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Le Mont de St Siméon

Île de France, France

Quick guide to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Posted by Luci Ackers on Jul 06, 2017
Quick guide to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Famously the prototype for Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte is an exquisite château in the Seine-et-Marne département. At less than an hour from Le Mont de St. Siméon (and roughly the same distance again from Paris), it is a favourite excursion with the guests staying here.

During the summer season, coaches depart St. Siméon every Saturday for a beautiful day out at Vaux-le-Vicomte. The château is surrounded by French countryside and located just outside the town of Melun. As you approach, the parking is off the D215 and is free of charge. You’ll have a breathtaking view across the road and up the lawns to the château.

A little bit of history

In 1641 Nicolas Fouquet bought a small château and, with a bit of vision, transformed it into the incredible residence you see today.

Fouquet portrait courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

He called upon the architect Louis Le Vau, who was already highly esteemed for previous works and was chief architect for the King, Louis XIV. Le Vau drew a lot of inspiration from the Italianate style and from classical antiquity, forming a unique style of his own and, in time, became one of the greatest ambassadors for this type of architecture in France. He paved the way forward for French architecture over the next 150 years. The king was so impressed with the château that he wanted one for himself, and so Versailles was designed with Le Vau using Vaux-le-Vicomte as a prototype.

Unfortunately for Fouquet, Vaux-le-Vicomte was so impressive that it sparked a jealousy in the king and in 1661 Louis XIV had Fouquet arrested. He was imprisoned for life. It passed through a number of hands until it was bought in 1875 by Alfred Sommier. A restoration project was put in motion and today Sommier’s descendants continue to care for the château.

Why is Vaux-le-Vicomte so impressive?

Gardens

The grounds of Vaux-le-Vicomte span more than 1,200 acres and the landscape architect André le Nôtre worked to create a tone in keeping with Le Vau’s lavish building. The formal gardens were carved from the surrounding woodland and interspersed with picturesque water features, fountains and charming vistas to create a masterpiece in the typical jardin à la française style. What’s so impressive about these particular formal gardens is that Le Nôtre laid them as an optical illusion.

Ultimately the aim was for the gardens to appear shorter and closer as you were descending the stairs at the rear of the château but, as you start to explore them, you realise how long and large they actually are, discovering hidden areas as you go. From the steps at the back of the house you can’t, for example, see the canals at all, and the view appears to be one consistent level, rather than set over multiple levels with hidden drops, which is actually the case.

This same view from just a slightly higher angle already seems much longer. See how the pools emerge with the changing perspective.

Château

The house is wonderfully symmetrical both inside and out and sits on a north/south axis. The two centre rooms, the entrance vestibule to the north and the salon to the south, were originally open air and the set of arches at either entry, and across the centre, are aligned in a way that meant visitors could see right from the front, through the house and out to the gardens to the south, before they’d even set foot inside.

The fact the house has a double row of rooms running east to west, rather than just a single row, was unusual for the time and Vaux-le-Vicomte was in fact the first château to do it. The west wing housed the rooms Fouquet, while those in the eastern wing were intended for the king.

Image courtesy of Anna16 via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting the Estate

A tour of the interior takes place over three levels. The château seems as though its 17th century occupants have just stepped out and you can explore the various areas that would once have been in daily use. You’ll get to see a selection of Fouquet’s lavish private rooms up on the first floor, working your way down through the house to the ceremonial salons of the ground floor and continuing on to the staff rooms and kitchen down in the basement. As an optional extra you can visit the château’s dome where you’ll get a fantastic 360º of the whole grounds and gardens.

It’s recommended that you allow yourself at least an hour and a half to do the estate

A ticket for the whole thing, plus entrance to the exhibition in the Carriage Museum, which is at the end of the tour will cost an adult €15.50 for a day visit and €19.50 for a special candlelight visit.

If you’d rather stay outside, you can buy a garden-only ticket for €9.50. Children under the age of 6 are free to all areas of the house and grounds.

The excursions depart St. Siméon on Saturdays and if you’d like to find out how to stay here yourself simply pop your details in at the bottom of the page to receive a free brochure.

FIND OUT HOW YOU TOO CAN STAY HERE
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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.


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