Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French castle located in Maincy, near Melun. Inside you’ll discover silk tapestries draping the walls, hand-made furniture, decadent ceilings, marble statues and paintings by renowned artists. The castle has become a Palace for the Arts and an icon of 17th-century French architecture, design, and gardening; all with a scandalous history…


A little history:

The charming Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte was built by Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle Île and Viscount of Melun and Vaux. Later Fouquet would become the general prosecutor of the Parlement of Paris and superintendent of the finances.

The small, original estate was bought by Fouquet in 1641. The ambitious 26-year-old member of the Parlement of Paris had a cultivated personality and a love for the arts. After becoming the superintendent of finances under King Louis XIV, Fouquet began the construction of Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte in 1656.

Fouquet spared no expense during the construction of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. He desired the estate to be an elaborate tribute to the arts. Fouquet enlisted the help of the greatest artists of the 17th century: architect Louis Le Vau, head gardener André Le Notre and painter-decorator Charles Le Brun. The team worked harmoniously to create a beautiful, luxurious atmosphere.


On August 17, 1661, Nicolas Fouquet hosted an extravagant soirée in honor of the Sun King, Louis XIV at his new estate, Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. The famous inauguration of the château was organized by François Vatel and included the debut of Molière’s play “Les Fâcheux,” a grand dinner, and dazzling fireworks show.

But the party and the château were too luxurious. Though Fouquet had intended to flatter the king, Jean-Baptiste Colbert believed Fouquet’s exuberant château was built using misappropriated public funds. Therefore, Fouquet used royal funds to build his château, then presented it with flamboyance to the King he was stealing from. Trying to outshine the Sun King did not go over well with His Majesty.


Only three weeks after the party, on Sept. 5, 1661, Fouquet was arrested by d’Artagnan and Colbert organized his trial. The owner was charged with embezzlement from the monarchy’s funds to pay for the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. In 1664, Louis XIV overruled the judgment of the court and condemned Nicolas Fouquet to life imprisonment. Fouquet died in 1680, in the fortress of Pignerol.

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte was seized by the King and Fouquet’s family exiled. The King confiscated tapestries, statues and the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He also used the same trio (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) for his own project- the palace and gardens of Versailles.  A decade later, Madame Fouquet and her eldest son were able to recover their property.


The estate went to auction in 1875, after 30 years of abandonment, where Alfred Sommier successfully bid on the neglected château and gardens de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Sommier, a great French sugar magnate, took the effort to renovate and preserve the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Patrice de Vogüé opened the estate to the public in 1968 with the support of his wife, Christina de Vogüé. In 2015, the descendants of Alfred Sommier, brothers Ascanio, Jean-Charles and Alexandre de Vogüé become the fifth and current generation of de Vogüés to manage the estate.

FUN FACT: Château Vaux-le-Vicomte was used as a hospital during World War I

During the first World War, the French Health Service realized that their institutions wouldn’t be sufficient and called for private hospitals. Her husband having been drafted, Mrs. Sommier also responded to the call of duty. Using outbuilding of the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, she established a well-equipped auxiliary hospital and medical team-creating the Auxiliary Hospital No. 23. The first casualties were admitted on October 7, 1914. The hospital treated a total of 1,123 casualties.

Visiting the castle:

This stunning estate is the creation of three debutant legends. France’s “Grand Siecle” (17th century), could not have culminated more exquisitely than what became the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Louis Le Vau, the King’s “Principal Architect,” had already achieved acclaimed fame for his works. Le Vau drew inspiration from the ancient classics and with an Italianate theme, he developed his own style. His first grand piece, Vaux-le-Vicomte, laid the foundations for the next 150 years in French architecture.

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Vaux-le-Vicomte marks a new era in garden art and redefined the French garden. André Le Nôtre, the project’s landscape architect, created the first large-scale scientific and artistic achievement for his time. The science can be seen in the use of geometric lines and tricks of perspective. The notability of the garden was realized during the lavish party on August 17, 1661. The beautiful, intriguing gardens were made to be an optical illusion. When you stroll through the garden, you discover it in stages. From the château you think you’ve seen it all, but, it is much bigger than it appears and has different levels and surprises sneakily built in. Le Nôtre became known as the landscaper of the “Grand Siècle,” and everyone who was anyone wanted him to landscape their garden. Le Nôtre is responsible for some of the greatest classical gardens in France today including Tuileries, Saint-Cloud, Chantilly and Saint-Germain-en-La

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During your visit, you can pay an additional three euros to visit the dome, the highest point of the château which offers 360-degree views of the estate. I recommend you save your three bucks and just walk up to the Hercules statue. Located at the furthermost end of the garden, the Hercules statue is on an elevated hill which has a great view of the garden.

The Iron Masked Prisoner:

The story of the masked prisoner starts at the Pignerol fortress. In 1669, a new prisoner arrived with an iron masked, locked and could not be removed. This iron mask concealed his identity from the first day of his arrest until the day he died.


In complete secrecy, Nicolas Fouquet communicated only with the Governor of the fortress, Monsieur de Saint Mars, and with a valet whom the Governor attributed to the prisoner. The man in the iron mask stayed imprisoned for 34 years under the name Eustache DAUGER. His prisons successively: Pignerol, Exiles, L’ile Ste-Marguerite, and La Bastille.

Never was there another prisoner who was the subject of so much ministerial correspondence and royal instructions for Monsieur de Saint Mars, who was successively governor of the prisons of Pignerol, Exiles, Ste Marguerite, and La Bastille. The Iron Masked Prisoner’s budget was one of the most important devoted to a prisoner under the old regime. The ministerial instructions specified that the prisoner: Be treated well, does not communicate with anyone, and be killed if his face was seen.

During the old regime, certain nobles condemned to short-term sentences in prisons with frequent visitors had to wear a mask of dark tissue to preserve avoid being recognized and protect their reputation. Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, though questioned by many, refused to disclose the identity of the Iron Masked Prisoner. Louis XVIII stated, “Je sais le mot de cette énigme: c’est l’honneur de notre aïeul Louis XIV que nous avons à garder.”

“I know the word of this enigma: it is the honor of our ancestor Louis XIV that we have to keep.”

In 1703, the prisoner died at La Bastille, with the iron mask on and his identity never revealed. Niether Voltaire, Michelet, Topin, Mercel Pagnol, Mongrédien, nor any other french historian has ever uncovered the identity of the Iron Masked Prisoner.

How to get there: 

Traveling in France? If you are staying in or near Paris, Château Vaux-le-Vicomte is a perfect day trip from Paris. An inspiration for all other french castles to follow, your France vacation isn’t complete without a trip to this castle that inspired Versailles.

The Vaux-le-Vicomte website recommends that from Paris Gare de l’Est, you take the train Line P direction Provins until Verneuil l’Etang train station. From there, there is a Châteaubus shuttle which travels between this station and Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. The shuttle is located in front of the train station exit. Caution: cash only and trains/shuttles may only be every hour.

rer-svgAn alternative is the way we went. Living in Paris, we all have the Navigo Pass which can be used on the métro, buses, and trams in the city. It can also be used on trains known as RER in the entire Île-de-France. So, we took the RER D from Gare de Lyon to Meluns train station. From there we took an Über to the château. For us, it was much cheaper, quicker, and more reliant as far as departure times were concerned.




No keurig in my office!

I took a freelance writing position with a developing website and thus, have been spending more time in an office setting. The office, in a suburb of Paris, has a single-cup Nespresso machine. The Nespresso machine is the European version of the American phenomenon-the Keurig.

Before these fantastic one cup machines, people used to take coffee breaks together and share a pot of coffee. I can only imagine it: office-workers in their pencil skirts and blouses or slacks and ties, gossiping together in the kitchenette about their weekend, kids, and latest office drama.

I didn’t start drinking coffee in college, but I sure upped my daily dosage. A fond college memory are the late nights we stayed up staying together in the dorm rooms, all sharing a pot of coffee. “Any body want some coffee?” Dreary eyes respond, “Please!” “Okay, I’ll go put on another pot.”

Where did this camaraderie, this fraternity among coffee lovers go? It was destroyed, along with eco-friendliness, by the convenience of the Keurig and Nespresso machine.

The bottom line is, you can’t share a Keurig or Nespresso cup of coffee. Coffee drinking used to be a communal activity. Now, at a real adult office, we are confined behind cubicles, making singles cup coffees for ourselves rather than asking our neighbor, “Hey want some coffee? Okay, I’ll go put a pot on.” It feels as though we are trapped in solitude, staring at a computer screen. No coffee breaks takes one of the only means of socializing away from an office job.

Being new and nervous in a foreign office, it was a dramatic and discouraging realization. I had to become independent from beloved coffee for social interactions, so, I stayed aware for other socializing situations. Although I miss the social coffee breaks, I started taking advantage of lunch breaks, Wi-Fi failures, and opportunities to ask coworkers about the website.

Understanding that I couldn’t always drink my 20 cup coffee pot alone (or so they say…), I gave into the one cup craze. Personally, I don’t like one cup coffee makers that use plastic pods like the Keurig k cups or Nespresso pods. I feel as though some of the plastic is bound to be melted into your cup of joe, that is, before you chunk it in the trash—condemning it to the landfill. Black Friday before last, I bought a cheap Black and Decker one cup coffer maker with a reusable filter. This $20 machine saved me money and gave me the convenience of a single cup coffee maker. Besides the machine being a great deal, the reusable filter eliminates the constant waste of the Keurig k cups or Nespresso pods. Also, I can choose my own brand of coffee and make the cup of joe as strong as I’d like. A more eco-friendly, flavorful cup of southern coffee, don’t mind if I do indulge in a single cup!


Printemps Solidaire

Sunday April 16th, Printemps Soldaire rolled through Paris; from the Arc de Trimphe, Grand Palais, around Place de la Concord, to the Louvre. This unique concert consisted of nine open stages on nine eighteen-wheelers.


Printemps Solidaire was a free concert, part of the 2017 Solidaire movement. The stages on floats concept was original, well organized and executed.

Plus de 500 000 personnes ont répondu à l’appel à la mobilisation pour la manif-concert de Printemps Solidaire.

I enimagesjoyed the atmosphere and the ambience, young and old gatheirng to see a variety of artists. The interesting idea of this parade concert was that you could either follow a stage float or stay in one place and enjoy each of the nine stages as they pass by.

Each float stage premiered three artists, set changes happening quickly and smoothly at the Grand Palais and Place de la Concord. To make this transition smooth and to keep followers centralized, each float was devoted to a specific genre. For example, Float 5 hosted three djs and kept only the dj mixer and equipment set up. Therefore making the set change quick and easy rather than switching to a full band set.


DJ at the Place de la Concorde and the “Big Wheel”

In addition to the smooth transitions between artists, the parade also flowed smoothly through Paris-a difficult task any day. During the concert, one was able to take a walking tour through the city and see main attractions such as the Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Concord, Tulieries and the Louvre, all while listening to great music.


The difficulty of the parade-styled concert was keeping up with the float and staying with your friends through the crowded streets. It was not a problem on the wide Champs-Elysée, but became a task as we rounded the Place de la Concord onto the more narrow Quais François Mittrrand.


Although it was an incredible experience and I was able to discover new artists, it was tiring trying to keep up with the float after a few hours. It was fun dancing along as the float moved, but only when there was enough space. When it was crowded, it was taxing.


The Arc de Triomphe and the stage floates

This concert was labeled as one of a series of “Manif-concerts,” abbreviation for manifestations-concerts (demonstration concerts). It was a social statement emphasizing the importance of staying unified a and aware of political actions. It was a way for the french youth to gather in awareness against social inequalities of our world. ” La jeunesse d’aujourd’hui est ouverte sur le monde et soucieuse de lutter contre les inégalités. Elle est profondément attachée au principe d’une « solidarité sans frontières » et juge nécessaire l’aide de la France aux pays les plus pauvres,” according to the Printemps Solidaire website.


The number 0.7 was displayed on the float banners. The figure was calculated by Nobel Prize-winner Jan Tinbergen and it represents the amount economically advanced countries should give for others to achieve sustainable development. In 1970, the United National General Assembly adopt this resolution of Official Development Assistance. According to the Printemps Solidaire website, France has not kept this promise and a goal of the Solidaire movement is to keep the french citizens aware.


Find more information about this movement and upcoming events at


Prepare thyself: Where to find the best travel resources in Paris

As I began to plan for my trip to Switzerland, though there are enormous amounts of information on the web, I wanted an old-fashion guide book or map.

In Paris, anyone with a passport can get a library card for FREE. This card allows them to check-out books, cds, and dvds  from any of the public libraries in the city (57 to be exact!). Click here to find more information about the City of Paris librares.

The bibliothèque Germain Tillion, located not far from Trocadero in the 16th arrondismont, offers a wide variety of travel resources for destinations around the world. They have travel books and maps. Though most are in French, I did find a few books in English.

This specific library is known for for its travel resources. It is the focal point in Paris, as far as public libraries are concerned, for travel resources. I was amazed by the amount of travel books and maps they had in their section dedicated to voyages. I took books about europe in general, specific countries or cities, and Paris! They had a vaste collection of torism books and plans dedicated to Paris.

So whether you are planning your visit to Paris or you want to travel from Paris, browse among a variety of travel resources at the Germain Tillion public library.

For more information check out the Paris City Library site here or send an email to