FRANCE ILE DE FRANCE SEINE ET MARNE Vaux le VicomteVaux-le-Vicomte is home to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte [+33 164144190, www.vaux-le-vicomte.com, ad/ch from €14/11], which lies between Fontainebleau and Vincennes. The castle and gardens were designed by Le Brun, Le Vau and Le Nôtre, prior to their Versailles project (probably as a warm-up).

This estate was bought by Nicolas Fouquet, minister of finance for King Louis XIV in 1641. It was commissioned to be a grand structure as it was meant to act as one the King’s royal residences, as well as a venue for his social gatherings which included guests like playwright La Fontaine and Molière. Intending to flatter the king, Fouquet put his best foot forward by holding numerous fétés in the castle. However, his planned backfired when the King found one of his fétés (held in 1661) too lavish and Feeling jealous and outdone, the King imprisoned the minister, who died in his cell in 1680.

Despite such tragic events, the beauty of the slate-roofed castle still remains. Dominating the formal gardens, the grand château features tight Baroque style architecture, with its central block and wings being encircled by a rectangular moat (typical of Northern French castles). The castle’s interior is also enviable, as it houses period furniture, gleaming stones and intricate tapestries in almost every room.

The castle stables have been converted into a museum – Musée des Équipages (Carriages Museum), to house its 18th and 19th century carriages; while its vaulted cellars house an exhibition on the landscaping of the formal gardens, down below.

These gardens, which were designed by Le Nôtre are well decorated with beautifully sculpted fountains and carefully trimmed shrubbery (that follow maze-like patterns), making the gardens themselves an attraction on their own. On top of the regular day a visit, the castle management holds candlelight visits as well as fountain shows on selected dates (refer to website). 

 

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