It’s Christmas at the castle of Vaux-le-VicomteNovember 24, 2018
Illuminated exterior, brightly decorated living rooms, magical encounters in the gardens: the small Versailles of the eastern Paris region has put on its party attire. The doors of the estate open this Saturday, November 24 on six weeks of magic, until January 6, 2019, Sunday of the Epiphany.
A double row of fir trees makes the guard of honor. Two giant hazelnut soldiers stand guard at the castle gate. “The magic of toys of yesteryear” is the Christmas theme 2018 in Vaux-le-Vicomte. At dusk, the fir trees, the facade, the buildings of the commons are illuminated. “Here, everyone becomes a child,” says Eric Naudin, the decorator and grand orchestrator of the magic. A full time job. For him, it’s Christmas every day. “I’m already thinking about the 2019 theme,” he explains with a smile. For 2018, it’s mission accomplished. As usual, it ended with a real chase. “We bought 14,500 pieces of decoration,” says Eric Naudin. The boxes arrived ten days ago. All the staff of the castle, 40 people, is set for everything to be in place this Saturday, November 24. ”
The visit begins at the Museum of Crews, installed in the large stables at the entrance of the estate. Between the beautiful carriages, carriages, carriages, Christmas windows (without the windows) were arranged. Small trains of 1900 are exposed on a course of 20m ². In purple velvet dress, Santa Claus looks great in his car pulled by a white horse. These old-fashioned toys are reminiscent of the showcases of Parisian department stores, “those that made you dream thirty years or more ago”, comments Eric Naudin.
The magical flight
At the castle, in each room on the ground floor, a fire crackles in the fireplace and the furniture was pushed to make room for a table made of fir trees and thousands of objects, huge or tiny, cleverly arranged after a sketch. In the first salon, the Square Room, the portrait of Nicolas Fouquet, first master of the house in the seventeenth century, admires a huge Christmas tree gleaming. In the Salon des Muses, the snow has fallen: everything is white, the firs, the balls, the animals. And in the adjoining playroom, Santa Claus dropped some old toys on the waxed floor.
The antechamber of Hercules tells a “story of bears”, the name of the store that lent a collection of stuffed animals of all sizes and ages. The oldest are almost 100 years old. The tallest is a whit all-out youngster just out of the manufacturing workshops, a giant two feet tall. We can buy it. It costs 1,800 €.
Surprise, a balloon has invaded the large oval living room to the ceiling. The huge blue balloon springs from a forest of glittering white firs. In the nacelle, balloonists with helmet and glasses welcome. They are brown bears. This picture is called “the magical flight”. We stay taped. Hardly handed over, we move into the library transformed into a music box. Two thousand pieces make up this painting. Three musicians in full dress (automatons too) play in front of the firs: on the flute, a giraffe; to the horn, a walrus and the cello, a hippopotamus.
The manger in the king’s room
Louis XIV never wanted to sleep in the king’s room, green with jealousy when he discovered the beautiful castle of Nicolas Fouquet. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the donkey and the ox did not make so much fuss: the Christmas nativity took possession of the place. The visit ends with the terrestrial foods. In the buffet room, the first dining room in the seventeenth century, a long and sumptuous Christmas table is erected. But in terms of delicacies, everything happens in the basement. In the people’s room, there are pyramids of macarrons, desserts and a lot of curved chocolate toys, chocolate from the house “Les Délices by Frédéric Cassel”. While the gigantic kitchen – “it worked until 1967”, says Eric Naudin – has been transformed into a kingdom of gingerbread: 12 000 slices will be distributed to children between December 24 and January 5.
The castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte is a family business. Its owners, the Vogüe, are the direct descendants of Alfred Sommier. In 1875, this rich industrialist, who had made a fortune in sugar, had bought at auction, and saved, the castle. “It was my great-great-grandfather, says Alexandre Vogüe, co-owner of the estate with his brothers and his parents. Alfred Sommier dedicated his life to maintaining the estate.
75,000 visitors expected
Open to the public since 1968 in the summer, Vaux-le-Vicomte decided to celebrate Christmas thirteen years ago. Immediate success. “The number of visitors is growing by 15% a year,” says Alexandre Vogüe. Last year, we had 60,000 people and we received 64,000! There was an hour of waiting to enter, we distributed hot chocolate … “. This year, 75,000 people are expected. Because the period and opening hours have been extended. From November 24 to December 23, the castle will welcome visitors from Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 16:45 (closing doors). And every day (except Christmas) from December 24th to January 6th. Last access at 15:45 on 24 and 16:45 on 31 December. But the rest of the time, we will be able to enter until 18:45 and live the magic until 20:30.
For the first time in fact, it continues in the French gardens, designed by Le Nôtre, on a trail of giant lantern toys. To follow obviously at the end of the day, with sight on the castle. You can go on foot, mini-electric car (20 € per hour), just to extend the ride a little further, or carriage pulled by pretty blond horses – Tyrolean Haflingers. The children, the real ones (up to 12 years old), will leave Vaux-le-Vicomte with a present. That of others will be to have, for a few hours, gone back in time to become a child again.
Admission € 19.50, € 13.50 from 6 to 17 years, free for children under 6 years. www.vaux-le-vicomte.com and vaux-le-viscount-festival-noel