Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 9 - Chateau's Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainbleau

Today we were on another tour, but it was different from the other two we have taken.  These were not human guided tours.  We had this day "free" when I was planning out trip back in the spring, so I asked the kids what they wanted to see.  Cainan was indifferent, but the girls said "more castles!"  So I found this inexpensive day trip out of Paris to Vaux and Faintainbleau.

This was definitely out in rural Paris, and without a human guide, it was a little challenging, but not terrible.  We boarded a coach bus just like any other tour, and were given our tickets and then we were on our own once we got off.  They were both audio guided tours (which the kids think are fun) and we could go at our own pace.

We found this quite delightful, actually.  We didn't have to get ourselves there, and the tickets were ready for us, but we could go at our own speed and decide what we wanted to see/not see.  And I spoke enough French to the guy at the front desk that he questioned me when I asked for our tour in English!  I call that a win.

Our first tour was at Vaux le Vicomte.  This was the "smaller" of the two chateaus.  (There is nothing small about it - or anything else we have seen in France).  We had 3 1/2 hours here before we were picked up to go on to the next chateau.

This chateau was in a beautiful country side - with tree lined streets and large green areas surrounding it.  It was the retreat of a family called Fouquet.  It was built in 1658 and finished in 1661.  Fouquet was the superintendent for King Louis the 14th.  18,000 people worked at this chateau over the years and it cost 21 million dollars to build.  King Louis was jealous of Fouquet and his house and impressive "parties".  Fouquet actually had part of Vaux le Vicomte constructed for the King and styled it for him, but that just made the king madder.  The king and his soon to be new superintendent, Colbert, plotted to arrest Fouquet on false charges and threw him in prison, where he later died.  Today the chateau is privately owned and they use the tours to keep restoring it.

The chateau is beautiful, but rough.  You can tell that it is  There are places on the grounds that are showing their age.  We found this interesting to see what actually happens when weather and time are allowed to overtake something that is 400 years old.  We also are, as always, in awe and disbelief that this was once a "get away" home when these rich families wanted to get out of Paris and away from the duties that come with being a king/queen/chancelor....  The rooms are still very ornate, very detailed, and full of expensive furniture and finishes.

We did learn, though, that some of the tapestries are not the originals because once Fouquet was arrested, some of the tapestries were actually taken apart and the gold thread was sold for money.  Crazy.

We had lunch at Vaux le Vicomte, and it was really yummy.  After lunch it was time to head back to the bus and go on to Fontainbleau.

Fontainbleau was a very large chateau.  Finley thought it was definitely a castle due to its size.   It was built in the early 16th century.  Actually - the original chateau was built in the 12th century - and it was very small.  (ha ha - small).  This chateau was the retreat of many famous people such as Frances the first, Henry II, Louis the 13th (who was actually born here), Louis the 16th, Maria Antoinette, Napoleon.....actually - all the royalty lived here at one time or another.

The chateau fell into disrepair after the French Revolution and that is when Napoleon took it over.   Pope Pius was actually a prisoner of Napoleons here in this chateau for 2 years.  We saw where he was kept, and we laughed because he had 9 very lavish rooms where he was "in prison".  This was where Napoleon lost the war to the British and signed his papers where he resigned and said goodbye to his armies before being exiled.  Pretty cool to see those areas.

Today, the chateau is a music, art and architecture school for American students as well as a museum.  The grounds are HUGE, and of course - beautiful.  We would need a whole day to see everything, but we did pretty good getting around.  (we had 3 1/2 hours here too) It was another audio tour, and this time, the kids had a "kids" version which kept them very entertained.

We got back from the tour around 6:15pm and stopped at a local cafe for dinner before heading home.  We all had various types of crepes for dinner (we promised the kids because they were very good today that we could have dessert for dinner).  Just like every other food we have eaten on this trip - they were fantastic.

I also have to say - my friends were wrong about the French people.  At least the French people we have met.  The French are formal, polite, and actually - REALLY fashionable.  You don't see much in blue jeans and sweatshirts - everyone is dressed well.  Today I was trying to navigate buying a ticket for the subway since we needed a new one, and Arlington got excited and pushed a button and the thing was then in French.  A young man next to me saw us struggling, and walked me through the whole thing.  I told him (in French) that we didn't speak French, and he smiled and helped right away.  We find that a good bit.  If someone bumps one of the kids on a crowded train, they are quick to apologize and worry that they hurt them.  They are kind, and helpful.  The complete opposite of when I expected.  And like I said - as long as we have shown some effort and used a few French words, we are greeted warmly.  And I find that a lot of the shop owners like speaking English and even when we answer in French, they answer in English. :)


I tried to take more pictures of the kids today.  Arlington is "on strike" from having her picture taken by her mother, but I did sneak a few.

We passed the Louvre on our way:
 These are the carriage houses of the Vaux

 Cainan was willing to pose for me in front of the Vaux entrance.

 The chateau Vaux le Vicomte:

 It even had a moat and a draw bridge:

 The whole carriage house.  Crazy big.
 Inside the Vaux:

 I love the beds:  And check the tapestries on the walls.

 The kids loved this - this is a kid's chair:

 The kids listening to the audio guide:
 Arlington pretending to have a mustache like Fouquet:
 The grounds from the upstairs window:
 These are tapestries.  There were 5 of them in this room - they told a story:
 I find the ceilings about as fascinating as the beds.  All of this detail - all hand painted/hand carved.
 This is the entrance hall, and ball room.  There was music playing so the kids started dancing around:

 Mat decided this was the library he wants to build at our house:

 Finley is sitting:

 I loved this part of the chateau.  This is the chambers of the staff.  It reminded me of Downton Abbey:

 Outside the chateau.  This is the first day we have had sun all day (and warmth!) since we got to Paris, and Finley was so excited:

 The back of the Chateau:

 Arlington being sweet to her sister:
 Finley went all "Sound of Music" while we were walking around:

 Cainan coming down the stairs in part of the garden.  Look at the size of those things.
 A lot of the trees on the grounds were in perfect rows.  My kind of place:

 There were tons of pools all over the grounds.
 We are still on the property at this distance.  And we aren't even all the way back.
 There were two brides there taking pictures.  We have seen a bride every day we have been in France.

 Having lunch.  I had a really yummy lunch of salmon and a salmon type cream to dip it in....yum.  And then we finally had "stinky cheese" (and made the kids try it, which was hysterical), and creme brulee.

 Chateau Fontainbleau:
 Josephine - Napoleon's first wife.  Couldn't give him any kids, so he got rid of her.  Kids had a lot (a lot) of questions about that:
 I took a picture of this table because we found it extremely "normal" considering the rest of the house.  It was actually quite boring, and it was their dining table.
 This was an exhibit of Napoleon's tent when he was on the battle field.  We were standing in it - it was huge.
 Napoleon's 2nd wife - Marie Louise.  She gave him a son - she was a keeper.  Although, on the tour we found out that his son with Marie Louise was his only "legitimate" son.....
 Napoleon's son's bedroom and cradle:
 A 2nd cradle:
 A tapestry:
 Napoleon's bed.  Yes - it is huge.  And Finley discovered that he really liked red:
 Marie Louise's bedroom:
 The ceiling in Marie Louise's bedroom:
 I took this picture because a lot of the walls were hand painted with these elaborate detail:
 Large tapestry.  They were everywhere - seemed to take the place of wall paper in many rooms:
 This door led into the ballroom.  It was hand carved wood:
 The ball room.  Well, one of them.  It is all wood.

 Mat loved this - this is Henry I's crest - it is the biohazard sign:

 Ceiling in the chapel in Fontainbleau.  Each square on the ceiling had a different picture hand painted on it:

 Mat THEN decided he wanted this library instead once he saw it.  It was 250 feet long and lined with books.

 Marie Antoinette's bedroom.  Woman liked flowers.  
 Thrown room:
 This was Napoleon's work room.  They said he barely slept, so he would keep this little bed in his room to take naps during the day:
 This room, on this little table, is where Napoleon was forced to sign papers to resign:
 This little group was playing while we were walking through, so we stopped to listen for awhile.
 The grounds outside of Fontainbleau:
 Another bride!

 These huge fish were in the moat:

 Thought for sure one of them was going to fall in:

 The back of the chateau:

 Another bride!
 Cainan taking his sister up a set of stairs:
 This is where Napoleon stood when he addressed his army when he was exiled.  The kids went up and waved goodbye:
 Cainan helped Finley back down.
 Mat "Napoleon" Pletcher:
 We usually have water to drink at meals, and this is how they bring it to me.  No ice in France, either.
 Silly girl.  They only ever bring us wine glasses no matter what we are drinking -which the kids think is so fun.
 Crepes for dinner!! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was cool! Your kids are sweethearts and your husband Matt is a hoot!! LOL!

Take care!

Friend , Shayla