Visit to Fontainebleau, November 2005

We arrive in the enchanting town of Fontainebleau late Friday evening, in full anticipation of a weekend of fencing and provincial French culture.

After a pleasurable walk through the heart of this Renaissance town, we check into our home for the weekend, the Hotel de Richelieu, to find our rooms overlooking the beautiful chateau, steeped in regal history and especially famous for having been the home to Napoleon and Josephine.

Eager to sample some French cuisine we head downstairs to the restaurant's cosy restaurant where we meet up with the other members of the group and Priscille, our host for the weekend. After our carnivorous feast, we follow Tim's advice and head to the local "girly bar" which fortunately (for some) turned out to be a gothic looking basement bar with 80's karaoke. Not quite feeling in the mood for singing to Bananarama, we order a few cocktails which, to our surprise, arrive in glasses bearing more resemblance to mini goldfish tanks on sticks- with added cherries and paper umbrellas attached, naturally. Clinking goldfish glasses in the air, we made a toast to a fabulous weekend ahead. And started discussing making plans to join Priscille jogging at 9am the next morning….

…Saturday morning arrives, and all thoughts of jogging are forgotten as we sit in a gorgeous little café surrounded by a feast of croissants and crepes. A while later, the girls head off for a spot of shopping in the town's bohemian boutiques, whilst the boys take a flight over Fontainebleau courtesy of Priscille's father, in his self-made helicopter.

During the afternoon, we wander through Fontainebleau's picturesque residential streets to Priscille's fencing school where we take part in a fencing competition against her students. After a long tiring match against the French, we spend time learning fencing tactics from our new friends. The fencing session ends with a very pleasant party, giving us the opportunity to practise our rusty French out on Priscille's students. As before, the evening ends in coconut paradise cocktails at the "girly bar".

Every Sunday the town centre closes for the traditional Sunday market, which is where we find ourselves leafing through piles of French records and books. With our purchases (rather bizarrely, two headless and armless female mannequins later fondly named Josephine and Veronique) we wander in the gardens of the chateau and soak in the beauty of Fontainebleau's lush landscape, the contrast between the gardens' tidily trimmed tree boxes with the wild skirts of the forest in the distance.

Our last afternoon is spent enjoying coffee and cake with Priscille and her friends, in a café (with chocolate cake to die for) next to the year-round magical looking carousel. After a fond farewell to our French host, we reluctantly make our way back to London and look forward to visiting Priscille in her beautiful home town again in the near future.

by Sarah-Jane


Roy, ready


A feast of nuts and champagne


More wine for You?


The place of girly drinks...


A Frenchman at home


Sarah-Jane or Leaving it all behind

Photos: Roy and Richard

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