Wanting to visit at least something vaguely cultural and French on our trip to Disneyland Paris, I really wanted to check out the Château Fontainebleau, about 45 minutes away. As we hauled ourself there for about 3:30, we mostly ended up in the gardens. But these are some damn fine, and free, gardens, so I think it worked out just fine and I didn’t have to spend a tour paranoid about a toddler sneaking under barriers and breaking some priceless objet d’art. In addition, the palace is free for kids up to 18 and everyone is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Toddlers – always attracted to the ‘stay off the grass’ grass
Row boat hire – 7 euros for half an hour, seats 4-5 people. Sadly no one else was up for this.
Kick-ass sorbet stand – some pretty friggin awesome sorbet served near the entrance to the gardens (they do bottled water too). Best part is the reaction of “fruit, bleugh” from Weasel and not having to share ours.
In addition to the bushes to hide in, hunting dogs to talk to and the ponies we couldn’t let her see because she was too young to go on them (I think this must have been something special on that weekend), there is a hell of a lot of space to run around and burn off energy.
An over-tired Weasel gets put in chair to stop freak-out, but still stops tantrum to admire the ginormous fountain.
Parking – just underneath the castle. Try to park on one of the upper floors, the lift was broken when we went necessitating quite a trek up the stairs.
Prams in the château: whilst we had no problems in the grounds, I’ve read you can’t take them or large back carriers into the château itself. They do apparently loan out front carriers, I’m told, for the tiny ones.
Loos: You will be changing your kid outside I think, I hadn’t seen anywhere where nappy changing facilities looked likely. Even the loos just inside the courtyard were pay loos (30 cents), so come prepared with change and don’t expect a baby area in there once you have paid. There may be some free ones once you pay to get inside.
Just outside: the best carousel I’ve ever seen (a double decker!!) for 2 euros pp which has started an obsession unfortunately with horses and a friendly coffee bar called Le Delice Imperial. We just had coffees, but the desserts looked unbelievable. They even found space for a finally sleeping, post-over-tired freaked-out Weasel to stay in her pushchair whilst we rested.
Verdict: Well worth a trip out and nice to visit something so lovely for free!