France From The Inside

France From The Inside: A Paris Day Trip Sure to Dazzle

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The elegant palace that inspired Versailles is less than an hour from Paris, by train or car. Le Vaux de Vicomte is a baroque masterpiece set in a breathtaking garden.

Paris is a glorious city, but sometimes it's a good idea to take a short break and head out to the countryside. Take a day to discover Le Vaux de Vicomte, one of the world's most beautiful places.

It is close to Paris, easy to get to, and hauntingly lovely. Spend the morning exploring the castle and gardens, have lunch at l'Ecureuil, the fine on-site restaurant, and stay late for a candlelight tour. It's possible to see everything and be back in Paris for a late supper.

History: An Ostentatious Grand Opening and A Jealous King

In 1658, Nicholas Fouquet, the finance minister of Louix XIV, hired architect Louis LeVau and painter/decorator Charles Le Brun to create an incredible masterpiece: The Chateau of Vaux le Vicomte. André LeNôtre, who seems to have designed every spectacular landscape in France, created the gardens.

Not long after the palace was completed, on August 17, 1661, Louis XIV, along with many of the most well-known aristocrats of the day, attended the opening celebration of Le Vaux de Vicomte. Fouquet and his wife put on a splashy party which set the standard for royal celebrations for the next few hundred years. There were promenades, spectacles, musicians, and exotic food and wine. Fireworks marked the close of the lavish celebration.

Although Fouquet was known as an intelligent man, he forgot a very important element when he planned his party: Humility. Louis XIV was tremendously jealous of Fourquet and his magnificent palace. He and his ministers decided that only the king should be permitted to have such an awe-inspiring home.

The King had Fouquet arrested three weeks later on trumped-up charges of embezzlement, and Fourquet spent the rest of his life in prison.

A Legacy for All the World

Fouquet's legacy is the splendid palace and grounds, which have remained nearly unchanged--thanks to several generations of caring owners, and the Association of the Friends of Le Vaux de Vicomte, which continues to restore and refurbish all the buildings on the estate. Instead of kings and queens, guests from all over the globe are welcome to explore the extensive gardens as well as the castle and stables. Summer brings candlelight festivals and classical music concerts.

Children adore Le Vaux de Vicomte because it is a castle right out of the pages of a fairy tale. When a child enters the castle, he or she is offered a little baroque costume to wear--perfect for playing lords and ladies, and a great photo opportunity. For older children, some of the great rooms show films of costumed men and women dancing together, displaying the fashions of the era.
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