Paris Day Trip :
le Chateau

    The Chateau seems rather plain when viewed from the front, but cross the threshold or go out back, and you will find something quite different - a kind of baroque celebration. The building is covered with ornate scripted "F" s and squirrels (Fouquet's symbol) and the family motto " Quo non ascendit" (What heughts might he not reach), the tower with three battlements has his second wife's crest engraved on it. Madame Fouquet's closet once had walls line with small mirrors, the decorative forerunner pf Versailles's Hall of mirrors. Over the fireplace of the Square Room hangs Le Brun's portrait of Fouquet. Le Brun's Romm of the Muses is one of his most famous decorative schemes. The artist had planned to crown the cavernous, Neo classical Oval Room (or Grand Salon) with a fresco entitled The Palace if the Sun, but Fouquyet's arrest halted all decorating activity, and only a single eagle and a patch of sky were completed. The tapestries once bore Fouquet's menacing squirrels, but Colbert seized them and replaced the rodents with his own adders. The ornate King's Bedchamber boasts an orgy of cherubs and lions fluttering around the centerpiece, Le Brun's Time bearing Truth Heavenward.


    At Vaux, Le Nôtre gave birth to the classical French garden  - shrubs were trimmed, lawns shaved, bushed sculpted, and pools strategically placed. Vaux's multilevel terraces, fountained walkways, and fantastical parterre the low-cut hedges and crushed stone in arabesque patterns are still the most exquisite example of 17th century French gardens.  The collaboration of Le Notre with Le Vau and Le Brun, ensured that the same patterns and motifs were repeated with astonishing harmony in the gardens, château, and tapestries inside. Vaux owes its most impressive trompe-l'oeil effect to Le Notre's whimsical and adroit use of the laws of perspective. From the back steps of the Chateau, it looks as if you can see the entire landscape at a glance. The grottoes at the far end of the garden appear directly  behind the large pool of water. Yet, as you approach the other end, the grottoes vaux le vicomteseem to recede, revealing a sunken canal known as La Poele, which is invisible from le Chateau. The Round Pool and its surrounding 17th-century statues mark an important intersection. To the left, down the east walkway, are the water gates, the backdrop for Moliere's performance of Les Facheux. The Water Mirror, farther down the central walkway, was designed to reflect the Chateau perfectly, but you may have some trouble positioning yourself to enjoy the effect. A climb to the Farnese Hercules provides the best vista of the grounds. The tremendous Hercules sculpture at the top was at the center of Fouquet's trial. In an age when kings enjoyed divine rights to their royalty, the beleaguered Fouquet had to justify why he had likened himself to Hercules, the only mortal to become a god. The old stables, les Equipages, also house a fantastic carriage museum. But by far the best way to see Vaux's gardens is during the visites aux chandelles, when the chateau and grounds are lit up by thousands of candles, and classical music plays through the gardens in imitation of Fouquet's legendary party, arrive around dusk to see the grounds in all their glory.

paris day trip

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