Chāteaux Near Paris: Escape the Crowds

If you’re planning to be in Paris for any length of time, you’ll likely end up looking for day trip options to explore the surrounding areas.

Most people head to Versailles. Understandably. Known for being the historical country home to French Royals, Versailles is loved for its over-the-top opulence: carefully manicured and sprawling gardens, lush interior decor with furniture swathed in rich fabrics or gilded in gold, and art that is both stunning and priceless.

It’s also heaving with people. 10 million visitors per year kind of heaving. Which makes it difficult for many to truly appreciate their visit.

So I thought I’d follow up on my last post, Paris: Escape the Crowds, and offer a few châteaux alternatives to Versailles. Châteaux that are equally as beautiful, rich in history, and much more manageable. I’m confident that you’ll fall in love with any of them, and won’t feel like you’ve sacrificed your time by visiting.

Châteaux de Chantilly

Approximately 50km north of Paris you’ll find the beautiful Château de Chantilly, once the country home of the Duke of Aumale (son to the last King of France, Louis-Philippe). The Château is surrounded by a staggering 115 hectares, dotted with pools, fountains and specialised gardens. There’s plenty to see and do here.

One of the showstoppers is the Conde Musee, an highly regarded museum home to mainly French and Italian works. Be sure to keep an eye open for Three Graces by Rafael.

For bibliophiles, you’ll love the Reading Room. The Duke of Aumale collected a staggering 60,000 volumes during his lifetime and, of those, almost 19,000 are on public display today.

A short distance away you’ll find the Great Stables and its Museum of the Horse, which presents the centuries long relationship between horses and humans. Live performances can be seen in the Equestrian Loop throughout the day.

On your way back to the train station in town, do yourself a favour and stop in at a bakery for a delicious pastry featuring what else .. Chantilly cream!

Vaux-le-Vicomte

This Baroque château is located about 55 km southeast of Paris, and is definitely worth a visit if only for the scandalous history alone!

Long story short.. Esteemed member of Paris Parliament builds this sprawling estate, hiring the best of the best craftsmen of the time. Jealous colleague convinces the King that the château was built with state funds. King believes the jealous colleague, throws the man into prison for embezzlement and seizes the estate. Jealous colleague is promoted to take over now-jailed man’s position in the government (which was his end goal all along), and the King hires the same dream team of craftsmen to build his own estate .. a little place you might have heard of called Versailles, ahem.

So in a roundabout way, a visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte is almost the same as going to Versailles. Or at least it’s an opportunity to see its inspiration.

But if that’s not enough to call you, perhaps it’s the opportunity to visit the largest private estate listed as an historic monument in France. Or climbing the stairs of the central dome and looking out across the formal french gardens that spread out for 3 km from the Chateau.

Inside, the Chateau is centred around the bright and airy Grand Salon. Each room you move through is decorated elaborately from floor to ceiling, so much so that it’s almost dizzying.

I recommend getting an audio guide when you arrive so you can feel like you’ve been transported back centuries while listening to the characters who give some life to this magnificent Chateau.

Fontainebleau

55 km southeast of Paris is where you’ll find Château de Fontainebleau, one of the largest French Royal Château and home to many Kings throughout its history.

It’s often thought of as the hunting lodge of the Royals, with the surrounding forest once being full of game. It’s also known as the location where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled from.

Outside the Château is a large carp pond, which was used by the Royal Court for boating parties. Even today, you can rent a small boat to float along while pretending to be one of the elite.

If you prefer being on terra firma, there are lots of places to wander around the estate.

Plan ahead and bring a packed lunch to enjoy before heading inside.

If you’re hell bent on visiting Versailles, do yourself a favour and book a morning behind-the-scenes tour directly. Your small tour will give you the opportunity to learn from an expert and explore areas of the palace not seen by the public. It’s a great introduction to your day before you join the masses who, in many cases, won’t have the same knowledge of what they’re surrounded by that you will. And then prepare yourself to join a sea of people.

Of course, there are many more châteaux near to Paris that are worth visiting. If you’ve been to any not listed above, share your recommendations in the comment section below. I’m always looking for more to visit.

La Dame de Fer

Ahh, the Iron Lady.

No, I’m not talking about Margaret Thatcher. What was initially built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair), held to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution, the Eiffel Tower was only intended to stand for 20 years before being dismantled.

Thankfully its use as a wireless telegraph transmitter meant it was allowed to stay, and the Eiffel Tower is now one of the world’s most iconic symbols.

Did you know that the elevators travel a combined distance of 103,000 km a year? That’s two and a half times the circumference of the Earth.

A con artist has reportedly “sold” the Eiffel Tower as scrap metal – not once, but twice!

During WWII, Hitler instructed that the Eiffel Tower be demolished. His people rightfully refused. Speaking of war times, the Eiffel Tower played a part in the Allied victory at the First Battle of the Marne, in 1914. One of its transmitters jammed German radio communications, hindering their advance. She’s not just a pretty face.

The Eiffel Tower is repainted every 7 years, and 60 tonnes of paint is required to do the job.

The Eiffel Tower sways in the wind, moving upwards of 6-7cm.

Because of thermal expansion, the Eiffel Tower is 15cm taller in Summer than she is in Winter.

In 2008 a woman with an objects fetish married the Eiffel Tower, changing her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel in honour of her ‘partner’. Her Wikipedia page even lists the Eiffel Tower as her spouse.

There are 20,000 lightbulbs used on the Eiffel Tower to make it sparkle every night.

Bonne journée!

Marla

How I Celebrated My Birthday – Parisian Pandemic Style

I’ll say right off the top that I’d much rather be in Paris right now. But because of the global pandemic and the resulting travel bans, one must do what they can. In my case this meant that I planned my day with special nods to my most favourite city and previous visits.

After my shower I decided to do a mask, using a product that I always purchase from my favourite pharmacy in Paris.

Now time to get dressed.

Stripes ✅

Beret ✅

I’m not a mime, I swear!

Next was breakfast. Le petit déjeuner, like so many that I’ve started my day with in Paris.

You’ll note that every photo from here on relates to food. If you can’t shove your face with food without guilt on your birthday, when can you?

I decided to watch a movie, and chose Julie & Julia. I’d seen it before but planned to make Julia Child’s Quiche Lorraine for dinner. It seemed like a good fit.

You’ll note the blurry cashews in the bottom right corner. I chose them because I remember years ago sitting on a terrace, drinking a beer and being served a small bowl cashews.

Side note: I also remember being on the open top of one of those hop-on, hop-off buses during that same trip. Some asshole on the pavement threw an handful of cashews at us when we passed (while aggressively shouting in French), and I got pelted on the side of the face with several. I’d say that he got out of the wrong side of the bed that morning but I can’t imagine there being a wrong side if you’re fortunate enough to wake up in Paris every morning..

After the movie I headed for the kitchen to prepare a few things.

Simple syrup. Because I had a cocktail I planned to drink.

And lots and lots of freshly squeezed lemon juice – for the cocktail, but also for a tarragon lemon vinaigrette for the salad we’d be eating with dinner.

I was feeling rather peckish. Time to have a baguette slathered in Boursin.

I eat this in my hotel room regularly in Paris. Sometimes after a long day I don’t feel like heading out for a proper meal. Other times I’m so jetlagged that after a long nap, I find myself wide awake in the middle of the night with nothing open. This quick snack has become a welcome tradition and regular standby.

Of course I needed something to wash it down. I planned ahead and sipped on a lemony cocktail with gin and bubbles. The French 75.

Served in one of James’ grandmother’s crystal flutes, of course.

I took a nap next. Which I don’t normally do but since I was in Paris-mode, it was like I was really there and needed a mid-afternoon nap.

When I woke up I sat on my balcony with a cup of my favourite tea..

..in one of my favourite tea cups. With a palmier on the side, of course.

Once James arrived home from work, we had chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing (breaking theme, but whatever..).

Eventually it was time to make dinner. But we procrastinated, and dinner ended up being quite late. It was worth the wait though.

I had hoped to watch my all-time favourite movie, Amelie, after dinner but it was late so we decided to watch it another time.

So there you have it. My perfect Parisian Pandemic themed birthday to celebrate another trip around the sun.

Bonne journée!

Marla

Thursday Doors – Paris

Fun fact: today is my birthday!

To celebrate, I’ve taken the day off from working from home and will pretend that I’m in Paris.

A Parisian Pandemic Birthday!

So it’s only fitting that this week’s door be in Paris. I considered going with a gorgeous and ornate door, but I chose this one instead. Because there is beauty to be found all around us, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. We just need to take the time to look for it.

I hope you are well, staying safe and enjoying the beauty around you.

Bonne journée!

Marla


Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments section over at Norm’s blog, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).

Paris Street Art – Rue de Louvre

During my most recent trip to Paris, I decided that I’d finally check out illustrious E. Dehillerin. For those unaware, E. Dehillerin sell cooking supplies. It’s got 2 floors jam packed with kitchen items that you’ll likely never have a need to use them at home. For someone who loves to hoard kitchen toys (guilty as charged!), it’s heaven on Earth. I’m working on a post to sum up my visit .. hopefully it will be ready later this week. Continue reading “Paris Street Art – Rue de Louvre”

Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Grand Salon

Today we’ll wrap up our visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte with a quick stop in the Grand Salon. This large room is the château’s central point, from which the rest of the elaborately decorated rooms spread out from.

The domed ceiling rises 18 metres above the ground and sprawling surface area of 400 square metres. I think I remember seeing somewhere that a major restoration is set for next year.

Of course I had to take a photo of the flooring with its centre mosaic design.

Once through the doors that lead outside, I took a few more photos before heading for the shuttle bus.

One last spin..

Bonne journée!

Marla

Vaux-le-Vicomte, A Bedroom Fit for a King

If you recall my first post in this series featuring Vaux-le-Vicomte, you might remember my mentioning that Nicolas Fouquet was Superintendent of Finances under King Louis XIV. So when Fouquet had Vaux-le-Vicomte built, he made sure to include a beautiful bedroom for the young King to enjoy during his visits to the château.

Unfortunately for Fouquet, King Louis XIV was led to believe that the he had built the château using embezzled funds. Fouquet was thrown in jail and the property abandoned, meaning that all of his careful consideration put into this gorgeous bedroom went to waste.

Bonne journée!

Marla

Thursday Doors – Maincy

This week we’re in Maincy, at Vaux-le-Vicomte, again. I love this door and its surround. It feels to me that great things are on the other side. Like a magical world full pastries, strong tea, soft music and lots and lots of fluffy kittens.

Bonne journée!

Marla


Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments section over at Norm’s blog, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).

Vaux-le-Vicomte, The Room with All the Gold

I’ve completely lost track of what each room is at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Normally I can find the information in brochures I’ve held onto and bulk it up with help from online. Unfortunately I can’t find any papers in my stash and details for Vaux-le-Vicomte online are limited.

Continue reading “Vaux-le-Vicomte, The Room with All the Gold”

Vaux-le-Vicomte, The Dining Room

The fanciest of dining rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating in have been at nice restaurants or hotels. At the time, I marveled at the decor of each location. But none of them could compare to sitting down for dinner in the dining room at Vaux-le-Vicomte.

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Just imagine being a guest here. Where would your eyes land? There’s so much to take on and you’d know that you were in for a treat.

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The large mirrors play a trick on your eyes, making the room feel much larger than it really is.

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James just looked over my shoulder as I’m proofing this post, and asked why I don’t decorate our place like this. That sounds like an absolute dream but I wouldn’t even know where to start.

Bonne journée!

Marla

Vaux-le-Vicomte, Looking Up

I took a lot of photos during my visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte. Of course I did. So many, in fact, that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with where to start. I have decided that looking up is as good of a place as any, and am sharing an assortment of ceiling photos.

If I’ve learned anything from the amount of times I’ve walked away with a kink in my neck, it’s that these fancy French chateaux rarely have a surface untouched.

Bonne journée!

Marla