With the beautiful weather, it was the perfect time to go on a day trip to the Chateau de Fontainebleau with two of my friends. We didn’t know much about the chateau but were intrigued enough to climb aboard the train for an hour to get there.
It turned out to the perfect day trip. A picnic lunch. A history lesson. And a bunch of laughs.
The Chateau de Fontainebleau was owned by many important figures throughout the centuries, and each had their own ideas of what it should look like. Notable owners include Francis I, Louis XII to Louis XVI, Napoleon and Napoleon III. The Chateau became a hodgepodge of all their ideas, with each addition denoted by adding their coat of arms or insignia.
The building itself contains many different styles, but so do the gardens. Although there are traditional French gardens, they also included an English garden and of course left a large swath of land untouched for hunting grounds.
With the beaming sun and cloudless sky this past weekend, I wanted to spend my days outside. I began researching potential hiking trails near Paris and uncovered the gold mine of Vexin Francais Regional Natural Park northwest of Paris. Composed of over 70,000 hectares and containing many small suburban towns, it has endless hiking opportunities.
The place I decided to start was Auvers-sur-Oise, which was an hour and a half train ride from Paris, with the bonus of being covered by my transit pass! It also turned out to be the town where Van Gogh died, after having completed many paintings there. The whole town seemed to center around Van Gogh’s activities there – I counted four small museums dedicated to him and other impressionist artists.
The whole town was charming, especially with the lilacs in full bloom. There was even a Chateau, that has since been turned into a museum for the impressionist artists and restaurant (plus they have a hedge maze!).
The town was a nice surprise when really all I had intended was to hike through the forest. After touring around Auvers-sur-Oise, I began my trek. It has been a long time since I was surrounded by trees and fresh air (it’s not too common in downtown Paris…).
For the majority of my hike, I was the only one on the trail, only passing a couple other groups in the total of three hours I was out there. It was refreshing to escape the hectic city environment for a few hours.
I look forward to returning to continue to explore the expansive Vexin Francais Regional Natural Park – not just to hike on the various trails, but also to visit these sweet little towns… I wonder which important figure the next town will be celebrating.
Located in the Bois de Boulogne (a large park in the west of Paris), the modern building emerges from behind the treetops. Designed by Frank Gehry, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is a modern art museum. So naturally, the building itself is a modern artwork as well!
In classic Gehry style, it is composed of wild curves to create a radically obscure building.
For me, it had a slight resemblance to a water park. A pool of water surrounds the entire base of the building, with the brightly coloured, curved exterior structure looking an awfully lot like water slides. (It could also be that I am excited for the hot summer weather and ready to go swimming!)
Or rather, the Houses of Parliament. I am not entirely versed in the inner workings of English government, so I am not entirely sure what happens within these buildings. All I know is that the buildings look impressive and important, so I took a photo.
The Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, the place of royal weddings. Coincidentally, while I was visiting England, Will and Kate celebrated their 5 year anniversary.
One of the newest buildings by Renzo Piano, the Shard is distinct in the London skyline. Probably because it is 95 levels high.
And if you hadn’t already guessed, the name is due to the fact it looks like a shard of glass. Naming buildings based on the objects they look like is a common past time in London, like the Walkie Talkie or the Gherkin (both of which can be seen from the top of the Shard!).
The Shard is mostly office space (I am led to believe) however the public can access the 68th and 69th interior floors and the 72nd exterior floor, with the promise of a champagne bar at the top!
When I went up to the top, a storm was rolling in. Seeing the menacing clouds rolling in over the tall buildings was a great view, however the concern of lightening did limit the amount of time on the exterior top deck.
Off the beaten track, somewhere in the countryside of West Sussex in England, this church seems to appear out of nowhere. This being my second time visiting (the last time was in February) I get the impression that this church is always vacant – however this time there were sheep grazing in the graveyard! They were afraid of us, their wide eyes staring at us if we took a step towards them, as if we were ghosts or something!
You know those classic charming small English towns described by Jane Austen? Well, they still exist. Every part of the town of Amberley, in the south of England, contributes to this old-fashioned feel right down to the street signs.
Each house has a name, based on its previous function in the town – from the bake house to the vine house. Every bit of the town is packed with history!