A town and forrested area to the south east of Paris. While it is home to a beautiful chateau and the Barbizon school of art, it is truly noteworthy as one of the great bouldering Meccas of the world. Rock climbers who engage in bouldering flock to the boulders in this forest to make absurdly difficult moves to climb 3 meter high bits of rock. The rock climbing here was originally developed as a training ground for the long free climbs in the Alps. The bouldering that was meant as a means to an end became a sub-specialty and sport unto itself. Along with areas such as Yosemite National Park and Hueco Tanks in the States and the Peak District in England, Fontainebleau is a global treasure to all the rock climbers of the world (even if we do gum up rock with pof)

Fontainebleau is the most historic château in France. It has been a home to the monarchs for almost a thousand years, but it was in the 16th century that it began to rise to its pinnacle of elegance. Napoleon, in exile on St Helena, said "Voilà la vraie demeure des rois, la maison des siècles" (There's the true home of the kings, the house of centuries).

The name is obviously fountain plus something. Bleau? It's not in my French dictionary. It could be from belle eau or from a personal name Bliaut: legends differ. But it began as a hunting-lodge in 1247 in the middle of the great Forest of Fontainebleau. At least, I think it did. I'm reading French websites on the fly for this background, and won't guarantee my translations are 100%.

François I was the king who began bringing it up to its current artistic magnificence, starting in the 1520s. Subsequent kings and emperors kept adding in a variety of styles.

The Forest of Fontainebleau has an area of 25 000 ha, one of the largest in France.

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