Sunday, 15 May 2011

A monument to glory and Napoleon






I'm fascinated by Napoleon. Born simply in Corsica, clever with his battle strategies, ends up Emperor, loses an important battle and gets demoted and exiled, escapes and raises an army, gets defeated again and is exiled permanently, his son dies very prematurely in exile in Austria. Well, it's all stirring stuff and so I wanted to visit the Chateau de Fontainbleau; a magnificent place set in a magnificent forest. A monument that has survived the ravages of time and history better than Versailles.


The first references to the chateau date back to the 12th century. Since then, all the great Kings of France have lived there. It's a residence that has been cherished and inhabited for eight centuries.

Napoleon has contributed much to Fontainebleau: there's a museum in his honour which has interesting exhibits such as his clothing, army bed, weapons and a rather horrid contraption for dealing with constipation while on campaign. There's also his magnificent throne room.

JC and I visited Fontainebleau on a day when they were having an exhibition dedidated to his ill-fated son the King of Rome. Amazing to see the young son's clothes, bassinet, paintings.I also love the emblems Napoleon chose to decorate his interiors and furniture: bees and eagles and the big N.

You can check out the the Small Apartments on the ground floor which were used by Napoleon and his wives Josephine and Marie-Louise. Also of note are Marie-Antoinette's Boudoir, The Fran├žois 1er gallery, the ballroom.



The State Apartments have retained their stunning frescos, paintings and tapestries. The detail is incredible, the luxury is awe-inspiring. The colours are bright, the fabrics intricate and everywhere gold, gold. I really enjoyed this visit. We used audio guides in our respective languages but you need to allow at least two hours for the interior.


We ran out of time to see the gardens but they are rather simple and not as impressive as those at Versailles. The forest would be worth a trip and a picinic though its more than 1.5 hrs by car from where I live. You can take a train from a major Paris station if you want. Once again, I have a lovely book of text and pictures to digest at my leisure on this supurb monument, thanks to JC. The outside of the Chateau, especially the unusual staircase, is grimy and in need of cleaning but the upkeep on properties like this must be horrendous. As we left we found a bridal party having their photos taken out the front. The chateau is closed on Mondays.

After this visit I'm still interested in the little man who liked to take baths, aimed so high and fell so far, so quickly. I shall explore what books are available in English on the internet.

So that was Saturday. On Sunday it was my responsibility to cook lunch, a kiwi lunch. It had to be roast lamb and vegetables but it was tricky finding the right vegetables- no pumpkin or parsnips or kumara available so I had to settle for spuds and carrots with fresh peas. The mint is a different flavour (too harsh) so I felt the mint sauce was not a success. The lamb is different too and even allowing for the fact it was a bit overdone (JCs oven is new and super-efficient) the meat was dense and tough and not fibrous and tender. Normally my roast lamb just falls off the bone. That was disapointing.

It's very difficult to be a Kiwi in France without the right ingredients or implements. Cuts of meat in France are not what I'm used to generally. They tend to cut the meat in a different direction, it tastes different and I can't find the same types of cuts. So I eat less meat. However the wine was a lovely white Bordeaux, very drinkable.

Tomorrow I'll be on my bike, trying to end up on the right side of the road, not get too cold and trying to find something to chain it to at work. On Friday I carried it up some outside stairs to keep it safe-very bad for the back. Once again, I'm dealing with changes. I'm always surprised to discover that even reasonable changes can be tiring and unsettling and have unwelcome effects on one's body. Our new work location is pretty but isolated. More on that in the next post.


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