Visiting Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte

Today we ventured away from the resort to visit a wonderful chateau which is nearby, around 40 minutes drive: Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte. WOW, what a place! My thought on seeing it, rather like when I first saw Versailles, was, “No wonder they had a revolution”….. It was built in the Seventeenth Century by Nicolas Fouquet who was then the main financial minister to Louis XIVth of France and who worked closely with the then Chief Minister, Cardinal Mazarin. All famous names from the Three Musketeers, if you’ve ever read those novels by Dumas.

Work began in 1653 and the architect Le Vau established his style with this chateau and went on to create plans for Versailles, as did the garden architect, Le Notre. The chateau and its gardens were so lavish and so outstanding that it created great jealousy and after the death of Mazarin, there were plots against Fouquet, he was tried and imprisoned for life. He was arrested by D’Artagnan!!!!! His widow and son eventually got the chateau back but it had a mixed history until more recently. The Chateau is now open to the public who can enjoy the beautiful gardens and estate as well as the house itself. It is privately owned by a family these days who have taken on the restoration and upkeep of the place. I don’t even want to think about what that might cost….

We arrived just before it opened at midday. A nice drive through cornfields. We could see the chateau from the road as we pulled into the parking. Wow! I had read that it was like a small Versailles which you could visit without the crowds and while this was going a bit far perhaps, it was a stunning sight. Really stunning. The chateau is beautiful enough in itself but it is surrounded by a type of moat in which it reflects to great effect and then stretching away from it are the fabulous gardens….. There were very few people there and it felt spacious and at times as though we had it to ourselves.

On Saturday nights in the summer, they hold candlelight evenings here when the whole place is lit by candles including the gardens and there are pop up dining options in the grounds for romantic dinners culminating in a firework display at 11pm. I tried to book for that but our Saturdays were already fully booked.

Anyway, it cost us 16.5 euro each to get in and that included the audio tour. And what a tour. They call it a 360 degree tour of the chateau and I see what they mean. As you move from room to room, the headsets pick up where you are – no pushing buttons or anything. Instead of a conventional “the picture over the fireplace is xxxx by yyyyy” you get the story of Fouquet and the chateau told through the milieu of the family anxieties following Mazarin’s death and then the fateful garden party. He held a lavish garden party for the king during which he offered him the chateau as a gift. His gift was refused because his fate had already been sealed, and yet Louis wandered the gardens as though all was well. Anyway, it’s a very dramatic audio guide which quite brought the place to life.

The rooms are …well….. palatial. Amazing tapestries, cabinets, art work, decor….. we visited upstairs bedrooms and offices, the State Apartments and also the servants quarters and AMAZING kitchen (always a favourite of mine). I love seeing all the copper pans hanging up. Wouldn’t like it to be my job to polish them though. This was a particularly wonderful crop and in immaculate condition. The tour took about 75 minutes in all. Really enjoyable.

After our tour, we wandered around the grounds a little and then decided to explore by golf cart. It was 25 euro for an hour’s hire and to be honest, the grounds are so immense, it was money well spent. If we’d had a whole day, or if we hadn’t visited the house, , I guess we could have walked to all the areas and picnicked (good idea for another time!) but today the golf cart was a lot of fun.

Daisy very much wanted to drive, so she did. We survived the ordeal and we toured all the basins and the fountains, which were extensive and superbly landscaped. Some you cannot see from the house, only as you progress down through the parterres. It must be fabulous when the fountains are going. There are beautiful sculptures along the way and a nymphaeum behind one of the water features. Apparently they run them 2 weekends a month.

The gardens are perfect examples of the exquisitely planned landscapes of the time: symmetrical parterres, box hedging in curls, water features, tree plantings guiding the eye to distant statuary, walks of trees….. We spent a very lovely time tootling through the park (sometimes a bit more than tootling)!

Thoroughly recommend this place. Hugely more enjoyable than Versailles because it is so quiet in comparison. And also because there is more furniture in place. We loved it and next time we come back we will book for one of the candelight evenings. I really want to see that.

Tonight I cooked chicken with flageolet beans and chorizo and we sat out on our patio and talked as the sun set.