You all know that I have a soft spot for anything French. I can wander for hours at Marche aux Puces in Paris imagining the lives that once were and stories that happened. Needless to say that on any possible occasion I had while living in Paris, I’ve escaped to the countrysides peppered with magnificent chateaux. From the enchanting Chateau de Fontainebleau to grand Chateau de Chambord, elegant Château de Chenonceau to almost fairy-tale Azay le Rideau or Château de Chantilly, Valencay, Villandry, Compiegne… You name it! Quite intentionally i did leave one behind. A very special one for for a special occasion.
Honoring the gleaming past of hosting the most illustrious festivities of its time, Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte required more than a leisurely touristic stroll. But as it usually occurs, life happened and my summer in France was over before I knew it leaving me with one regret – never making it to that special place. Thats’ why when Rizolli reached out to me to review a fresh-off-the-press book “A day at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte”, I jumped to the occasion hoping it would fill the void at least in the meantime. So one afternoon I took the book to one of my favorite spots here in LA, The Graystone Mansion (the closest I can get to a French Chateau around here), to spend a relaxing afternoon and indulge my Francophile heart.
We’ve all heard the story of the jealous king, Louis XIV, seizing the chateau form his Superintendent of Finance, Nicolas Fouquet, less then a month after his fist visit there and throwing the poor guy (or not so poor, actually) into the jail. But there are more stories to this place than that. I won’t give any details, but just say it had a chance to be anything from a hospital to almost a complete ruin as well as the scene of a murder and a suicide. Being one of a few still privately-owned chateaux in France, the Vaux (as it’s being affectionately called by the family) continues to have a life much fuller than that of a museum.
“A day at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte” is written by three bothers, Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé, whose family has inhibited and managed the chateau since the late nineteenth century. A very easy and entertaining read takes you on a tour though decades of chateau’s history sharing some insights for those who admire the work of the legendary French trio: Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun and Andre Le Notre.
Very intimate and atmospheric photography of Bruno Ehrs managed to capture that romantic dust you feel when you visit a place with centuries worth of history. It not only gives a change to marvel at the elaborate decorative details but transports you, even for a moment, to the captivating world of past grandeur and splendor. I honestly can’t stop flipping through the pages as every time some new details stops my eyes. Needless to say, it takes a proud spot among my coffee table books now.
One can only imagine what it feels like to grow up or live in a chateau but for the de Voges family it is a reality. Though managing a domain of this scale and historic significance is not an easy job to say the least, they are doing their best to make it a fun one. Hosting a variety of exhibitions and festivals every year they also let you in on the magic with stunning candlelit evenings throughout the summer time when you can have a dinner at the chateau grounds lit with thousands of candles followed by a fireworks show. Now THAT is on my traveling list for the nearest future!