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The Husband and I have been trying to take time out of our schedules to visit everything that we haven’t been able to do yet in Paris.  A few weekends ago I was able to head out of the city to visit the Château d’Écouen, home of the Renaissance Museum for France.

It was nice to visit a Château that wasn’t extremely crowded — there were only about 3 other people in the whole château!  The funniest part of the whole ordeal was the fact that in almost every room there was a sign explaining that this wasn’t the original decor, that had been sent to this or that château, and what was currently found in the room was from this or that other château.  My personal favorite room was the gallery of stained glass, which, as the sign so kindly explained, used to be completely lined with stained glass that now resides in another Château, so now the walls are entirely covered in tapestries with nary a window in sight, haha.

Although this Château did have its quirks, it was definitely worth the 30 minute ride out of the city if only for the walk through the woods that we were able to make to get back to the train station.  It was beautiful!

Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen
Château d'Écouen

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When MK decided she was coming to visit, we knew that we had to visit a château.  I mean, what would a trip to Paris be without something decadently over the top?  Now, the obvious choice would have been Versailles, but we ruled that out because she isn’t as obsessed with Louis XIV as I am (seriously, historical crush.  Sorry Husband, but I wish you wore a curly wig and red soled heels while walking around Versailles).

The next logical choice?  Fontainebleau, of course!  Located south of Paris, it doesn’t get as many visitors and is therefore ideal for picnicking and spending the day taking in the air of the French countryside.  Plus, lets not forget the fact that Napoléon took up residence in those hallowed halls.  What’s not to love?

Our trip was made even better by the realization that the woods surrounding the Château were the inspiration for those in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and although we can’t find any proof of it, the library looks like it may have served as inspiration as well!  (Stay tuned for that picture, though…  I may have gone completely overboard on taking pictures since it was MK’s first château and the sun just so happened to be shining the whole time we were there!).

My favorite part of the château, though?  Definitely the grounds.  Theres just something about that sweeping staircase at the entrance to the château as well as the serene lake and gardens that just gets me every time.  Who wants to go halvesies on a château with The Husband and I?

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

Right before Christmas The Husband and I met up with two other couples and had a double date to the Christmas markets at La Défense.  I have to say, I like these ones so much more than the Marché on the Champs-Élysées!  It’s less crowded and theres more cool stuff to look at!  Win win!

Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of it, but when we went back on Christmas eve there was a man in lederhosen playing one of those long instruments from Ricola commercials.  Someday I’ll be that cool….

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

ParisOh yeah, and The Husband finally got some poutine.  This was probably the single greatest day of his life.  Vive la poutine!

Of course, a trip to the château that shares the same name as fancy whipped cream wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the hameau — now turned into a tiny, expensive restaurant where you can buy a glass full of crême chantilly for 6 euro. As our two year wedding anniversary was earlier in the week (and we had spent a big fat 0 on gifts and foods, preferring to make our own Indian feast rather than going somewhere), The Husband and I felt okay about spending 10 euro for him to get a taste of the famous crême with some gingerbread. Lets be honest, I totally threw my allergies to the side and tried a bit as well and it was to-die-for.

If I were ever going to go back in time, move to France, and then marry The Husband, I would definitely want to have a wedding reception on the grounds here — basically for the fact that instead of a cake, I would just have them supply a huge sculpted pile of this stuff, along with a ton of cups, and everyone would just eat crême chantilly instead of cake — not to mention the copious amounts of fruit that I would have available for dipping.

Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly

I’m going to admit something here — I visit châteaux mainly for the grounds, not the actual buildings themselves.  Yes, the châteaux are beautiful and amazing, and unlike anything in America, but to be honest, they all start to look similar (to me who has no architecture training whatsoever) after you visit a fair amount of them.  The grounds, however, are ALWAYS different. Chantilly is famous for its gardens that were landscaped by Le Nôtre — a famous dead French guy who apparently had great taste in shrubberies and plants.  I love him for this great taste.

So, after leaving the château I was more than ready to take in the expansive gardens that Chantilly has to offer!  Two slight problems — 1. It rained, cutting our time short… and 2. They were setting up for a triathlon that was taking place on the grounds the next day, meaning that over half of the grounds were shut down!  Needless to say, I’m planning on returning again some day soon so I can really take in the gardens — I’d like to devote a whole day to them and nothing else!

While we didn’t get to see all of the gardens, what we did get to see was well worth the money!

 Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly

The week before we left for England, I accomplished something huge — any guesses as to what it was?  I officially finished writing and editing my thesis — all 107 pages of it!  Although I’m still doing some light cosmetic editing in the month or so leading up to my defense, I feel so relieved and happy about having it done!  To celebrate this milestone, The Husband and I met up with our friends, David and Reba, to visit the Château de Chantilly in celebration of my new found free time!

Most of you probably know what Chantilly is, but for those of you who don’t, its basically fancy whipped cream — hence the draw to the Château.  Before we were able to check out the grounds and Hameau for some Chantilly, however, of course we had to check out the Château itself!

Maybe I’ve just been a Château hater lately, but Chantilly to me was a strange place to visit.  From the outside, the Château is absolutely beautiful — set over water, beautiful iron gates, gorgeous gardens and stables as a backdrop (THE STABLES!! Reba and I are planning on going back to visit some day soon….).  The inside, at least for me, was overwhelming, and not in a good way.  The main halls in the Château had been set up almost like a museum, however, instead of having only a few paintings on the walls so the viewers could take them all in individually, the paintings were piled on top of each other all the way from floor to ceiling, with barely any room between each one!  Now imagine a ballroom decorated like that and you can see why I thought it was overwhelming.  There were some gorgeous paintings in the Château, as well as beautiful decorations, but I couldn’t really concentrate and appreciate any of them because there was just too much for me to look at!  That being said, the Château itself was beautiful, and definitely worth the time and money to get in at least once, I just wish everything were more spread out!  Definitely take the time to visit the Chapel, though — it was absolutely gorgeous!

 Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly

Continuing our quest to leave Paris every weekend (HA!  That was good while it lasted…), The Husband and I are constantly on the lookout for metro ads designating good weekend getaways from Paris.  July brought good news for us — a Château just North-East of Paris was reopening after being refurbished, and had beautiful gardens!  Being the picnic lover that I am, I decided that we needed to go immediately, and enlisted some fellow Americans to make the trek out with us on the RER.

As far as Châteaux go, this was nothing to write home about.  I would dare say it was more of a manor than a Château, though still beautiful.  What threw me though was how much more modern this one seemed than all the other châteaux in the area!  This one had servants quarters (modern!), running water, a billiard room, and the list goes on!  While that was pretty cool, we were really upset that we couldn’t go see the top floor!  Looking up at it from the grand staircase was absolutely beautiful, so I was really bummed when we couldn’t actually enter!  Needless to say, when I signed my name in the guest book I made sure to state that though the château was beautifully restored, it would have been nice to actually see the whole building for once!

We headed out to the gardens after taking in the house, and seated ourselves in the nice shaded seating area overlooking the fountains behind the château for a nice picnic.  About half way through our meal, though, a French worker came up and kicked us (and the 4 other families picnicking alongside us) that we needed to leave the grounds.  Food was not allowed.  So, we grudgingly trudged out of the grounds and across the street, all the time stating all the sassy things we should have said, and would be sure to next time, should this ever happen again.  Our lunch view after that was not quite as picturesque as the fountains and grounds were…

The best part of the day, though?  The gardens had the equivalent of an off-roading section, only for walkers instead of cars.  We headed out to check out a beautiful statue, only to be scared to death by the thought of ticks attacking our bare legs.  Nature and me, we don’t really get along.  Needless to say, if I were going to buy a château, this wouldn’t be the one.  I like eating food outside and not having ticks too much.

Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne


Château de Champs-sur-Marne


Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne
Château de Champs-sur-Marne

All of our Château visiting this year has brought me one invaluable bit on knowledge — where there is a Château, there will be swans, and where there are swans, there will inevitably  be baby swans.

I love baby swans.  Theres something about their gray fuzziness and their wings that are constantly flapping as they run about (although they’re much to tiny for their overly-large bodies still) that is just endearing.

So, during a week like this one (GRE, teaching, work, thesis-ing, and visa appointment -HOLLA!), I salute you tiny ugly swanlings.  You make my world happy, and that’s something that I am grateful for.


Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles


Versailles


Versailles

A few weekends ago The Husband and I headed out to Versailles on a Saturday and a Sunday, meaning that we had plenty of time to enjoy the free gardens.  Lucky (or not so lucky) for us, the weather was pretty sad that weekend, with highs in the upper 50’s and scattered showers, so while we did end up picnicking under an umbrella, the trade off was basically no tourists as we were walking around!  I’ll take that trade off any day — how bout you?

Here are some of the details of Versailles — I feel like if you try to take in the whole Château at once, you’ll be completely overwhelmed — the French weren’t the inventors of Rococco for nothing!

Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles
Versailles


Versailles


Versailles


Versailles
Versailles

After picnicking in the English gardens (you know, since they speak English there and everything, we felt some sort of allegiance…), we headed over to the French gardens to enjoy the pristine land of straight lines, tiny shrubs, and ponds full of fish.

Speaking of ponds full of fish, The Husband and I sat down next to one and had a nice little chat for half an hour, with the fish trying to get our attention and everything.  Too bad a worker had to come up and ruin it by telling us that we couldn’t sit next to the pond.  Something about small children falling in and being a safety hazard or something…  Psh.

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau


Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau


Fontainebleau


Fontainebleau