Laying on my back on the dirty floor, or even simply squatting down and tilting my camera forward, it was impossible for me to fully capture the essence of what I saw this weekend at Fontainebleau. Truly, this was a remarkable experience for me. Perhaps it was the multi-coloured peacocks strutting on the green, forest-like lawns (to which I am partial, being basically from a forest), or maybe it was the eventual disrobing of the castle - either way, I am saving up my money until I am 85 to buy this place.
Across the street from the castle, we could barely distinguish it's façade from any other building along the street. It just looked like part of a house in a garden, because we saw it from the side. Eventually, however, as we began to walk through the garden, glimpses of the worn, beautifully carved stone began to show in greater and greater detail. This put me in mind of another stunning architectural work that I saw this January: Garnier's Opera House. There, the tour guide told us that, "He intended for it to be like a woman undressing, revealing her beauty bit by bit, building tension and eventually dazzling the audience." Well, if Garnier's Opera House is a woman, Fontainebleau is a queen.
The most beautiful architecture I have ever seen lies on the foundations of "the castle of kings". So-called because it has housed generations upon generations of royals, perhaps Fontainebleau's best external feature is the grand staircase near the main courtyard. It descends in voluptuous undulations, gracing the cobblestones below with the delicate foot of it's bottom stair. I found this to be breathtaking, actually exclaiming aloud, "Oh my GOD!" as we turned the corner (after visiting the peacocks). This is a staircase that sends shivers down my spine, as I imagined the drama of Napoleon surrendering for his excommunication at this very spot!
The interior decor of the castle is on the same level of profundity. The striking part of Fontainebleau's interior is the sense of history the decor gives to the physical castle. Walls are adorned with beautiful tableaux depicting the lives of the kings at Fontainebleau, staircases were conjured from bedrooms when the Pope came, and one hallway is bursting with painted plates depicting mainly the history of Fontainebleau, but also of the colonies. (Yay Niagra Falls!) The most beautiful room I have ever seen was the Royal Family's private balcony in the chapel. This room struck me so much with sheer, uncontrollable emotion that I almost started to cry. The blend of colours, light, sparkles of gold, darkened oil paintings, and sumptuous-looking carpet immediately conjured images of the people who once lived there. This castle is synonymous with romance. (If ever you're in need of a Valentine's Day outing...)
As I stood, swooning a little over the room, I noticed that the special treatment of the blue in the room was what was particularly attracting me. Now, I am not a fan of blue. In fact, I think blues can engender a considerably mundane palette. However, the way the daylight was hitting the colours of French kings, brought out of me an overwhelming sense of awe. Standing on my tiptoes trying to look over the balcony's edge at the chapel below, I had the same feeling I get when I lay on my back at home, in the grass between the tall cedar trees, and stare at the night sky. Ok so that might sound cheesy, but it's only cheesy if it's an exaggeration, in my mind, which it's not.
These artistic historical records (plates, paintings, furniture, carvings, etc.) were especially fascinating because they enhanced the spirit of "l'Ancien Régime" that was impressed upon me as I entered the grounds. Not only had I seen the staircase outside and reacted primitively to its beauty, but inside - through the art work - I was given deepened sense of understanding, of why I connected with this place.
I could go on about Fontainebleau for hours, but this is a sketch of my overall impressions. I highly recommend a visit!