Historic châteaux differ from traditional museums in an important aspect: seasons.
When I think about visiting most museums, I focus on what I’ll be seeing on the inside. But with historic châteaux and houses, I add in the factor of the time of year I will be visiting. I love making the pilgrimage to the Château de Malmaison during rose season; the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is magical when lit by candlelight on summer nights. The relationship between indoors and outdoors becomes more intertwined.
I first visited the Château de Fontainebleau in October 2011, and fall was in full force on the grounds. Located southeast of Paris, the palace has a long royal history, dating back to the 12th century.
The autumnal light gave a particular ambiance to the interior of the palace, especially the Galerie des Cerfs (Gallery of Stags). This wonderfully bizarre gallery features a parade of plaster deer heads mounted with real antlers.
The walls were decorated at the time of Henri IV with bird’s eye view images of royal châteaux and their hunting grounds. And, since the 1960s, the gallery has displayed reproductions of important antique sculptures from the Vatican, cast for François I.
I was so inspired by my visit that I went as the forest of Fontainebleau for Halloween that year, with fall leaves in my hair, an acorn necklace, and stag earrings.