Sin of pride can kill but sin of gluttony won’t! – Meanderings through France
Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Pride and gluttony meet in Vaux-le-Vicomte a 17th century castle 5O km south-east of Paris, during the 8th edition of “Chocolate Palace”. For 3 days (6, 7 and 8 November 2015), this beautiful castle turns into a palace of temptation where renowned chocolate makers and confectioners will make you taste their wonderful creations and show you how to cook your own.
But the story begins with a famous sin of pride in French history. Nicolas Fouquet was “Surintendant des Finances” the equivalent to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’. Thanks to this high position he was able to divert great amounts of money and got immensely rich allowing him to built Vaux-le-Vicomte, one of the most beautiful castle of the time. In August 1661 Fouquet invited Louis XIV along with 3,000 other guests to an extravagant party with musicians, actors, fireworks and a profusion of wines and food. In those days the Royal Treasury was desperately empty and 23 years old Louis XIV felt both humiliated and jealous. Soon after Fouquet was arrested by d’Artagnan, the famous musketeer, and he was brought to justice for embezzlement of public funds. All his belongings were confiscated by the king and he died in prison 19 years later.
It comes as no surprise that the talented artists who built Vaux-le-Vicomte including its architect Louis le Vau and garden designer André le Notre, were soon hired by Louis XIV to build and embellished Versailles castle… Afterwards Vaux-le-Vicomte changed owners several times and slowly lost most of its splendour. In 1875 the castle that had been inhabited for 30 years was in a sad state: trees grew in the ponds, corn and wheat were growing in the gardens, the roofs had many holes and it was doomed to destruction. But it finally was auctioned and Alfred Sommier an art lover who had made a fortune in sugar industry, fell in love with it and bought it. It took him 33 years and 5.5 millions Gold francs (the equivalent of 22 millions £) to give it back its 17th century beauty and elegance.
Ever since the same family is in charge and in 1968 Alfred Sommier’s great grandchild, Patrice de Vogüé opened the castle and its gardens to the public. Today 3 Vogüé brothers are the 5th generation to take care of the estate. They do a tremendous job to give us the opportunity to see the castle and the French gardens the way they looked when Fouquet lived there, never ending to imagine new events to entertain their visitors.
This leads us back to the sin of gluttony! For 3 days avoiding temptation will be hard work in the castle turned into a “Chocolate Palace”: renowned French and foreign chocolate makers and confectioners will be there to make you taste their creations, show you the way to make chocolates and cakes. Frederic Cassel will be there with his famous macaroons, Sadaharu Aoki who was born in Tokyo and now lives and works in Paris will present his exquisite patisseries and Jacques Bellanger will display a several meters high and wide secret work made with chocolate and candied fruits… and many others. In the castle salons, in the gardens, in the restaurant you will be able to take part in workshops to learn the best way to match chocolate and wines, macaroons and Champagne and children will make their own chocolate creations and take them back home.
Of course this chocolate festival is a great excuse to discover Vaux-le-Vicomte. From the amazing oval grand salon you’ll get a wonderful view over the gardens through the big French windows and going upstairs you will visit Fouquet’s private apartments with their period furniture, paintings, carpets and decoration. You can even see the huge frame of the castle with its enormous beams then go out on the roof at the foot of its dome and get a spectacular view of the property from 25 meters high.
Easily reached by train or by car from Paris, Vaux-le-Vicomte will be the sweet, tasty and historical destination next November. Why not give in to temptation?
For more information: www.vaux-le-vicomte.com
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny