Fontainebleau: The Perfectly Regal Paris Escape

By February 9, 2017 LE Blog No Comments
Fontainebleau, luxury travel escape from Paris
Oh, how Napoleon loved Fontainebleau. It was from the palace steps that the little warrior bade a sad farewell to his troops before being exiled to Elba. French kings shared Napoleon’s affection for Fontainebleau. Before Versailles, the palace was frequently used by royal heads as a vacation retreat. They dined sumptuously and hunted in the great forest at Fontainebleau.


To this day, Fontainebleau remains one of France’s most beautifully decorated and furnished châteaux, its walls and ceilings adorned with frescoes, tapestries and paintings, its rooms featuring Renaissance-era furnishings. Statues cast in bronze are from molds of famous works in Rome—masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci and others. A pupil of Michelangelo was commissioned to supervise renovations at Fontainebleau, accompanied by artisans from Rome. (François I once had grandiose dreams of Fontainebleau becoming another Rome). The palace ballroom remains one of its splendors as do Galerie François I, the King’s Staircase and the Royal Apartments. As you will see, Fontainebleau is all about an era of extravagance.

Visitors to Fontainebleau often do a side trip to Barbizon, a tiny village only a short cab ride away that was popular with landscape painters during the 1800s—especially Millet and Rousseau. Renoir, Monet, Diaz and Corot. Barbizon is mostly a one-street village lined with little galleries and antique shops, villas and hotels—everything crowded together in less than a mile.

The Musee de l’Ecole de Barbizon occupies an old barn behind Barbizon’s war memorial—earlier the studio of Rousseau. Millet’s studio remains open as well. Along the main street there are a couple of wine bars (L’Ermitage St.-Antoine and Cave à Vins) and a string of little restaurants. The restaurant in Hôtel du Bas Breau turns out meals on par with some of the finest Paris has to offer. Dwight Eisenhower dined frequently at the Bas Breau while serving as Supreme Allied Commander of SHAPE and Robert Louis Stevenson dined here as well. There is one hitch: it is frightfully expensive.

Details: From Paris, you can take the train from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau’s neighbor community, Avon and atch a bus from there to the palace at Fontainebleau. (From Fontainebleau it is about a 20-minute cab ride to Barbizon). Or you may wish to hire a driver. The château is closed on Tuesday. Private Access Journeys include the help of a local Experience Coordinator who can help you arrange the transit that best suits you.

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