Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Daily Life at Fontainebleau

The French newspaper La Croix recently ran a story about daily life at Fontainebleau--daily life in the twenty-first century. The paper interviewed security guards, cleaning services, gardeners, cashiers, as well as administrators in order to better understand what is involved in maintaining this historical treasure and keeping it accessible to the 450,000 people who visit each year. Here are some interesting facts from the article, which is in French:

  • The palace contains 1500 rooms; the grounds cover about 300 acres.
  • Security's biggest fear is fire, which would directly menace eight hundred years' worth of tapestries, furniture, wood carvings and art objects
  • Boars in the park and bats in the eaves often set off security alarms.
  • The public rooms are dusted for 45 minutes daily before opening.
  • It takes the palace horlogier (clock specialist) two hours to wind the forty working clocks in the various salons each day.
  • The cashiers claim the politest visitors are the Japanese; the rudest, the French.
  • The palace welcomes 45,000 students, from grade school through high school, each year. There is a specific tour for each level, supported by an Internet site to prepare the students and teachers for the visit.
  • The French court spent time at the château de Fontainebleau continuously up until 1870. The palace's collections include 40,000 pieces (textiles, furniture, objects from everyday life).
  • Fourteen gardeners take care of the gardens and park.
  • A fontainier (fountain specialist) oversees the water system. A canal, various basins, and seven fountains are fed by two aqueducts and a water-tower. Most of the water system was constructed by François I and relies on nineteen regional streams.
  • The grand canal is drained every forty years, revealing various discarded objects. Three years ago, an elderly couple committed suicide by drowning themselves in it.
  • The jeu de paume (tennis court) was constructed in 1601 by Henri IV and is one of only three operational jeu de paume courts in France. About sixty players use the court to play the original game.
The article includes a slide show of the grounds and people at work there.

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