A Day At Vaux-le-Vicomte – The Tragic Inspiration for Versailles

Stunning, even grandiose, French chateau and garden design didn't start with Versailles. Years earlier it was Louis XIV's finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet who had the inspiration to build a magnificent palace surrounded by magnificent gardens. He had purchased a small chateau when he was only 26 in 1641. As he rose in the ranks of the royal ministry, he began to expand.

The resulting building and grounds were lavish, refined, and dazzling to all who saw them. It became a center for arts and artists, for writers and literature, and for lavish celebrations. It was, for a period, the very center of French cultural life. Until the Sun King saw it.

Vaux-le-Vicomte & The Downfall of Fouquet

Vaux-le-Vicomte

One fateful day — August 17, 1661 — Fouquet arranged an opulent fête in honor of his king, Louis XIV. The dinner was better than ever, the entertainment was a new play by Molière, Les Fâcheux. But it was just too much. Louis couldn't stand the idea that someone other than his Royal Self could create such beauty, such sumptuousness, such perfection.

Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, partly brought on by the conniving of his rival, Colbert. It was tragic and completely unfair. The Sun King then seized all the statues from Vaux-le-Vicomte, the tapestries, and even 150 orange trees, and instructed his team of architects to create something even grander than Vaux-le-Vicomte. That project became the chateau and gardens of Versailles that we see today.

VIP Visit To Vaux-le-Vicomte

Visiting Vaux-le-Vicomte Champagne-fueled picnic on the grounds of Vaux-le-Vicomte

Totally restored, Vaux-le-Vicomte is a near-to-Paris destination for private day trips, dinners and even a candlelight tour. A private driver met us at our apartment in a luxurious Jaguar and whisked us to the chateaux. At Vaux-le-Vicomte we were guided so a private golf-cart, allowing us a leisurely exploration of the estate.

After an hour of viewing the extensive gardens we discovered that there was a picnic basket in the back of the cart, filled with champagne, glasses, macarons, and a picnic blanket. We enjoyed this from the top of the hill, overlooking the entire estate.

After our lunch there was plenty of leisure time to explore the chateau and marvel at how much it had inspired the architecture at Versailles. Later our driver met us right at the entrance and drove us home, at the end of a perfect day. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and far better than standing in lines waiting to get into Versailles. Highly recommended.

Candlelight Tour & Dinner at Vaux-le-Vicomte

Visiting Vaux-le-Vicomte A candle-lit evening at Vaux-le-Vicomte

For a magnificent evening, sign up for a chauffeur-driven candlelit visit to the chateau and grounds. It begins with a private driver arriving at your Paris address in a luxury sedan to take you to the chateau in comfort. Once there, you hop in your reserved cart for a leisurely tour of the magnificent gardens.

After spending time exploring the chateau itself, as evening falls, you discover that a table has been reserved for you on the castle's ground. What follows is a romantic 3-course dinner, with champagne and wine, while the gardens are illuminated by 2,000 candles. Stroll along the pathways, listen to enchanting music, all the while sipping champagne. It's an evening you won't soon forget. Available in the warm months of the year, from May to September

Visit Vaux-le-Vicomte + Fontainebleau + Barbizon

Chateau Fontainebleau The magnificent Château Fontainebleau

One day. Two magnificent chateaux plus one picturesque village. This full-day guided tour from Paris takes you not only to Vaux-le-Vicomte, but also to the royal Château Fontainebleau. "The true home of kings, the house of all centuries," is how Napoleon described the castle and estate of Fontainebleau. One of the largest of French royal castles, it makes for a fabulous visit from Paris.

Also on your day's agenda is Vaux-le-Vicomte, the stunning castle and gardens of ill-fated Nicola Fouquet. You will be amazed by the gardens and architecture and immediately understand that this was the direct inspiration for Versailles.

In between these two royal estates you make a stop in the charming village of Barbizon, once frequented by artists, for a traditional lunch. Round-trip transit from your Paris hotel is also included on this truly royal day.

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