Ile-de-France Sights

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Château de Compiègne

Château de Compiègne Review

The 18th-century Château de Compiègne, where the future Louis XVI first met Marie-Antoinette in 1770, was restored by Napoléon I and favored for wild weekends by his nephew Napoléon III. The first Napoléon's legacy is more keenly felt: his state apartments have been refurbished using the original designs for hangings and upholstery, and bright silks and damasks adorn every room. Much of the mahogany furniture gleams with ormolu, and the chairs sparkle with gold leaf. Napoléon III's furniture looks ponderous by comparison. Behind the palace is a gently rising 4-km (2½-mile) vista, inspired by the park at Schönbrunn, in Vienna, where Napoléon I's second wife, Empress Marie-Louise, grew up. Also here is the Musée du Second Empire, a collection of decorative arts from the Napoléon III era: its showstopper is Franz-Xaver Winterhalter's Empress Eugénie Surrounded by Her Ladies in Waiting, a famed homage to the over-the-top hedonism of the Napoléon Trois era. Make time for the Musée de la Voiture (Vehicle Museum) and its display of carriages, coaches, and old cars—including the Jamais Contente (Never Satisfied), the first car to reach 100 kph (62 mph).

Updated: 03-17-2014

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