Sunday, May 3, 2009


Ames and I ended up taking two day-trips out of Paris. The first was to Vaux-le-Vicomte, a gorgeous chateau about 45 minutes from Paris by train.

We took the train, grabbed a quick taxi ride from the station, and were dropped off here:

Nice, huh?

Here's some info. from Wikipedia. I'm too lazy to paraphrase it for you.

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French chateau located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne département of France. It was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle-Isle (Belle-Ile-en-Mer), Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV.
Vaux-le-Vicomte was in many ways the most influential work built in Europe in the mid-17th century, the most elaborate and grand house built in France after the
Château de Maisons. Here, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of a new order: the magnificent manner that is associated with the "Louis XIV style" involving a system of collective work, which could be applied to the structure, its interiors and works of art and the creation of an entire landscape. The garden's use of a baroque axis that extends to infinity is an example of this style.

Well, we enjoyed a leisurely picnic in the gardens (leisurely, even though I wore Amy's Pink bag like a backpack in the Catacombs and ended up spilling carrot salad vinaigrette all over everything...), with a lovely view of the castle (and the scaffoldng that covered the 1/4 of it whwere they were re-roofing and gilding the roof decorations) and the outbuildings.

After our lunch, we decided to tour the inside first. Maybe my pictures don't do it justice, but it is beautiful. And served as a model for the at-the-moment-still-a-hunting-lodge Versailles. If you've ever been to Versailles, you will definitely see the resemblance.

Fête and Arrest
The château was lavish, refined, and dazzling to behold, but these characteristics proved tragic to its owner. Indeed, the King had Fouquet arrested shortly after a famous fête that took place on
17 August 1661, with Molière's play 'Les Fâcheux'.[5] The celebration had been too impressive and the superintendent's home too luxurious. Jean-Baptiste Colbert had led the king to believe that his minister's magnificence was funded by the misappropriation of public funds. Colbert, who then replaced Fouquet as superintendent of finances, arrested him. [6] Later, Voltaire was to sum up the famous fête thus: "On 17 August, at six in the evening Fouquet was the King of France: at two in the morning he was nobody." La Fontaine wrote describing the fête, and shortly afterwards penned his Elégie aux nymphes de Vaux.

After Fouquet
After Nicolas Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration (
sequestration (law)). The King seized, confiscated, and occasionally purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux Le Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux Le Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.
Madame Fouquet recovered her property ten years later and retired there with her eldest son. In 1705, after the death of her husband and son, she decided to put Vaux Le Vicomte up for sale.

And last but not least (be still my beating heart)...

Oh, and lest I forget...

The room next to the library was specifically decorated in a more elegant and elaborate fashion so the king could stay there if he dropped in to say hello. (Or, "You're arrested, because your house is cooler than mine." Whichever.)

What makes this room extra special, though, is the creepy life-size manneqins. One of them "talks," as well, which is creepy in and of itself, but it's (his?) mouth actually moves correctly so the shape of his lips reflects what it would look like if an actual person was talking. And frankly, that just creeped me right out.

So, here's a little video to give you a feel for the ambience of the room...

And here's a video to show you how creepy his face is when he talks. Maybe it's because none of the rest of his face moves--his cheeks, his eyes, even his eyebrows... Nope, he's got a Botox face with moveable lips.

After touring the main floor, we went up past the second floor, up this teensy staircase,

walked around the bell tower,

and enjoyed a great view of the grounds.

Can you see the influence on Versailles?


Let me help you...

We decided to hang out in the gardens for a while. I read, Ames took a nap. It was so nice to bask in the sunlight for a while.

Then we had a taxi called, I grabbed some cookbooks from the chateau gift shop, and we made our way back to Paris.

If you are in Paris for the first time, this might not be the thing for you because there are so many other wonderful things right in town. But for returning visitors, I would definitely recommend Vaux-le-Vicomte. Bit pricey to get there, get in, and get back, but to me it was totally worth it.


Tricia said...

some of those colors make my eyes hurt, but I LOVE the yellow bed!! how fun!

Denise said...

Unbelievable - you can understand why peasants were up in arms over the wealth of the government. Thanks for the tour.

meagan said...

Wow. I like this better than Versailles! It's not quite as over-the-top. I want that yellow bed. And the chairs in the library. Scratch that--the whole library. But not if that creepy robot is in it. Weird.

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

So I wrote this really long comment about this building and how much I love it. But the internet ate it and I don't have the energy to write it again... Suffice it to say that this is my all time favorite French baroque hunting chateau. Close second is Chambord (is that on your list?). Chambord is just a little over the top (no pun intended) with all of the stuff on the roof and everything. The Vaux-le-Viscomte is elegant and refined, with just the right amount of fun and finials.

Sarah said...

Tricia and Meagan, I am with you on that yellow bed. Isn't it completely charming? And yeah, you already know how I feel about that awesome librrary.

Denise, there's no doubt about it. I can only imagine how much more elegant it was back then than it is today, and by contrast with the quality of life that the majority of the country had... well, you said it. Fuel for the flames of the Revolution.

Bill, I totally agree. I loved the size of Vaux-le-Vicomte--it felt luxurious and beautiful, but manageable. (Not that I would want to manage it... but as a tourist, it was easy to get through the whole castle and most of the grounds before I was tired enough to stop caring. Can't say the same for Versailles...)

Chambord is amazing. All of the chimneys are awesome, and the double helix staircase is incredible. I probably won't be going there this time around, but I went there with my mom, my best friend, and her mom in 1998 and loved it.