Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chateaux on the Way Home

We left the Dordogne and made our way back up France and home to Belgium. It was a terrific trip all around. We saw and learned a lot. I love the way history comes alive when stomping the actual grounds of textbooks.

Outside Paris we stopped at the Fountainebleu Castle. It is grand and overwhelming as every French chateau should be. Fountainebleu has a long history but the highlight is that Napoleon Bonaparte lived here during his rule as emperor.
I hate to admit my ignorance, but before this visit I knew Napoleon was an important military and political leader, but never took the time to understand his specific mark on history. His French Empire was expansive.
It is hard to recount Napoleon's rule in a blog post, but the significant part here is that the Emperor's army suffered massive loss. His generals were tired and ready to wave the white flag while Napoleon was determined to keep fighting, expanding his empire. The generals forced his abdication and at Fountainebleu Napoleon relinquished his reign. He was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba.

Fountainebleu THEN - as Napoleon says goodbye to his troops who forced his exile for the sake of European peace. And below, Fountainebleu NOW.
The horseshoe-shaped staircase Napoleon descended as he left is still there magnificent as ever. Kirk and Connor had fun running up and down it and posing just as we imagined Napoleon Bonaparte himself would have in his castle.

This one makes me laugh. Connor was having so much fun that when we were ready to leave she just sat down and looked up at Kirk. She did not want to go. Just look at that expression!But never fear Connor, there is much more to see!Fountainebleu's lake was completely frozen over. It would have made a nifty place to ice skate with a regal backdrop! Too bad I left my skates in the car!Connor was especially proud of the dog she had on her shirt. She kept wanting to pull down her zipper to show the puppy off!The unfrozen pond had some mighty large fish. I think they would have eaten an entire baguette whole if we had thrown one to them.Pulling out of the castle we drove through the much-loved Fountainebleu Forest. Many Parisians come here to hike and be one with nature on the weekends. Kirk and I couldn't get over the way the trees were planted outlining the roads in perfect symmetry.Here was a different street! Same motif!We drove across the Fountainebleu Forest to Barbizon, a tiny, adorable town right on its treeline. If it sounds familiar to your art history memory, this resort town was home to the famous Barbizon school of painters - a loosely knit group, including Corot, Millet and Daumier. They broke away from the classical academic school of studio painting and painted direct from nature. They revived the art of landscape painting, paving the way for the Impressionists who arrived in the forest 30 years later. It was an itsy-bitsy town, but the artists studios still line the street and it looks like the perfect place to hull up and commune with nature. Maybe one day I can go back when it is warmer and calmer (i.e. no toddler in tow) and bring my paintbrush! Up last, but not least, we visited the Chateau Vaux le Vicomte. It still astounds me how many lavish castles there are all over France. This one is unique in that on certain nights the chateau is lit completely in candlelight. We walked the grounds and bid our au revoir to our marvelous French adventure. Back to Belgium!

Click here for full album photos from our ENTIRE Dordogne Road Trip

1 comment:

Jen_runs said...

Oh more memories!

I visited Fountainbleu & Vicomte as well. I actually think I loved Fountainbleu more than Versailles. Perhaps because it was smaller & more intimate. Perhaps because we were the only visitors in the whole estate & had the place completedly to ourselves!

So where to next?