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Fontainbleu, the rural retreat for many a french king and his guests. Though only a short train ride from the center of Paris, the small-town atmosphere and the famous forest surrounding give an air of peaceful tranquility. The chateau was most recently inhabited by Napoleon Bonaparte, who installed his court and his throne room in the palace’s great halls. It’s decoration is both rustic and refined, like an elegant hunting lodge perhaps, fitting for it’s rural location and it’s royal connections.

Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, The home of one of Louis XIV’s cabinet members. It may not be quite as breathtaking 4 centuries later, but in it’s day, it was one of the most influential buildings in France, and was the inspiration for many of the great palaces of the period. While the grounds and architecture is fabulous, some of the interior decoration is lacking–although the staff have done an excellent job of making up for this with interesting exhibits and special effects. The highlight of this one is that one may climb to the dome (if you’re bold enough to take on the most harrowing staircase you’ll ever encounter), and look out on the beautiful landscape below. There is also a carriage museum on site, and-if you’re as lucky as I was-you may just find a festival to chocolate happening at the time of your visit. 

And Versailles, the most famous of them all….for good reason. The grandeur of this palace-inside and out-is unparallelled by any other chateau in France. We spent most of the afternoon exploring the extensive grounds, which includes several subsidiary palaces that are beautiful and worth exploring in their own right. We even took a walk through Marie Antoinette’s whimsical  hamlet of ivy-covered gates and thatched-roof cottages. We rounded out our tour of the estate with an obligatory visit to the Hall of Mirrors, which we were lucky to slip in in time to see just before closing, and when all the throngs of tourists had already left.

And of course I can’t end this post without a special thank you to my Uncle Jon and David, who I enjoyed visiting two of these chateaus with. It was great to spend some time together, eat some good meals and see some interesting things! I have to admit, a familiar face from home gave me a twinge of  homesickness. They also brought me some crackers, which may seem a bit odd, but it may help you understand if I tell you that I recently found a box of Wheat Thins in a shop in Paris priced at 9Euro50. The world is mad, I tell you!

You can also tell I’ve finally downloaded Picasa. I’m not very good but its fun to fiddle around with. That’s why all the images are funny tints today. Hopefully in the future they’ll at least be consistently funny tints, maybe then it won’t be so obvious.

I just got back from a weekend in London (I know, AGAIN!) and we had a fabulous time. We enjoyed an interesting dinner at St John Bread and Wine, which is part of a restaurant family famous for it’s nose-to-tail eating. Oxford Street is decorated for the holidays, so afterwards we walked around taking in the lights. I may have sang the 12 Days of Christmas. Sunday we ran some errands, and then hosted a mini Thanksgiving feast, complete with sweet potato, green beans, cranberries, stuffing, and a chicken.

Anyway hope everyone has a great week going forward!

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