October 20, 2011

Fontainebleau. July, 1972

This is the day I learned how to say “on strike” in French. Robert and I had traveled 35 miles south by train to Fontainebleau, as a day trip from Paris, to see the fabled château and the adjoining forest, formerly a royal hunting ground. Instead we were greeted with signs that read, “En grève.” As you can see, that didn’t stop us from posing on the famous “horseshoe staircase,” the site from which Napoléon Bonaparte bid farewell to his Old Guard in 1814 and headed into exile on the island of Elba. (Which is why Robert is holding his hand in Napoleonic fashion.) Thirty-four French sovereigns from Louis IV (“Louis the Fat,” just saying) in the 11th century to Napoléon III in the 19th resided in Fontainebleau at some time. And had we known upon the occasion of our thwarted visit that Patricia Highsmith’s talented Tom Ripley reportedly lived nearby, we might not have headed back to Paris as quickly as we did.

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