Our day at the Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte was an adventure of fairly epic proportions.
I’d been planning day-trips out of Paris when on some very obsolete website in French, I found a recommendation to the Chateau, which claims to be the original inspiration for the Versailles Palace.
Out of the way – check! Not tourist ridden – check! Most beautiful Christmas set up in Paris – check ! I booked the tickets online, and we were all set.
The Chateau is about a 2 hour train ride out of Paris in the countryside near Melun. We were a bit freaked on the RER out because we were the only people in our carriage in the last half hour and kept getting accosted by gypsies asking for money. We were discussing tactics – close our eyes – but no! They might pickpocket us and getting all panicky – #asianproblems.
Our second obstacle came when we realized that the Chateaubus to Vicomte didn’t operate on Sundays. At that point, after a harrowing 2 hour train ride, I was ready to thrown in the towel, buy a box of Twix and eat my way back into Paris but K insisted that we persist. One taxi ride and 25 euros later, we arrived at the Chateau. Nestled in the middle of a small forest, it looked far less glamorous than Versailles, slightly run down, and slightly wild.
In other words, perfect. 🙂
Everything about the Vaux Le Vicomte screamed rustic, French and local. At 11 am in the morning, we were practically the only guests. I fell in love at first sight with the manor and it’s blue roofs, gold accents, and weather beaten facade.
The owners had lined the walkway up to the Chateau with Christmas trees. In the pale winter morning sun it was both creepy and oddly enthralling. Like being in an Angela Carter fairytale.
Complete with fairground music from the vintage carousel in the front gardens of the Chateau. Isn’t it just absolutely the most charming thing?
With such an amazing atmosphere and the bubbling optimism of a day that started out blah but suddenly became magical, we spontaneously decided to rent French medieval costumes.
A bit of struggling with a French mdme who had to pin my dress back with a thousand pins because they were all too big.. and many squeaks of protest from K as a vest was wrested upon his person and a feathered hat placed on his head..
Nobility – if only for a day.
We went on to explore the Chateau, and we were completely blown over by how beautiful their Christmas-themed rooms were. Impossibly intricate fairies, sparkling winter-white Christmas trees, gilded chandeliers, and in one, a whole Noel-themed forest set up. I was running from room to room in a deliriously happy daze.
Can you imagine what it was like? My pictures don’t do the Chateau justice. I felt like a child again, ooh-ing and aah-ing over every perfect detail, every whimsical touch.
The one below was themed Les Sapins Des Princesses (The Fir Princesses) and featured gold, pale creams, pale pinks, beautiful fairies with irisdiscent wings, little pairs of ballet slippers hidden under branches of firs. A veritable enchanted forest.
Haha I love this photo – it looks like I have no hands! But they are actually tucked away demurely behind my back. I was channeling Downton Abbey.
Another one I really liked was the ‘L’unvers Des Enfants’ room (Children of the Universe), which was straight out of Bambi or Red Riding Hood.
The rabbit puppet especially got me giggling – got to love his disgruntled expression.
And since I was simply bubbling over with joy, I decided to be ridiculous and spin myself dizzy in the Chateau’s wonderful library, which was all rich dark mahogany and floor to ceiling bookshelves. If there were a stepladder to swing myself around a la Beauty in the Beast, I would have done it. I was that intoxicated by the magic of the place.
Here’s the result:
We also took advantage of the lovely light streaming through the windows. So here’s K through my eyes:
And mine, through his. ^^
I think his photo of me perfectly captures my sentiments in that moment – face tilted to the light, half smiling, a little contemplative, a little hopeful, and very content. He was saying that I hadn’t even needed the medieval style dress – My Liz Lisa Versailles floral dress apparently did the trick, as did my wine colored leggings and hand made leather loafers.
Yes, its true. I dress, behave and dream as if I were from another century. Unfortunately, no Prince is about to dash forward in time to manhandle me and drag me back to the moors of his castle.
Round about then, streams of French children started pouring in and pointing at us and pulling at my dress. Apparently the French only start their day at 2 pm on Sundays – sounds like a good thing to me!
So K and I sadly shed our personas and returned to being weird Asians. Then, we had lunch at their equally quaint little restaurant, complete with pale green picket fences and wooden dollhouse furniture painted white.
One thing I think I will never get used to – cold starters. Cold food holds no appeal for me, unless it’s a freshly made tomato gazpacho on a hot summer’s day or a refreshing cucumber salad.
What they gave us was very traditional. I got a roulade looking salmon mousse with bearnaise sauce wrapped around a slice of cold boiled potato, which was again wrapped with seaweed and drowned in more bearnaise sauce.
I would have liked it sans seaweed – the seaweed made the salmon fishier. It was palatable only when smeared generously with the buttery sauce. I couldn’t help from thinking how much yummier it would have been if served hot.
K had a foie gras pate salad with smoked duck breast. The salad itself was delicious – it had the sweetest green grapes and a lovely tangy dressing. The foie gras pate was nice, too. But the duck breast – it was so pungently raw and ducky it made me nauseous. No matter, we simply spat our half chewed duck breast slices into our napkins and went on to enjoy it sans-canard.
The mains were far better.
Left: K’s Pork Roulade in a Foie Gras sauce (toldja it was common)
The pork was tender and well cooked through – I liked it, but K couldn’t stomach it – he claimed that he could no longer consume any large hunk of meat that had been stewed, boiled, or otherwise dunked in an ‘angmoh’ style sauce. I could almost see images of charsiew and siewyoke dancing in his eyes when he told of his agony. No matter, I ate most of the pork. Paired with the pureed potatoes which were creamy, buttery and in other words, spud heaven.
The Grilled Salmon was very good too. It was wild-caught salmon, meaning that it was leaner than the usual fatty farm-bred stuff we get in Singapore. The meat was incredibly moist, pink and flavourful.
The flavoured rice on the side was just okay – I could tell that it had been made from instant rice. Can’t blame them, riz just isn’t their thing.
For me – galette des rois, or King cake !
It’s a traditional French pastry that’s sold everywhere during Christmas, flaky golden rounds with crumbly frangipane in the middle and a little crown in the middle. The frangipane filing is made of almond flour, butter, sugar eggs. To me, it’s a little reminiscent of the mung bean crumbly Teochew pastries we get here. I liked it! It was very home-made and I loved the meaning behind it – it signifies the Three Kings who visited baby Jesus on the Twelfth Night.
K got a slice of chocolate mousse cake with a praline centre. It was good. Simple.
We took a walk around the gardens later, and we could see how the Versailles Palace may have drawn inspiration for their own beautifully manicured lawns from the Chateau. I was irresistibly drawn to the scene – perfectly symmetrical flower beds, beautiful browns, reds, rust and mustards in the softly sleeping trees, it was a gorgeous moment.
The drama continued later when we couldn’t get a ride back and the sky started to darken – the thought of being stuck at the Chateau sent a rather Wuthering Heights-esque thrill through my cowardly citygirl bones. Again, though, my husband saved the day via a taxi (which I booked in execrable French, once again) and we were soon safely on the train on our way back to Paris and comforts of modern amenities.
Twas a day, and a walk to remember, indeed!