

Louis enjoyed the rocks

Louis enjoyed scavenging rocks on the paths.

Louis, throwing rocks

And then throwing them into the pond. I swear, he wasn’t aiming for the birds.

family photo at fontainbleau

We tried to take a family photo, but the tripod was less a tripod and more my purse. As you can tell.

Luuk and Elena, overlooking the lake

We didn’t walk all the way down the larger lake because the kids were getting tired, but the view was great. Very grand. A little less to take in than the gardens at Versailles, but still more than we were up for with tired kids on a chilly day. Next time we’ll have to go out into the forest. Louis slept in the car on the way home. Elena chatted about the traffic (I’m guessing) and lost her cool in the carpark at the hardware store. Luuk had an errand to do. And then we went home and relaxed.

I do love to see the sights, kids in tow and all. But afterwards, putting up my feet feels very, very good.