Monday, July 17, 2006

I spent the festive weekend of the 14th of July in Fontainebleau, one of the only towns in France that refuses to celebrate the French Revolution, as it is populated by royalists and assorted reactionaries.

On Saturday we went to see Vaux-le-Vicomte, a 17th century château not far from Fontainebleau, and little known on the foreign tourist circuit. It was excellent, both inside and out, and we had the pleasure of very fine weather to accompany us on our visit.

Vaux-le-Vicomte is a chateau that owes its fame to being so superlative, in both matters of taste and expense, that it had its unfortunate owner thrown in gaol by Louis the 14th; the crime being one of sheer impertinence.

The unfortunate Nicolas Fouquet was condemned to pass the rest of his years in incarceration, some of which he spent languishing alongside the mysterious “Man in the Iron Mask”, who was, if Alexandre Dumas is to be believed, King Louis’s long lost identical twin brother. (Or if Hollywood is to be believed, a 12 year old girl closely resembling Leonardo di Caprio).

Fouquet safely locked away, Vaux-le-Vicomte’s much coveted gardener, builder and interior decorator were then (rather all too conveniently) shipped off to Versailles by the young Louis to create his famous royal palace.

Meanwhile Vaux-le-Vicomte’s cook, François Vatel, escaped to Belgium, only to turn up at the Château de Chantilly a year later, where a chronic lack of ingredients lead to the invention of Chantilly cream – the sweet whipped cream that now adorns today’s ice-cream sundaes of quality. His culinary career was ended abruptly one day, however, when he ran out of one vital ingredient too many: Vatel ran himself through with a sword for a lack of fish (or alternatively, for the love of Uma Thurman).

I have included a link to a paranoramic view of my favourite room in the Château: the Room of the Muses. It was here that Molière’s A School for Husbands was first performed, and it has a wall-covering in my favourite hue of blue.



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