Ever since we arrived in mid-May, Hervé Rufin has been trying to organize a Saturday night visit to the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte for the candle-light visit. Finally, last Saturday the stars aligned and we made it.
Vaux-le-Compte has quite a history. Before 1657 it was a small chateau and garden, owned by Nicholas Fouquet who was a member of the Parlement de Paris and an enthusastic patron and supporter of the arts. In 1657 King Louis XIV made Fouquet his Minister of Finance which, for some odd reason, immensely increased Fouquet’s wealth. He then bought three towns around the old chateau, hired the best architect (Louis le Vau) and the best landscape architect (Le Notre), the best decorator (Charles le Brun) and twenty thousand laborers. Five years later the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte was complete – appearing much as it does today.
(Full disclosure: because we were there at night and I didn’t want to drag a tripod around, I took zero pictures; these are taken from the Web).
The night was warm and beautiful, and after a fabulous fireworks display, we decided to wait out the crowds leaving the parking lot by having a glass of champagne. So our last memory of the evening is sitting in lounge chairs at 11:30 at night, in the warm air, sipping our champagne as we looked at the candle-lit chateau. Now, is that the way to spend an evening or what?
Thanks – many, many thanks – to Hervé for getting us organized for this night. It will certainly be the most memorable evening of our stay here this year, and will draw us back again on future trips.
Oh, one last bit of history about the chateau. In 1651, not long after the chateau and gardens were completed, Fouquet held an enormous fete to show it off. It succeeded too well: Louis XIV was invited, became convinced that the money to build it had come from royal funds diverted by Fouquet in his role as Finance Minister to the chateau, and had Fouquet arrested. He then swiped the artists – le Vau, Le Notre and Le Brun – and took them to Versailles, where they created a chateau even grander than Vaux-le-Comte.
Today Versailles is wall-to-wall tourists all the time; Laurie and I have never visited it. Vaux-le-Compte may be a “mini-Versailles,” but its beauty is just overwhelming and much easier to visit andview; we’ll be back.