Friday, November 02, 2007

Vendredi (Paris and Fontainebleau)...

Returned in the morning to the Gare de Lyon for our train to visit the famous Chateau de Fontainebleau. This has been on our list each trip to Paris, but the logistics have always seemed daunting. But at long was the day.

Prior to boarding, we found a cheery woman at the international ticket window who "helped" us purchase tickets for Germany for Saturday. Once again, not simple, because she could only sell us tickets to Frankfurt with a quick stop in Köln...but her little computer device could not get us to Mainz. Why not? Who knows. So...bought our tickets...good seats...all seemed well, and we were happy...more on that later.

Took a regional train (a line bound for Montereau) to the town of Fontainebleau Avon. Hopped on a busy 'A' bus to the Chateau.

We had pre-bought our Chateau tickets at the Gare de Lyon, so we easily skipped the crowded ticket lines and entered the grand Chateau, portions of which date as far back as the 12th century. The Chateau was primarily used for hunting in the fall. Visited elaborate apartments, galleries, and chapels. All the kings of France since the 12th century have lived at Fontainbleau, as well the Emperor Napolean I (who signed his abdication and took leave of his troops from this favorite of his residences after his first defeat by the allies). Several of the rooms have exquisite gilded ceilings and lush tapestries. It is quite an extensive tour weaving from one royal apartment to another. A much different tour from Versailles which was the primary seat of state.

Exited the Chateau and headed into the gardens. Took a horse carriage ride to the end of the property through the beautiful woods. Saw long horse paths, outlying buildings, and springs feeding into the Chateau and gardens. Walked around the formal French gardens designed by le Nôtre during the reign of Louis XIV, with fountains, sculpted trees, and hedge mazes.

A delightful lunch in Fontainebleau Avon...croque monsieurs w/tomato and pain de raisin for Jeff from an artisinal patisserie in town. Caught a crowded rush-hour 'A' bus back to the train station, and then a train back to Paris Gare de Lyon.

After we had returned to the apartment, we discovered a problem with our Germany tickets. Our "15 minute" connection in Köln had become almost two hours...which just did not make sense. Sooooo, back to Gare de Lyon on a crowded Metro 1 line. All to no avail...we had just been misinformed, and the two-hour layover was required. Just really irritating...and something that we could have figured out if we were able to make our own reservations online. Oh well. The French love to keep humans in the loop, I guess. A big jobs program which we might suggest doing well to keep computers at bay.

Took Metro 1 line to Concorde. Walked along the Tuileries. Jeff went NUTS taking time-exposure night pictured around the Louvre. He got some really wonderful shots of the buldings, fountains, and glass pyramids. He will have to post them to his blog labeled 'Louvre á nuit'.

Dinner at one of our favorites...Sant' Antonio Pizza in le Marais. Being that the weather was not too cold and the overhead heaters blasting, we got to dine al fresco on the square in front. Jeff got his favorite Reine (with ham and mushroom). I tried the amazing Chêvre...with goat cheese, diced bacon, and creme fantastic blending of flavors. Cappuccinos and a banana split capped off our meal.

Strolled through the active streets of the Marais. All the hip and gay were out hanging out in the bars and restaurants. Another tired night...but a wonderful day of firsts and favorites..

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