Monday 7th October
Today was our last day and we were lucky that it wasn’t raining for our early morning walk down to pick up our bus tour. Our full day tour was out to visit two Chateaux; Vaux le Vicomte and Fointainebleau.
It was about a 1.5 hour drive out to the first Chateaux, Vaux le Vicomte. This was built in the period 1655-1661 and was the home of Nicholas Fouquet, the treasurer for King Louis XIV. He was from a privileged family and one of 15 children and bought this place so as to be close to the Royal family at nearby Fontainebleau.
This was a beautiful Chateaux and on a smaller scale than Versailles but it was apparently the inspiration for Versailles which was just a humble hunting lodge at this time.
The story of Nicholas Fouquet is a tragic one though. He was an intelligent and well educated man having studied Law, and, with his fortune and good looks, seemed to have raise the specter of envy in some of those around him. Apparently, Louis XIV was so offended by the beauty and opulence on display in the furnishings and fittings of the Chateaux, he thought Nicholas Fouquet was trying to upstage him, that he got up in the middle of the night, after a long banquet dinner, and rode in his carriage for three hours back to Fontainebleau.
He went on to be accused of corruption and was subsequently arrested by King Louis XIV’s henchmen, d’Artagnan and his Three Musketeers. Yes, I always thought they were just fiction too but apparently the Three Musketeers story is based on true characters! Nicholas Fouquet was tried in 1661 and convicted but given a relatively light sentence; it seems his peers in the judiciary did not fully believe the confected events for his arrest! His sentence, for his so called ‘crime’ was 4 years banishment however King Louis XIV overruled this and had him jailed for life. It is said that the Man in the Iron Mask could have been Nicholas Fouquet and not a Louis XIV twin!
More recently, the Chateaux is still privately owned and was the owners home until the 1980s. The main building is now a museum but the family live in some of the rather elaborate ‘out’ buildings. The maintenance of the Chateaux costs around 8 million euro per year and hence the need to release the main building for tourism but it was lovely still being able to see evidence of this being a family home with many with photos spread throughout the Chateaux.
An interesting point made on the tour: Louis XIV was 77 when he died and the Rococo period flourish after that, with Louis XV and this was in response to release from strict religious regime.
The photos below are from inside and around the gardens of Chateaux Vaux le Vicomte. Most of the interiors are replacements as the Chateaux contents were sold off by King Louis XIV after the trial of Nicholas Fouquet. There were a few original items left though; those that were too heavy to carry as noted in the photo captions.
It was a 30 minute drive to the our next destination, Chateaux Fontainebleau. This had originally been a house for the various Kings and Emperors to hunt due to the good and expansive 50,000 hectares grounds around the Chateaux; from Louis V11 to Naplean III. This was a larger Chateaux than the one from the morning having 1600 rooms but not all of them are open to visitors due to cost constraints. It was built in 1137 and is state owned. There is rich history here and it was luxuriously finished but I still preferred Chateaux Vaux le Vicomte; most likely due to the sad story of the original owner, Nicholas Fouquet, but also that it was clearly a family home until recently.
There was a lot of traffic for the home trip but we made it to the Louvre by 6.25 pm and this allowed Mark and I enough time to almost run the 25 min route to Saint Germain Ecco shop. I had been trying to locate my size in a particular pair of shoes in our the last two cities but without success. We made it to the shop with 10 minutes to spare and located by new shoes! Yeah! We stayed in the St Germain area for dinner and dined at Huguette
We have enjoyed out time in Paris and at the Marais but the visit back to St Germain made us realise that this area remains our preferred area. So, if we return to Paris, I will be searching accommodation in the Latin Quarter!