Why fight through the mobs of tourists at Versailles when you can experience Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte, a just-as-wonderful but less crowded French architectural palace, only 50 minutes outside the city?
When I visited Vaux le Vicomte last summer, I was enchanted by the symmetrical building and its landscaped, labyrinth-like gardens. Today, it still stands out as a highlight of my trip.
The 17th-century masterpiece occupies more than 1,000 acres. However, as I explored its dungeon, kitchen and furnished rooms at dusk on a self-guided tour, Vaux le Vicomte actually proved to be quite intimate.
And for most of this year, the trek to Vaux le Vicomte is particularly worth it. As a special treat every Saturday evening until Oct. 1, 2016, the staff is turning Vaux le Vicomte into a true historic French castle by switching off the anachronistic lights and brightening the estate with 2,000 individually lit candles. The view of the back of the chateau from the tranquil gardens is nothing short of breathtaking, and the candlelit palace’s reflection in the many fountain pools invokes both spooky mystery and fairy-tale magic.
Couples can even enjoy a glass of wine on the outdoor patio at Les Charmilles, a pop-up restaurant only open during the select evenings.
Vaux le Vicomte is truly the ideal quiet escape from the busy tourist attractions of Paris.