A manifesto for French 17th-century splendor, the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte was built between 1656 and 1661 by finance minister Nicolas Fouquet. The construction program was monstrous. Entire villages were razed; 18,000 workmen were called in; and architect Louis Le Vau, painter Charles Le Brun, and landscape architect André Le Nôtre were recruited at vast expense to prove that Fouquet's taste was as refined as his
business acumen. The housewarming party was so lavish it had star guest Louis XIV, testy at the best of times, spitting jealous curses. He hurled Fouquet in the slammer and set about building Versailles to prove just who was top banana. Poor Fouquet may be gone but his home, still privately owned, has survived to astonish and delight centuries of travelers.