You have already been to Paris and you have visited the museums and touristic spots: Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Invalides, Notre-Dame cathedral, the Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Montmartre, etc. If you have already been to Versailles, you are certainly interested in discovering other cultural sites in the Paris surroundings. Corinne A. Preteur has designed a series of cultural itineraries which pay tribute to the history of France and to the French lifestyle. She personally guides the tours. Pierrefonds, Ecouen, Chantilly, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Malmaison, Vaux le Vicomte, Vaux de Cernay, Fontainebleau… are on the list!
A visit to Fontainebleau opens up an unparalleled view of French history, art history and architecture. It's the only one royal residence to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries, from 1137 – the year of the coronation of Louis VII – to the fall of the Second Empire in 1870.
The most spectacular transformation underwent in the Renaissance by King Francis I. With the arrival of the Italian artists, the First Fontainebleau School was founded. Part of this splendid work can still be seen in the Gallery of Francis I, in the ballroom and in the bedchamber where the frescoes still remain. Under Henri IV, the palace became more of a king's house and the home of the dauphins. Henri IV (1552-1610) also played an important role in Fontainebleau's history. He was responsible for the brick and stonework wing facing Diana's Garden.
The Second Fontainebleau School dates from this period with the arrival of the Flemish artists. With Louis XV, the need to provide lodgings for the court led to the remodeling of the south wing of the White Horse courtyard and the construction of the Great Pavilion. He also is responsible for the installation of the King's Staircase. Louis XVI, wishing to enlarge the royal apartments, doubled the size of the Francois I Gallery on Diane's Garden. His wife, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) had her suite of three apartments redecorated in keeping with the taste of the times. After the Revolution, Napoleon (1769-1821) found the palace completely emptied of its furnishings. so he refurnished the entire palace, first to receive the Pope, that had come to crown him in 1804, and later to make Fontainebleau into one of his favorite residences. The throne room is the most spectacular room in the apartment, with silks and brocades enriched with precious decorations of gold bee and other Neoclassical symbols. Napoleon, from his last exile at St. Helena recalled Fontainebleau fondly:
“Here was a true home of kings, the best furnished and most happily situated ancient house in Europe". The chateau of Fontainebleau has over 1500 rooms, and it nestles into 130 acres of parkland and gardens!
The chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte was built in the mid-17th century (1658-1661). It was Nicolas Fouquet's residence. Fouquet was the superintendent of finances of King Louis XIV. Vaux le Vicomte was an influential work of architecture at the period. Architect Louis Le Vau, landscape gardens designer André le Nôtre and painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on this large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the “Louis XIV style". After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. King Louis XIV seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles. Madame Fouquet recovered her property ten years later and retired there with her eldest son. In 1705, after the death of her husband and son, she decided to put Vaux-le-Vicomte up for sale. Sold to the Marshal Villars, to the Duke of Praslin and many others, Vaux-le-Vicomte is today the property of Comte and Comtesse de Vogüé, and the estate is managed by their sons Jean-Charles and Alexandre.
Pierrefonds is one of France's most imposing medieval castle with multi-level turrets on top of its towers. Originally built as a fortress 600 years ago, it was the King Philip VI residence. In the late 14th century, King Charles VI gives Pierrefonds to his younger brother Louis I of Valois, Duke of Orleans. He erected a new castle, designed by the architect Jean le Noir. Pierrefonds was dismantled at the 17th century and stayed in ruins for two and half centuries. In the mid-19th century the chateau was reconstructed in the romantic style, wished by Napoleon III. The famous architect Viollet-le-Duc directed the works. The chateau of Pierrefonds has been used for the shooting of many films, including Les Visiteurs (1993) and Joan of Arc (1999) by Luc Besson.
Chantilly was built at the late 15th century by the Montmorency noble family, but it gained prestige at the 17th century by the Princes of Condé, cousins of King Louis XIV. Despite the original building was destroyed at the French Revolution, it was rebuilt in 1875-1881 by Henri of Orleans, Duke of Aumale, the eldest son of Louis Philippe, the King of the French. Thanks to the heritage left by the French Kingdom, the Duke of Aumale created an impressing arts collection in Chantilly that he designs as his main residence. As a member of the Academy of Letters and Sciences, the Duke of Aumale left his legacy to the Institut de France at his death in 1897. The chateau of Chantilly houses the prestigious Condé museum with one of the finest collections of paintings in France (after Le Louvre) with special strength in French paintings and book illuminations of the 15th and 16th centuries.
US$410 per person (2 to 6 people).
Price includes: Round-trip transfer from Paris by private car or van, expert-led visits, entrance tickets to the chateaux, and 3-course gourmet lunch (wine at extra cost).
Tours are scheduled April to October, on Thursday and Friday. Please contact us.