Chantilly or Vaux le Vicomte?

Jul 29th, 2006, 03:07 PM
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Chantilly or Vaux le Vicomte?

I'm contemplating a day trip to either of these places while I'm in Paris in September. They both look very interesting and appear to be about the same length of travel from Paris by train. I'd love to do both but not sure I'll have the time. They interest me because of the furnishings, gardens, and history. I'm not so much interested in the carriage museum so that isn't a deciding factor. If I go to Chantilly, I'll also visit Senlis, it looks like an interesting old town. Any recommendations on which has more to offer? Or should I just toss a coin?
cls2paris is offline  
Jul 29th, 2006, 03:14 PM
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We were flying out of CDG airport, and booked a lovely room in a hotel which used to belong to the Rothchild family, I believe. It was just outside of the airport, not far from Chantilly. We were able to see Chantilly, and even tho I dont' like horses, the stables were really worth visiting. So maybe you can actually work it out to see both. I know that Vaux le Vicomte is also fantastic. I saw it several years ago. I vote to do both. I'm sure with careful planning you could pull it off. Maybe not spending as long as you'd like, but at least you could see them.
kleroux is offline  
Jul 29th, 2006, 03:20 PM
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I've done both and if you had to pick one, I'd make it Vaux le Vicomte. The chateau itself at Chantilly didn't do that much for me, especially the interiors. I felt the stables and the horse "show" were the best part there. There are a couple of rooms at Vaux le Vicomte that rank up there with the most splendid ones I've ever seen. The gardens have been spectacularly restored, and currently there is a very interesting exhibit in the basement about LeNotre who did the original landscaping.
Jul 29th, 2006, 06:18 PM
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If you can only see one, I would go for Vaux Le Vicomte. During the summer on Saturday nights, they light the entire chateau and garden with zillions of votive candles. The fountains in the garden are turned on weekend days.

If you are taking the train, the problem is getting and from the Chateau itself. It is about 15 - 20 minutes away (I'm not sure of the exact time or distance). I've stories about expensive cab rides there and then people having a hard time getting one back to the Melun train station.

We've been there four times, always driving. They may have shuttle going back and forth, I think I read it here, but I'm not sure.

Check with Paris Vision or one of the day tour agencies. We did get on a tour years ago in March, for our first visit there. Since only three people signed up for the tour, they took us off of the bus and cancelled it.

In September I'm sure that there will be a full bus.

It may cost a bit more, but the convenience would be worth it.

Vaux has a web site, you can contact them with any questions. I emailed them a few years ago and they responded promptly in English.

This is one of our absolute favorites in France. The carriage museum is interesting also and is part of the admission charge. If your time is limited, skip it and visit the the chateau and the gardens only.

Chantilly is nice too, but IMHO, Vaux is unsurpassed. Chantilly is an easy walk to and from the train station.

Nina66 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2006, 01:22 AM
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My vote is for Vaux le Vicomte.
I do, however, think a day light visit is better for several reasons.

First, you can take the optional (extra cost) walk up the stairs to the top of the dome for a view over the grounds.
Secondly, you can see the outside better in the day time. Third, you can see the interior much better with good light. Fourth, you can tour the gardens and see them well.

I have been to Vaux twice in the day and once at night. We opted out of the night tour about half way through because we knew what we were missing.

I suppose if you go at night and don't know what you aren't seeing then it is a little different.

Another aspect to visiting Vaux is that the town of Melun is on the same rail line as Fontainebleau. Get an early start and do both in one day.

Visit the Vaux le Vicomte official web site for the times of the shuttle bus from the Melun train station to the chateau itself.

I strongly suggest taking one of the tours with Paris Vision or similar company.

As a general rule, you get the services of an expert guide and some of the tours combine Vaux with Fontainebleau.

There are advantages to do it on your own, but the tour offers the commentary of the guide and the convenience of a bus tour that goes directly to the door of your destination.

There are drawbacks of course. You must follow the schedule set by the bus and lingering longer than the schedule allows is not possible unless you want to abandon the tour.

bob_brown is offline  
Jul 30th, 2006, 05:02 AM
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Regarding getting to Vaux le Vicomte. Having just gone last month, I can assure you that it isn't that big an issue. The train goes to Melun. There is a taxi stand there. There had been a report of a current shuttle bus service to the Chateau, but when we went to check on it we found it is only on weekends. We saw the last taxi leave from the taxi stand, but there is a taxi call box right there. Within 4 or 5 minutes a taxi came for us. The fare to the chateau was around 15 euro, we gave him 17. When we were finished the gift shop called a taxi for us -- which they are happy to do. The told us it would be about 10 to 15 minutes and that's just what it was. We thought there might be a big charge since he had to come pick us up, but the fare was almost identical, again we gave him 17 including a tip.

Incidentally we had a very nice lunch in the "stables" sort of cafeteria, and after visiting the chateau we went back for desserts (well, half of us did).

There is an audio tour which we found very good.

Jul 30th, 2006, 05:14 AM
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If you do go to Vaux le Vicomte I don;t think you'll be disappointed and when you see it you'll understand why it served as the "model" for the subsequent construction of Versailes as well as why the King was enraged when he saw it (undoubtedly out of jealousy as much as anything).

This site gives an interesting overview and history:

Dukey is offline  
Jul 30th, 2006, 07:43 AM
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Thanks so much everyone! Your replies were very helpful, it looks like Vaux le Vicomte will be wonderful! I printed out info from a different thread about the Chateau Bus from the train station. I checked a couple of tours and it was about 150 euro each. For that price we could take the train/bus and have enough money left over for a wonderful dinner in Paris!
cls2paris is offline  
Jul 30th, 2006, 08:33 AM
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Train schedules:

RonZ is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 09:57 AM
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Just wondering if 4 hours enough time to spend there to see the chateau and some of the gardens and have lunch? Or would we be really rushed? Are the week-end days unbearably crowded? A similar crowd to what I'd find at Versailles on a week-end or is this not the big attraction that Versailles is? Thanks so much everyone!
cls2paris is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 10:14 AM
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Can't speak about the weekends, but we were at Vaux le Vicomte on a Friday and I'd be surprised if there were more than 100 people there total -- scattered over the grounds it seemed like we had the place to ourselves. I'm sure it doesn't even begin to get like Versailles crowds, even on weekends.

I'd say we were there for about 4 hours total including lunch and that was fine. We opted not to hike out to the far ends of the gardens -- a long, long way -- or to rent a golf cart to do that, which is another possibility. It was very hot that day.
Jul 31st, 2006, 11:01 AM
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Wow. Those tour prices sound high.
I don't recall paying nearly that much.
I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that a mini bus tour to Vaux and Fontainebleau was over $250 per person.
Ridiculous prices. Not worth it. Too easy to take the train and the taxi.

Even a tour of Vaux alone was €59 per person. Nuts to that.
brookwood is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 11:10 AM
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After looking at those prices of the guided tours, I retract my recommendation for the guided tour.

When I went, the cost was nothing like the figures I am now seeing. They are now outlandish, preposterous even.

Do it yourself! Train to Melun from Gare de Lyon. Taxi or bus to the chateau. Go early, stay as long as you wish, enjoy lunch and/or dinner, and have fun seeing the place.

Those € prices have put the inflation skyrocket to everything it seems.

When I did Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte in one day, the trip was easy.
We made sure we took the faster train to Fontainebleau. There was a bus outside the train station that went down main street to the gates of the chateau.

After lunch we took the train to Melun and the taxi to Vaux. And then the train back to Gare de Lyon.

One word of caution. Those ticket vending machines do not accept our credit cards because, as I understand it, we don't have the smart chips in our cards. So have small notes and coins to feed the machine to pay the fare.

bob_brown is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 11:42 AM
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I would have voted for Chantilly which I think much more interesting and attractive. I just didn't like Vaux le Vicomte that much -- although mainly I didn't think it worth the trouble to get to/from it.

Four hours is plenty, there's nothing to do out there, so you look around the chateau and that's it. That certainly doesn't take four hours. I don't know about gardens, when I was there, they were not particularly interesting or worth looking at, but maybe that's changed. It was just a very long, large expanse of lawn with hedges here and there, but very few flowers.
Christina is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 12:04 PM
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WOW .. when I suggested a bus tour to Vaux, I had no idea that the price had gone up so much. it was in March of 1985 when we had to leave the bus because no one else had signed up. Even way back then, the price was very reasonable.

It took about 7 years after that, for us to finally see it for the first time. The last time was in 2001 when we took guests and saw it at night for the second time.

I disagree that once you have seen it during the day, the night tour is a disappointment. IMHO, it was spectacular and very very different from seeing it in daylight. Day, night, garden fountains on ... it is still our favorite chateau.

Nina66 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2006, 01:02 PM
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Christina, I'm a bit taken back by your description of the gardens. LeNotre who designed them has been called everything from "the inventor of the French Garden" to "the greatest Landscaper of all time".
No there aren't a whole lot of flowers. Mainly it is indeed rows of hedges and plants. Until LeNotre's design for Vaux le Vicomte, no one had ever seen a garden that was so geometrically planned. He literally started the idea of trees, shrubs, and hedges trimmed into shapes. He basically invented the topiary. If your idea of a garden is a lot of flowers scattered around, then a typical English garden might be more to your liking, but Vaux le Vicomte is pretty much reknowned for its gardens -- the first major work by LeNotre, the father of French landscaping. It was the landscaping and gardens that impressed Louis XIV to hire LeNotre to plan the gardens at Versailles.

By the way, there are many more details about the gardens. There is a huge canal that is virtually unseen until you come up to it. The waterways, fountains, and levels are cleverly designed to add even more perspective than they have naturally. It is a masterpiece!
Jul 31st, 2006, 02:02 PM
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On a visit to a garden in the Dordogne, [typical box hedges, gravel, highly manicured in the Le Notre style] we were amused to hear it described as a "sensible" garden - as opposed to the "foolish" english ones we supposed. This has remained a family joke. Needless to say, our own garden is foolish in the extreme.
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