This was certainly a weekend of beautiful buildings – namely, castles.
Saturday began with a trip to Sainte Chapelle, a church near Notre Dame known for its tall stained glass windows. It was indeed very impressive, with scenes of the Bible depicted in dozens of panes. I love that on the outside, you don’t know there’s stained glass but once you get in, you can see the colorful light reflecting like a disco ball.
We tried to go inside Notre Dame afterwards, but it was closed for a special event and only French people could go inside. After later hearing of dangerous events in Lyon, we thought maybe it was connected to that but I haven’t heard anything else about those events. It was still nice to walk around the St Michelle area.
Our class met at 5:45 p.m. for a special night adventure to Vaux le Vicomte, a palace apparently created by a top painter, architect and landscaper – the same as Versailles. But Teo loves this one more because it’s smaller and simpler, yet still grand. He always says less is more. We brought sandwiches to eat on the bus; mine was ham + butter = great.
Let me tell you, Vaux le Vicomte was completely beautiful. It’s a perfect castle enclosed behind gates, surrounded by a mote, and placed in front of a beautiful garden with reflecting pools. Also, the absolute best part: it’s lit with candles every Saturday night. Literally, employees go around the property lighting hundreds of candles that are placed along the walkways and in the windows and all over.
There were ropes leading us through the mansion tour. The hallways were all painted a lovely golden yellow, with many bedrooms and parlors with dark tapestries and red curtains and painted ceilings. So extravagant.
One of my favorite parts of the interior was downstairs in the dungeon. Though it was chilly, I enjoyed seeing the servant’s quarters, the kitchen, and a huge tunnel with barrels that was maybe a cellar or stable – my guesses. It was a nice break from velvet and porcelain and gold picture frames.
However, once we exited into the backyard, our mouths dropped. It was so pretty and delicate and impressive yet simple. A path ran through the center, with pools of water or lawns on the side. We couldn’t stop taking pictures. The sky was the cherry on top, with the clouds striated across the sky in little chunks like shattered glass. Teo’s wife, Scarlett, said this is the prettiest she’s ever seen it.
As we made our way down the stairs into the garden, I wanted to soak it all in. Even though there are a lot of gardens on the West Coast, this was just elegant wealth and perfectly designed. Teo said around 10 p.m. when it slightly begins to get dark, we should wait behind the rectangular pool at the back of the estate to see the reflection in the water. As we waited, we saw giant fish swim up begging for food. Behind us, a giant Hercules statue protruded out of a huge grassy hill, a 40 minute walk away down a winding path. Many were over there picnicking, but we waited for the reflection.
It was breathtaking. Teo said this is the highlight of the trip and I know why. As the sunset, the reflection of the palace appeared in the still pool of water. The candles that lined the stairs and windows began to appear as well. Both inside and outside felt like a Halloween mansion with candles and darkness and dungeons. But pleasantly so!
There were not many tourists at Vaux le Vicomte, though there were a fair few to fill the stairs as they sat to watch the lights or have a romantic candle dinner at a restaurant on the property.
I loved it. I love lights. I loved the palace. And as we began to board the bus, the firework show began. We could see it from above a rooftop. It topped off the most beautiful night. A great merging of natural beauty and artificial construction.