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Rich Parisians have always had week-end “country” getaway homes. Josephine Bonaparte’s Chateau de Malmaison only about 30 minutes by RER and bus from Paris and well worth the trip and the modest 8.50 Euros ($10 USD) entry with free audio guide. The use of the house as the French government headquarters from 1800-1802, and Josephine’s love of flowers and her feminine touches are evident in both the gardens and the interior.

The front gate entry.

The front garden is full of flowers and roses.

A walking path from the front of the house to the front gate.

One side of the front garden includes a small vegetable patch.

The back yard is more natural with intentionally unmowed grass for animals.

The back entrance is as stately as the front

with Egyptian style decor.

Inside the foyer.

Even the doors are decorated

 as well as the ceilings.

Her husband Napoleon had a few mementos on display like his grooming set,

a few swords,

and of course his hat.

The billard room showed she enjoyed games,

 entertaining guests,

 playing music,

 and dining.

 The library,

 Josephine’s salon,

 and receiving rooms,

 showed details like swan chairs.

 Josephine’s bedchamber was like a sumptuous tent,

with incredible details like a sky painted ceiling

 and flower painting on every panel of the wall.

This was her jewelry box which held all the diamonds, emeralds, and rubies she owned:)

A small country home only about 12 miles from Paris 🙂

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I went back to the marché in Versailles on Sunday when the center square was filled with food vendors instead of clothing vendors. A big difference, even at 11am, was there were many more people,

and many more vendors.

Honey from all over the EU & from Lavender honey from Provence for 20 Euros ($22 USD) a Kilo (2.2LBS).

Strawberries are in season and as delicious as they look.

 All the ingredients for a ratatouille.

 As much asparagus as you can eat in both white and green.

 Herbs galore for about 1 Euro a bunch ($1.15USD).

Teas

and spices from all over the world.

 If you don’t want to cook your Sunday meal, chickens are available roasted with potatoes.

 Only two blocks from the Chateau de Versailles, Les Halles de Versailles is a much more local experience than the busloads of tourists at the gates (which you can see the the end of the street).

Nearly everyone who comes to Paris goes to Versailles, but unless you live here (or nearby) Les Halles, or the markets of Versailles, just a few blocks from the Chateau, are a hidden treasure. First I went to see the organic (bio) markets by the church St. Louis, but the market was tiny, with literally less than ten stands in front of the church.

Les Halles the big market, is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 7am- 7:30pm and on Sunday from 7am-2pm, the covered square and open center square attract locals more than tourists. With easy parking underneath the square, many bus stops within a block or two, and an easy walk four blocks from the chateau, make this a worthwhile stop if you are going to Versailles.

The permanent stands are all in the covered buildings surrounding the open area and feature several cheese shops,

vegetable and fruits vendors,

all kinds of poultry, raw and cooked,

seafood and fish stands,

prepared foods if you don’t want to cook,

prepared skewers for your BBQ,

prepared roasts for your oven,

and mountains of shellfish.

If you want dessert, there is of course sweets and patisseries galore.

All around the outside of the covered stands are cute cafés with outdoor terraces if you want to be served your meal and just window shop the vendors 🙂

Any day with blue skies in Paris is a good day to go an explore the Châteaux nearby, especially on a holiday weekend when most Parisians were out of town. The town of Maisons-Laffitte is only about 35 minutes away from the Champs-Elysées by the RER A train, and the Château de Maisons is a small and unusual chateau. Regular entry is 7.5 Euros or about $9 USD and includes a 2 hour guided tour during certain times (in French). The entrance looks perfectly symmetrical because it was built a bit like a Hollywood facade, with the outside built first and the inside built around the outside. This meant that some rooms have half a window, and walls are not where they might seem to be on the inside.

The exterior symmetry applies to the back also.

The original entrance was built to receive royalty on the chance that they might come visit (which they did on occasion) so the marble sculptures in the portico

and on the columns were carved to impress.

Even the trompe d’oeil staircase gives the illusion of several stories even though the entire chateau is only two stories. The “third” story was hidden quarters for the servants under the “roof”, which gave them a view of the royals entering and leaving the royal chambers on the second floor.

The ground floor was where the actual owners lived and although the columns here look like marble, they are actually painted wood because the original ones were sold to pay off debts long ago.

Even though the owners lived below the royals, their rooms were well appointed.

The most ornate part of the chateau is of course where the royals ate and slept

and even the original parquet floors show the work put into pleasing them.

The dining area had a middle entrance reserved for the King, while the side entrances were for everyone else; any pushing or shoving was punishable by fines.

The King’s bedroom was only used by the king on a handful of occasions but had the rare modern convenience of its own private entry with an adjacent bathroom.

A wardrobe fit for a king.

The women’s quarters on the other side had a distinctly more feminine style.

Even the ceilings,

fireplaces,

and walls, had feminine details.

The kitchens underground showcased the copper pots and pans

all over the walls,

and there was a display of the china.

Most of the grounds were parceled off and sold to rich Parisians for weekend homes in the “country”, but the bit that remains looks out towards Paris and the Seine as a reminder that a few minutes away is a place where you can leave the noise and intensity of city life behind.

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