Two visits and several years ago, in another failed attempt to enjoy Paris as much by staying in other than the 18th arrondissement, I booked into a very nice hotel in the 12th, on Avenue Daumesnil, Hotel de la Porte Dorée. The 46 bus, one of my favorite routes, stopped at the doorstep, the friendly & certified “excellent” Vandermeersch Bakery directly across the street, Metro Porte Dorée on the corner and, most pertinently, it was on the edge of a walk through the Bois de Vincennes to the Château de Vincennes. Knowing the château was there, after years on my list, how could I not walk toward it, left out of the door. I don’t know how, but I managed to not.
Then, on a spring morning in 2016, safely ensconced in my beloved Montmartre, I did laundry in the morning, packed things I wouldn’t need for 3 days out of town, caught the 30 bus to deposit my bag at the Hotel Soft, where I’d stay my last night in France before catching the Eurostar. That done, I walked to Metro Jacques Bonsergent, changed at Bastille and very shortly emerged at Metro Château de Vincennes, and just steps away, the bridge into the only fortified royal castle on the edge of Paris.
The château we see today, as have other royal castles, began as a hunting lodge. Built for Louis VII in the forest of Vincennes in the 12th century, the transformation into a fortified castle began in the 14th century, building continuing until Louis XIV lost interest and settled in Versailles in 1682. Afterward, without a royal presence, Vincennes was used by France’s military services and today houses the country’s military archives.
Inside the restored donjon, including original polychrome decoration.
Restoration work on the château began after World War II and has been ongoing, continuing at the time of my visit with the king’s chapel, Sainte-Chapelle, modeled on the Palais de la Cité Sainte-Chapelle, completely covered in scaffolding. The interior is bare and no longer used as a church, with treasures not destroyed during the revolution moved to the Louvre.
Tomb of Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien
Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, last of the royal House of Condé, was ordered killed by Napoleon, then 1st Consul of France. On March 21, 1804 the duke, age 31, was shot in the moat of the castle, near a grave which had been prepared. Napoleon crowned himself emperor shortly thereafter. In 1816, the Duke’s remains were exhumed and placed in a chapel of Sainte-Chapelle.
Next week I’ll begin a visit to a friend's home in the countryside about an hour from Paris, with an excursion to market day in Fontainebleau.