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A Pivotal Question: Versailles or Fontainebleu?

A Pivotal Question: Versailles or Fontainebleu?

Feb 26th, 2006, 10:53 AM
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A Pivotal Question: Versailles or Fontainebleu?

A Pivotal Question: Versailles or Fontainebleu? Or even Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleu?

I have a big confession to make - I have never been to Fontainebleu!


Yes, I know, conventional wisdom says that Versailles has a better chateau and grounds.

However, Fontainebleu is supposed to have a nice chateau plus an interesting little town and forest area. AND it was Napoleon's primary residence when he was not fighting out fighting the rest of Europe, and a hunting lodge or many French kings.

I'm inclined to go to Fontainebleu and skip Versailles this time even if my son has not been there. My "its all about me" logic is that he won't know the difference anyway and I get to see something different this time. As usual, my LW says I'm a selfish and mean lout to deprive the young lad of the amazing Versailles experience.

Any rants and raves would be appreciated and also tips on making Fontainebleu an easy and rewarding daytrip. Also, can do Vaux le Vicomte AND Fontainebleu in the same day using public transportation and without an expensive taxi ride?
degas is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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Greetings Degas

Try and get ahold of poster Bob Brown. I read a post of his in which he worked out the logistics in detail. Or do a search on some of his posts - this would have been at least a year ago. Bon voyage.
Sue_xx_yy is online now  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:28 AM
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Many Americans seem to think that it is Fontainebleu. It is Fontainebleau and the pronunciation ends in "o" -- as in beau, eau, château. Get that "ew" out of your head once and for all!

As for Versailles or "....x...." : Versailles is just the biggest. Basically, most Renaissance châteaux look the same inside.
kerouac is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:29 AM
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Author: Bob Brown
Date: 12/22/2002, 09:20 pm

A free lance visit to the palace at Fontainebleau is one of the easiest trips you can make from Paris.

Take one of the faster trains from Gare de Lyon to Fonatainebleau Avon, then take the bus from the station to the gates of the palace. You can tour at your leisure. The gates are near the downtown area and there are several places to eat along the main street.

The bus back to the train station also runs along the main street and comes by about every 20 minutes.

*****(attn degas)****If you want to add to the day, stop in Melun and visit Vaux le Vicomte. This trip is a little more expensive because the only feasible way to the chateau from the train station is by taxi at a cost of about 20 euro for 2 passengers out and 20 more coming back. There is no bus, and trying to walk it is next to impossible.
Sue_xx_yy is online now  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:31 AM
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Fontainebleau might be more interesting from a historical point of view, and it is in parts older, as it was begun in the Renaissance. Vaux-le-Vicomte was the precursor to Versailles, so while not as grand, it gives a nice sense of a 17th century chateau. I do not know if combining Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte is feasable.
Michael is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:58 AM
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Hi d,

I suggest Vaux.

It's the original.

ira is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 12:45 PM
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When I was at Vaux-le-Vicomte last July, I saw some flyers for shuttles between V-l-V and Fontainebleau. Or maybe it was between Melun and Vaux-le-Vicomte. Since I visited with a friend and he had a car, I don't recall the details.

V-l-V's website may have details.

Needless to say, this takes place during the high season only (presumably).

There're also candlelit evenings at V-l-V during high season (as mentioned on the website), but I don't know how that works either.
111op is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 12:50 PM
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Go to Fontainebleau. That's what my husband and I, who have never seen Fontainebleau, are doing this April on our second trip to Paris even though our two children have never been and have seen enither Versailles nor Fontainebleau. My husband and I have seen Versailles and do not wish to see it again (this trip, anyway). I figure the children can see Versailles whenever they go on their own in the future. After all, we can't spend the whole trip re-seeing all the major sights just for the kids. Don't get me wrong: we will go up the Eiffel Tower again, go to the Musée d'Orsay again, etc., for some things are eternal and/or inexhaustible. Anyway, Versailles is fantastic but not de riguer for a first trip to Paris. Fontainebleau will be fantastic, too! Don't feel bad -- see Fontainebleau.
sandykins is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 01:03 PM
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Thanks for all the feedback.

I did see where there were buses to Vaux le Vicomte on the weekends so a combo might work for me. But it would be my luck that the info is wrong and I'd have to knock the dust off my wallet and spring for a taxi ride! Still, not a bad price when you compare that to the tour bus prices.
degas is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 03:10 PM
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Well, if the bus schedule is wrong, there's nothing you can do about it. But if you want to be a little more certain, you can e-mail/call Vaux-le-Vicomte and/or the Melun train station or tourist office.

I guess it probably depends on how tight your trip is also. If you don't have much time, the logistics for Versailles by public transportation should be easier. You can presumably get there and be back in half a day and have time to do something else in Paris.

I can see the desire to see new things. But I guess for me the castles all seem the same to some extent anyway. Of course, I understand that the history is different for each. But if you take that point of view, I'd go to Versailles (as I explained on another travel forum).
111op is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 03:24 PM
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This October when we were in Paris we had planned to visit VlV... but my husband hurt his back. So we indulged in a tour (just six people) which went to both Fontainebleau and Vaux ( with a lovely stop in Barbizon.) Of the two, we preferred Fontainebleau... The chateau at Vaux was a little disappointing. Of course, if one had time (and the physical ability) to explore the grounds there it might be another story. In my addled little brain Versailles is remembered as sort of a combination of Fontainebleau and VlV. (There is an excellent cafeteria type restaurnat at VlV.)
Grandma is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 04:31 PM
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After I wrote the above, I did read where there was a shuttle to Vaux le Vicomte from the train station in Melun. The establishment opens again on March 25.

According to the official website, the shuttle is weekends only.

The problem with going to the candlelight dinner and a tour of the palace is getting back!

We hit a snag at the train station because we did not have the right change for the ticket machines and our credit cards would not work. And the ticket window with a person in it was closed up tight.

I would have chanced paying on the train, but I could not get through the gate without a ticket.

As you have probably learned, American credit cards don't have a chip in them, so they will not work in automatic machines in Europe.

Fortunately, I was able to get the right change and buy the tickets.

Then, the train on my printed schedule was not listed on the arrivals/departure board, so we ended up riding the local which took a long time to reach Gare de Lyon.

I am not sure the night visit is worth it. The candles are augmented by electric lights and you really don't see the grounds at all, which is part of the beauty of the place.

I still think the combination of Fontainebleau and Vaux is unbeatable and, yes, I have been to Versailles.

I think students of history need to see both, but I was more appalled than impressed by what must have been the utter lavishness to total excess of the whole outfit at Versailles. No wonder the peasants knocked the heads off anything royal.

If you go to Versailles, look at the statues in the Gardens. The cracks left when the heads were reattached are very obvious.

I like Vaux because to me is a consummate blend of architecture, engineering, interior painting and decoration, and landscaping. Afterall, the 3 main leaders of the creation and building of Vaux were "requested" by Louis XIV to make Versailles.

If you go to Vaux, be sure to pay the extra little fee and go up in the dome. You can marvel at how that thing was built without the aid of electricity and those towering construction cranes we have today.

The grounds are of course the reconstructed designs of Andre le Notre. After Louis the Tetchy sacked Fouquet, his wife after some period of time was able to live there again. But she sold the place to Marshall Villiers.

After his family took the place, the gardens went to ruin after 30 years of neglect. Fortunately the plans were preserved and the gardens were recreated after Sommier bought the place at auction.

So what you see today is the best that available funds can regenerate.

bob_brown is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 04:42 PM
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I knew that the Choiseul-Praslin family at one point owned V-l-V:


Actually a cook for this family invented the praline.

Wiki gives an interesting story about murder intrigue, which I didn't know about.
111op is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 06:52 PM
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Well, I'm in good company...I haven't been to Fontainebleau either and was planning on going there next trip instead of Versailles even though DH hasn't been to Versailles, but to be quite honest, it wasn't my favorite place in France, so I don't think I'm "depriving" DH! Let us know what you decide and where you go...well, I'm sure I don't even have to say that to you, do I? Have a great trip!
artlover is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:22 PM
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I would not recommend Fontainebleau to anyone who isn't very interested in French history. Versailles works for most people because they've heard of it and it's famous, and it's fairly large. None of this is true for Fontainebleau, so there has to be some other motive to visit it, which most people don't have.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:25 PM
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Bless you, Kerouac!
Underhill is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:35 PM
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Can any of you compare these to Schonbrunn in Vienna? As I recall that is supposed to be second in grandeur to Versailles. Frankly, I preferred some of the less opulent palaces in Vienna to this.

We leave for Paris next week. We've been there briefly once before but didn't visit Versailles then either. Don't know if we'll go this time. I'd probably be more interested in Vaux le Vicomte, but I don't think it opens until the end of March.

Also, how do these chateaux compare to Usse, Azay le Rideau & Villandry ( my all time favorite because of the gardens)?
julies is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:36 PM
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I don't know if I could rate Versailles vs. Fontainebleau as they are just different. I liked Fontainebleau very much, but did not spend any time in the town per se or the forest. It is a very pretty chateau with beautiful gardens and doesn't have the crowds of Versailles, but Versailles as the unique history. It is very easy to get to Fontainebleau, just take a train there. There is a bus from there to the chateau.

I would definitely put Vaux le Vicomte at the bottom of those three. It was mildly interesting but the gardens were nothing (no gardens at all when I was there, just vast expanses of grass, more or less). And it is more difficult to get to. I don't care about touristy candle evenings, those are of no interest to me, I think that touristy candle stuff is a bunch of hooey. Then you would really have a problem getting back to Paris, I imagine.
Christina is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 09:31 PM
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The chateaux of the Loire are Renaissance pleasure structures for the most part. Versailles and Fontainebleau had more formal roles are residences of kings. They are much grander than the Loire chateaux.

Schönbrunn is a palace that was in continuous use by the Imperial family until 1918, and then was used by the Austrian state. The second floor apparently still contains apartments for some ministries. As such, it was not looted like Versailles during the French Revolution. Its rooms contain furnishings from the 18th century through the 19th. There are some beautiful 18th century rooms, such as the Chinese lacquer room and the Persian miniature room. It is a palace that dates from the 18th century onward, while Versailles is 17th century for the most part.
Michael is offline  
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