Jacqueline Oud - Culture

Visit "Vaux le Vicomte" .... by candlelight

France has many "Chateaux" and the mere part of them are linked to the vineyards. Very known ones are in the Loire region and the most touristic one is clearly Versailles.

A Chateau that is not in a wine region and that is less known, but however caused the jalousey of Versailles is Vaux le Vicomte". This chateau is not far away from Paris and also not far away from Fontaineblau, another known chateau.

Vaux le Vicomte is in fact located in the middle of nowhere. From the various sides the only thing you see is countryside and not that much forest neither. This would have been rather reductive to maintain le Chateau alive especially as we know that this is a private Chateau. However, it has managed to distinguish itself from other chateaux in France in an original way. Before detailing more its offer let’s have a look at the original history that lies around this chateau.

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Entrance of Vaux le Vicomte, source: site Chateau Vaux le Vicomte
  • Some History:
    The Chateau "Vaux le Vicomte" became property of Nicolas Fouquet - a young but very successful parliamentarian- in 1641. He took 15 years to made it one of the most famous Chateaux that existed at that moment. In order to realise this he had the help of the talented trio: Mr le Vau - the architect, Mr Lebrun - the painter and decorator, and the famous Mr Le Nôtre, le landscape gardener. Besides, he had a lot of artists that liked coming to his palace and it didn’t take long before "Vaux le Vicomte" became famous and enjoyed a good reputation. In 1664 he gave an official party inviting also the King Louis XIV. His party was so much a delight to everyone that instead of being a proof to his successful future it became his betrayel. The reason for this was because King Louis XIV was so jealous of Fouquet’s popularity when seeing the result that the King decided to sentence Nicolas Fouquet to a livelong emprisonment. Though there was no real cause, it happened and it was the rise and the fall of Nicolas Fouquet.

The Chateau was sold, but neglected afterwards and when sold again to the family Sommier, Alfred Sommier, in 1875 it had to be rebuilt completely. In 1908 the Chateau had regained its original splendor and till today it is still in the hands of the direct descendants of Alfred Sommier.

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Gardens of Vaux le Vicomte, source: site Chateau Vaux le Vicomte
  • Todays visits:
    The chateau offers the visitor a very nice visit through its various rooms. All is very well decorated and seems very "cosy". One can also see the kitchens and there is a special exposition room that explains the secrets of the garden.

The gardens are another aspect of the worthy visit. Its garderns were one of the first to be created in the "French Style", thanks to the works of Mr Le Nôtre. Together with the innovative ideas of Nicolas Fouquet, these gardens became a model of the upper class gardens and meant the absolute rise of Mr Le Nôtre.
It is really worth to have a look at the thoughts behind the creation of the gardens to better comprehend the different views and the aims of the gardens.

  • The candlelight visit: There were the chateau excells in bringing Vaux le Vicomte to a romantic Chateau and distinguishes it from others is in its possibility to have a visit by candlelight.
    More than 2000 candles are being lit in the parc and at the limits of the Chateau to bring you back to the dreams of a romantic live in a Chateau. the visit of the Chateau is also possible but I would not recommend it as there are too many visitors and the visit has no added value.
  • It is the visit of the gardens that makes you forget the fact that there are also other visitors, that make you forget the stress you may have felt the day before. The candle lights that will guide you from sunset till midnight from the Chateau where you can take some champagne at the terasse, to a walk through the parc wherever you want. Would you like to have a rest again, you are highly advised to experience the classical music that is being played while you quietly lay back in a deckchair dreaming away.....
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Candlelight at Vaux le Vicomte, source site Chateau Vaux le Vicomte
  • A wink towards marketing: Vaux le Vicomte as I said is located in the middle of nowhere but not that far away from Paris. In order to attract visitors to come for a one day trip to the Chateau they needed an original marketing approach as to compete with Versailles and Fontainebleau. Since the Chateau is rather small they have put in advantage the gardens and the human size of the Chateau with its history. Their communication is centrered around these aspects and not some much around the "King" and the fact it being a chateau. They have a very well orgaised tour and are very friendly and warm. Everything is very properly organised, from communication and adds as to the maintainance of the Chateau and the Parc. The candlelight visit is also accentuating the human and warm side of the Chateau. It is more focused on romantic, whereas Versailles for exemple has big "fêtes" like the King used to have, very somptuous and luxury everywhere.
    Vaux le Vicomte choose for an approach of differentiation and create an advantage of the aspects that could have led him to the fall would it want to compete with the big ones. It has learned the lessons from Fouquets fall and doesn’t try to be the best and risk jealousy. It has it’s own advantages on which the big ones cannot compete.

Visit the website from le Chateau Vaux le Vicomte in English version or en version française

[24 September 2003]

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