Monday, June 25, 2012


After a brief Jāņi interlude, here is one last post about our trip through Belgium and the Netherlands.
About 35 miles south of the center of Paris, and therefore on our route from Belgium
back home to Clermont-Ferrand, is Fountainbleau. Famous for the grand château de Fontainebleau, it is also known for the large and scenic National Forest. As we had seen quite a few sights that morning in Brussels, our arrival at the gîte I had found online was quite late. The host was waiting however, and soon we were settled into a very basic, but clean room. Breakfast the next morning was wonderful, coupled with fresh croissants and jams we were treated to an informative discussion with the owner. We knew we wanted to see the royal palace of the French monarchs, but we were urged to also spend some time in the Forêt de Fontainbleau, famous worldwide for the bouldering there. I recommend Le Clos du Tertre to anyone visiting the area; close to the palace, the price and accomodations were ideal. 

We were soon packed and on our way to one of the most popular of the recreation areas, Rochers de l’Eléphant, named after the large sandstone block resembling an elephant. We parked and walked a short ways on a sandy path to emerge alongside the elephant, and the sandstone rock formations behind it.

The next couple of hours were spent clambering over and between the rocks, even attempting to scale some of the smaller rocks. We saw a few more professional climbers, recognizable by the special shoes and mats they placed on the forest floor while free-climbing.

The formation of sandstone rocks of Fontainebleau started about 35 million years ago, when the region was covered by water. Large amounts of sand were brought into the sea by rivers and sandstone was formed. As the sea receded the sand flats were exposed to the elements, which formed the stone into the shapes we saw on our visit. An unique ecological area, it is home to the rare Service Tree of Fontainebleau and many different animal, plant and insect species.

Our route to the palace took us through dozens of fields planted in rapeseed. Used for animal feed, vegetable oil and as a source of biodiesel, it is easily recognized this time of year with its bright yellow flowers.

We arrived at the Palace of Fontainebleau just in time for lunch. After a delicious meal at La Bacchus we crossed the street and entered the gates of the château, which the French monarchy has used as a country retreat for hundreds of years. It was transformed from a country house by Francis I in the 16th century, and in the following three hundred years every monarch, from Francis I to Louis XV, made renovations to produce the final result thousands of tourists visit every year.

Famous events include the Edict of Fontainebleau (signed by Louis XIV on October 18th, 1685, it is also known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes), the 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau (a secret agreement between France and Spain concerning the Louisiana territory in North America), and preliminary negotiations ending the Seven Years' War (held before the 1763 Treaty of Paris was signed). From June 1812 until January 1814 Pope Pius VII was held a prisoner of Napoleon at Fontainbleau, and in the nineteen months he never once left his apartments. The same Napoleon was later stripped of his powers by the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau which sent him into exile on Elba. It's no wonder the entire property is on the UNESCO World Heritage site list.

We spent our time in the enormous gardens, feeding the giant carp and the ducks with day-old bread our generous gîte owner had provided us for just that occasion. And on this royal note our vacation had come to an end, as our next and final destination would be our home in Clermont.


  1. This is on our Paris bucket list! Looks beautiful.

  2. Those pictures look great. As many times as we've been in that area, we've never stopped by.

  3. I love the rock formations. What an interesting place to visit.

  4. since I've not been lucky enough to venture outside of Paris much, I loved seeing your blog and photos today.

    Merci for your sweet comment today. I h ope you will come back often and say hello!

  5. Fabulous time apparently...a wee bit envious...may have to pick your brain....

  6. The chateau is so pretty I'd expect to see Cinderella running out of the doors :)

  7. The Fontainbleau forest is so unusual and a great place for hiking, exploring, climbing and having fun. We used to go there when we lived in Paris. As for the château, well it's amazing too! Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance


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