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St Siméon: the less-visited châteaux of Île de France

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 15 June 2018
Related property: Le Mont De St Simeon
St Siméon: the less-visited châteaux of Île de France

Paris, Disneyland, history, battlefields – the Île de France region is full of attractions to tempt the St Siméon holidaymaker.

Not least, châteaux; yes, France is stiff with magnificent castles and country houses, but the Île de France feels stiffer than most.

But for all your Fontainebleaus (76kms close), your Vaux le Vicomtes (61kms), or the daddy of them all, the huge Château de Versailles (100kms distant, to the south-west of the capital), there are other noble piles which, despite being no further away or harder to get to, tend to be overlooked. Indeed, there are four that you could ‘do’ in a day, all to the west of St Siméon. You wouldn’t – but let’s just pretend...

A one-hour, 69km drive west takes you to the Château de Vincennes (above), to the east of Paris. Heavy on defence, light on ornamentation, the fortress guarded the capital while simultaneously protecting the French kings against uprisings from the peasantry. It was the seat of the French monarchy until 1682, when Louis XIV moved to Versailles. The keep was used as a jail from the 16th until the 19th Century: Fouquet (of Vaux le Vicomte fame), the Marquis de Sade and Mirabeau were all incarcerated there at different times. Napoleon converted Vincennes into an arsenal and barracks, and the fortress protected Paris during invasions in the 19th Century. For further information click here.

The Château de Malmaison

Thirty-one kilometres west and 40 minutes from Vincennes around Paris’s northern Périphérique ring-road (or 100kms and two hours from St Siméon), the Château de Malmaison was the private residence of Napoleon and Joséphine (the latter owned it) from 1799 to 1814 – a ‘place in the country’ just half an hour from Paris. Napoleon and Joséphine were divorced in 1809, but the former Mme Bonaparte continued to live there until her death five years later, overseeing the development of the beautiful gardens and introducing hundreds of rare plant species. For more information on opening times click here.

The Château de Sceaux

A further 30-minute, 26km drive south (85kms and 1½ hours from St Siméon) takes you to the Château de Sceaux. The house is ‘mentioned in despatches’ as it were as far back s the 1400s, but didn’t really earn its place in the sun until 1670 when Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s controller-general of finances, bought the château and the surrounding estate and turned it into a place of real prestige. He had the house restored and enlarged, ordered the Pavillon de l’Aurore to be built and a garden laid out. The latter task was entrusted to André Le Nôtre, creator of the gardens at both Vaux le Vicomte and Versailles. Further information on opening times and exhibitions can be found by clicking here.

The Château de Courances

After which head further south; a 36-minute, 47km drive (85kms and 1½ hours from St Siméon) will see you at the Château de Courances. Built between 1622 and 1630 but allowed to fall into disrepair, the château was fully restored in 1872. Important features were added, including the famous horseshoe staircase copied from Fontainebleau, and the red bricks on all the facades. Today, the privately-owned château is home to four generations of the Ganay family, the current owners. Mor information on Courances opening times and prices is available by clicking here.

To reiterate: to attempt to visit all of these beauties in one day would be pushing it. But to tick off a couple on one day and a couple on the next? Eminently doable.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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