Monday, January 27, 2014

Vaux le Vicomte- Inspiration for Versailles

Nicholas Fouquet

The chateau de Vaux le Vicomte is recognized to have been the inspiration for Versailles but his original owner, Louis XIV's finance minister,  Nicholas Fouquet (born January 27, 1615) enjoyed it for only a brief time.  In fact, upon staging a fete on a August day in 1661 to show off his newly completed castle, Nicholas Fouquet was arrested and sent to the fortress prison of Pignerol where he died in 1680.  

Vaux le vicomte is located outside of Paris, in the commune of Maincy near Melun.  It took  three  years to complete its construction (from 1658 to 1661)  and the result was splendid.  For the job, the profligate minister, hired the best architect (Le Vau); painter/interior designer ( Le Brun) and landscape designer, (Le Nôtre).  In all, more than 20,000 artisans worked on the project.  

Fouquet’s spared no expenses for the grand fête as Chef Vatel prepared the feast served in gold and silver plates, Moliere wrote a comedy-ballet for the occasion, Lully composed music and fireworks illuminated the sky as 1200 jets of water danced from the fountains. This was meant to dazzle everyone in attendance, especially the king.  However, young Louis the XIV was not amused as Vaux le Vicomte’s splendor exceeded his own palace at the Tuileries and Versailles was a mere hunting lodge.  Less than a month  after the party Fouquet was arrested, sent to jail never to return and his castle confiscated. Furthermore, Louis XIV shamelessly appropriated the castle’s furnishings, paintings and hired its creators, Le Vau, Le Brun and le Nôtre to design Versailles.

Vaux le Vicomte is about 25 miles southest of Paris and is opened for public visits.  The castle and gardens have been restored by the family of current owner Comte P. de Vogüe. On Friday and Saturday nights in season, candlelight visits recreate the ambience of the festivities held in 1661 in honor of Louis XIV---two thousand candles illuminate the house and gardens at dusk, classical music is played in the garden and a Champagne bar is available. 

Our spring tour to Paris and Ile de France tour will be visiting the castle of Vaux le Vicomte.  So join us!!

tags: chateau de Vaux le Vicomte, Nicholas Fouquet

Visit for your next vacation in France

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne
Today is Paul Cezanne's birthday, born on January 19, 1839 in Aix en Provence.  His father, Louis Auguste was the co-founder of a  local bank whose prosperity assured the well-being and the financial independence of the artist throughout his life.

Paul Cezanne grew up in the comfortable bourgeois life of Aix en Provence. He attended College Bourbon where he met his friend and future writer Emile Zola. Complying to his father's wishes he attended Law school at the University of Aix en Provence. However, Cezanne wanting  to pursue his artistic inclinations left Aix en Provence for Paris 1861 at the objections of his father.   After five months in Paris, he was gripped with self-doubt and  returned to Aix to work in his father's banking house.  This was short lived, as Cezanne returned to Paris in 1862  to  paint.

During the 1860's Cezanne painted in a dark tonal palette reminiscent of painters he admired such as Courbet, Delacroix and Manet.    Then in 1872,  he moved to Pontoise, outside of Paris  to be near  his friend Camille Pissaro who encouraged him to paint outdoor to capture the natural light and impressions of nature following a new technique dubbed Impressionism.  Cezanne's canvases started to gain lighter and more brilliant tones.  Exhibiting in the Salon des Refuses in 1874 and 1877, he however, failed to gain critical and commercial success.

Mont Ste. Victoire-
Barnes Collection
In the early 1880's Cezanne returned to live in Provence with his long-time mistress, Marie Hortense Fiquet and their young son, Paul. His father, Paul Auguste,  had a studio built for him at the family home -Jas de Bouffan.  Cezanne spent many hours outdoor painting the landscape around Aix en Provence especially of the Sainte Victoire mountain.


In 1886,  at age 47 Cezanne married Hortense; his father died the same year living him with a substantial inheritance.  Subsequent years saw the painter secluding  himself, painting still lifes, landscapes, portraits of locals and bathers.  His quirky and troubled behavior led to a strained relationship between the couple who spent much time apart- Hortense living in Paris with Paul Jr. and Paul Cezanne living in Aix en Provence at Jas de Bouffan with his mother and sister .

Cezanne gained more and more status in the late 1890's;  his painting were successfully exhibited in the Salon des Independents in Paris in 1899, 1901, 1902 and in 1904 he was given an entire room at the Salon d'Automne.

Atelier Cezanne
 In 1901 the painter built a studio along the Chemin des Lauves where he retreated to paint. It is still standing today and looks as the painter left it when he suddenly died on October 22, 1906  after  being caught in a rain storm on a work outing.

His legacy today is considered pivotal in the development of modern art  being the  bridge between Impressionism and the development of cubism.  He was admired by Picasso and  Matisse  who are believed to have remarked that  Cézanne "is the father of us all."

Jas de Bouffan-
National Gallery- Prague
When visiting  Aix en Provence follow in the footsteps of Paul Cezanne.  A  well-marked pedestrian walk highlights the painter’s life- his favorite cafe "Les Deux Garcons", the location of his father's bank,  the house where he was born.  Just north of the old quarter you can visit  the  Atelier les Lauves, and a little outside of Aix you will find the family home at Jas de bouffan.  Others sites painted by Cezanne  that merit a visit is the  Mont St. Victoire, Bibemus quarries , l'Estarque and Route du Tholonet and  Chateau Noir. 

We invite you to join our small group  tour to Provence to visit Aix en Provence and Atelier Cezanne.  Click here for more details. Provence Escapde

Tag: Paul Cezanne, Aix en Provence, Mount Sainte Victoire, Les Lauves studio

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ten Reasons you will like Enchanted France Tours

Enchanted France is offering three small group escorted tours to France in Spring 2014:

Paris and Ile de France Date: April 27-May 3, 2014

Provence Escapade Date: May 3-9, 2014

Normandy and Loire Valley Castles May 11-18, 2014

 Enchanted France tours are designed to offer an intimate and authentic travel experience in France with a high level of quality and personalized services.  These culturally enriching  expeditions are perfect for first time as well as more seasoned travelers; for travelers who like a structured group program as well as independent travelers who like a certain amount of flexibility yet have a bit of structure.  

10 reasons you will like Enchanted France Tours

  • Authentic Experience
  • Culturally Enriching
  • Small group Size (no more than 12 people)
  • Personal Attention
  • Quality of Services in accommodations and tours
  • Regional gastronomy
  • Flexibility
  • Relaxed and well paced
  • Free time for independent musings
  • The company of like-minded travelers
"I can't say adequately to you what a marvelous experience I enjoyed in Paris. I enjoyed not only your company but also all the fine arrangements you so graciously present to your clients. Everything from our beautiful hotel to convenient transportation, the concerts, our wonderful Danielle, the restaurants you found for us - all was perfection" Marilyn- Seattle
"We truly had a trip to Provence that fulfilled all of our wishes & expectations. We saw so many amazing & diverse sites with you. It was a very special trip and we thank you for making it happen. You are a pleasure to know & to travel with" Kitty Sacramento 

We hope you can join us in 2014 for unique travel experiences in France. 

Space is limited .  Reserve your space today. Call us at toll free 866 313 2856 or email us 

Book before February 28 and save $100 per person mention code ST014.

Paris and Ile de France Adventure
7 days/6 nights
Date: April 27-May 3, 2014 

This is a unique cultural adventure through Paris and the Ile de France, the historical cradle of the Kingdom of France. Since the time of Childebert I, Paris was the administrative and cultural capital of the French kingdom while the surrounding countryside was the pleasure ground of the kings and where they built beautiful retreats.
This tour covers Paris’  history, architecture, art and savoir vivre.  It will venture outside of the capital to Chartres, Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte. 
SoJoin us for this one-of-kind tour!!.

Tour highlights include:
  • In Paris visit:  Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle,
  • Walk in the footsepts of Impressionist painters and visit the  Orsay Museum  
  • Explore  Le Marais and 17th century architecture
  • Outside of Paris:  visit castles of Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte and tour Chartres cathedral
  •  Stay in charming hotel in Paris
  • Gourmet meals
Provence Escapade
7 days/6 nights
Date: May 3-9, 2014
Provence is always a favorite region of France to discover. Join our small group to explore the many treasures of sunny Provence from its rich historical past to its unique traditions and savoir vivre. You will discover beautiful architecture dating back to the Romans and magnificent landscapes of fragrant hills, lavender fields, vineyards and picturesque villages. More importantly, on this journey you will find your senses stimulated in so many ways from the special light that inspired the impressionist painters to the smell and taste of the many Provencal specialties.
Medieval heritage: Avignon's Pope's PalaceSte. Trophime CathedralAbbaye de Senanque
  • Roman architecture : Pont Du Gard ; Arles' Arena and Vaison la Romaine
  • Irresistible Provencal towns: Avignon ; St. Remy de Provence; Aix en Provence
  • Picturesque perched villages: Gordesles Baux; Roussillon
  • Savoir vivre :: colorful markets ; Chateauneuf du Pape wine tasting; olive oil tasting
  • Beautiful landscape : Alpilles Hills; Luberon National Park; vineyards and Olive groves
  • Charming hotels in the heart of Avignon
  • Gourmet meals
  • A/C minicoach transportation in Provence
  • Fully escorted and expertly guided
  • Small intimate group

Normandy and Loire Valley Castles
8 days / 7 nights

May 11-18, 2014

Come discover Normandy and the Loire Valley Castles
You will first visit Normandy, a land rich in history, tradition and gastronomy. From Monet’s garden in Giverny to the Mont St. Michel you will discover towns with rich architectural heritage, verdant landscape of apple orchards and fields framed by hedge grows where cows graze contentedly. On this 70th year anniversary of the Normandy D-Day Landing will visit the memorial sites of Omaha Beach, Juno Beach, Pointe du Hoc and Sainte Mere l’Eglise.  The tour will then continue to the romantic Loire Valley where the Renaissance castles built by the Kings of France will enchant you. In this tour you will have a chance to taste the gastronomy and the specialties of these two regions—cider and cheese in Normandy and the velvety wines of the Loire Valley.
  • Monet's Garden in Giverny
  • Rouen Cathedral
  • Normandy D-Day Landing sites 
  • Mont St. Michel Abbey
  • Castles: Chenoceau, Amboise, Chambord, Villandry
  • Manor Clos Luce

For information contact Enchanted France
Tags: France tours, Paris tour, Normandy tour, Loire Valley tour, Provence tour

Monday, January 13, 2014

Paris and Ile de France Discovery Tour

APRIL 27-MAY 3, 2014

This cultural adventure through Paris is sure to please lovers of Paris and especially those who desire to learn about its history and its artistic and architectural heritage.  To really know Paris is to walk its streets and the best way to get acquainted is to be accompanied in your journey by an expert guide who will make Paris through the ages come to life and reveal its secrets.  This is what I propose in this new  Spring Paris and Ile de France Discovery tour. A substantial,  in-depth and fun exploration of the city's lore.  As a bonus,  travelers will also experience the Ile de France, the cradle of the French Kings from the time of the Capetian dynasty.   This region that surrounds Paris, often overlooked by travelers,  offers historical treasures like  great cathedrals (it is here that the Gothic style was conceived and developed), and magnificent castles.  It is also here that Impressionist painters  took their inspiration.  For the culturally curious traveller this tour is a must . This is a small group tour so space is limited so reserve today.  Visit

Below are Highlights of the Tour. 

Paris two Islands-- Ile de la Cite  
The Ile de la Cite, the island on which Paris was founded. First settled on a bend of the Seine River by the Parisii tribe, Lutecia, as it was first called, developed as a thriving Gallo-Roman trading post. As the heart of Paris, Ile de la Cite was the center of the French Royalty since the Merovingian Dynasty when King Childebert built a castle. Notre Dame Cathedral was built in the 11th century a stone throw from the King’s Palace on a site of an ancient Roman Temple devoted to Mercury. 

Ile St. Louis
Cross the Seine to Ile Saint Louis—Paris’s most romantic island— Along the Quais de Bethune, Anjou and Orleans, discover an elegant 17th century architecture ensemble with unbeatable views over the River Seine. Its main street, rue Saint Louis en l’Ile is lined with tantalizing shops .We will make sure to stop at Berthillon, for a taste of Paris “best” ice-cream.

Place des Vosges
Le Marais
This neighborhood of Paris was the center of  the aristocracy in early 17th century. In 1605 the elegant Royal Square, known today as Place des Vosges was built. Many French noble families settled here and built impressive urban mansions like the Hotel de Sens, Hotel de Sully, Hotel de Soubise to name a few. Madame de Sevigne, the prolific letter writer, lived in the Hotel Carnavalet from 1677 till her death in 1696. We will also evoke here the Jewish past of this neighborhood, which had been for centuries home to a vibrant community. Once a dilapidated neighborhood, le Marais, has been revitalized in recent years into the trendiest neighborhood of Paris and home to the Gay community. 

Caillebotte- Paris sous la Pluie
Art Institute, Chicago
Paris of the Impressionists 
We will retrace some of the favorite Parisian spots painted by 19th century masters like Renoir, Caillebotte, Monet, Toulouse Lautrec including Montmartre, Opera, Gare Saint Lazarre, Grand Boulevards and the banks of the Seine River.  This will be followed by own private guided tour of the Orsay Museum to view the great masterpieces of the Impressionist art movement.

Ile de France

A short train ride will take us to Chartres  for a visit of one of the finest and best preserved gothic cathedrals in Europe. The architecture and the majority of its stained glass windows dating from the 12 and 13th centuries have survived almost intact. It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979. We will enjoy lunch and a walking tour in the atmospheric medieval town. 


Fontainebleau is a magnificent Renaissance palace built by King Francois I. Its recent restoration will allow us to admire the beautiful Francois I Gallery decorated in frescoes painted by Rosso, a pupil of Michelangelo. We will be dazzled by the mastery of Renaissance art and workmanship such as the Grand Ballroom’s paneled ceiling decorated by Italian master, Primatticcio in 1552 that depict mythological and hunting scenes as well as the lavish decoration and magnificent tapestries that embellish the State Apartments. Napoleon I and his nephew, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte made Fontainebleau their retreat from the rigors of the Parisian court life and as such they added their imperial touch to the Palace. 

Vaux le Vicomte 
 The Chateau of Vaux le Vicomte is the magnificent castle that inspired Versailles. 
It was built by Louis XIV's finance minister, Nicholas Fouquet. It took five years to complete and the best architect, artists and artisans of the time contributed to build  a most magnificent castle.  Fouquet enjoyed it for a brief time for after a fete where he invited the King and his court to show off his castle, the king was not amused as Vaux le Vicomte's splendors exceeded his palace at the Tuileries and his modest hunting lodge in Versailles.  Shortly after the festivities, Fouquet was arrested never to return to his castle. Louis XIV hired the the same architect (Le Vau), painter/decorator (le Brun) and landscape designer (Le Notre) to create his castle at Versailles.

For more details of the tour visit

Tag: Paris , Notre Dame Cathedral, Le Marais, Impressionist Paris, Chartres, Vaux le Vicomte, Fontainebleau

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ma Galette des Rois

This year I got ambitious and made my own Galette des Rois instead of buying it from my local pastry shop. This flaky golden puff pastry is  traditionally eaten on January 6, day of the Epiphany.  What is Epiphany you may ask?  it is an ancient Christian holiday that marks the arrival of the three Magi in Bethlehem to meet the enfant Jesus.  This tradition reigns strong in France where bakers compete for the best gallette des rois, and where at the sacro-saint sunday family lunch gathering the galette is served and a king or queen is crowned for the day.   Let me explain.  The round galette is made of two puff pastry sheets - a top and a bottom flaky sheets.  It is filled  with frangipani cream - a mixture of butter, powder almond, sugar and eggs.  Inside the cake lay hidden a "feve", usually a tiny ceramic figurine.  The person who finds the "feve" is declared King or Queen and wears a golden paper crown the rest of the day.  For the unsuspecting visitor, beware!  Don't bite too hard in the cake or you may risk to break a tooth or swallow the tiny "feve". 

Here is simple recipe.  
2 rolls of puff pastry (great if you can make your own; I bought mine frozen and let it defrost at room temperature for about 20 minutes) 
4 oz  of ground almond (almond flour) 
3 oz of sugar
2 oz of  butter at room temperature
1 egg  
egg yolk to paint the top of the pastry 
egg white  to seal together edges of the two pastries

Mix the sugar and  the butter until whiten. Add the egg , the ground almond  and mix till it becomes a smooth paste. You can add a dash of almond extract, vanilla or rhum for extra flavoring.  

Take one roll of the puff pastry and  shape it as a circle (use a plate or the bottom part of a spring form cake pan to cut the contour or the  pastry) ; Place it on a flat baking sheet.  Apply egg white around the edge of the dough so that it could stick to the top pastry roll. Spread the frangipane mixture ; place the "feve" (a whole almond will do) ; cover with the second puff pastry roll and pinch the edges to seal.  Apply egg yolk mixed with a little water on the top pastry to render it golden.  With the edge of a knife make some designs; pierce a couple of tiny holes in the dough so that some steam will escape during the baking.  Refrigerate the pastry for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Place it in a 400 F pre-heated oven  for 25 minutes.  Voila!! Enjoy!! 

tag: France tradition, galette des rois, 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Mona Lisa Returned to the Louvre

January 4, 1914 the Mona Lisa returned to the Louvre. The masterpiece had been stolen two years earlier from the museum by an Italian handyman, Vincenzo Perrugia.  As a worker he had access to the galleries.  He hid in the museum until it closed for the night then removed the painting from its frame.  The next day he calmly walked out of the museum with the painting hidden under his working smock.  Peruggia kept the painting  in the closet of his Paris apartment while the police was searching in vain.  The French public was incensed-- how could a priceless treasure disappear from the Louvre?.
Two prominent artists of the time were prime suspects-- the poet Guillaume Appollinaire and Picasso- for the police thought it might have been the work of  the "Modernists" and "avant-guardists", enemies of the traditional art.

Perrugia later claimed that he wanted to return the painting to Italy for he believed erroneously the Mona Lisa had been taken to France by Napoleon's forces.  In fact, La Joconde was purchased by King Francois I directly from the master himself- Leonardo da Vinci in the mid sixteen century. 

Mona Lisa returns to the Louvre
Perrugia was arrested when trying to sell it to an art dealer in Florence. Before its return to France,  the painting was hung  at the Uffizi gallery where jubilant crowds came to view it and considered Perrugia an Italian hero.  The masterpiece returned to the Louvreand Perrugia was found guilty and  sentenced to  8 months in jail but interestingly a few days after the trial, WWI broke out and the story was kicked off the front pages of the newspapers to make place to the tragic unfolding war events. After his release from jail, Perrugia went to war, fighting for Italy. He was captured by the Germans and held as war prisoner for two years. After the war, he returned to live in Paris with a young wife and often times visited the Louvre. 

Planning a trip to France visit

Tags: Louvre, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa theft