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|Where’s Georgie-Jet? Yvelines, France|
Hi, I am Georgette, , a writer and artist based in Connecticut. I am also Johnny Jet’s older sister, who quite possibly ignited his first spark of interest in traveling to exotic places, when at the impressionable age of 13, he saw my trip to Australia last three years! This is the fourth time I have had the privilege of writing for JohnnyJet.com. My first travel journal was about the island of French Martinique and can be found in JohnnyJet’s June ’05 archives. The second time, I went to Paris, (November 15, ’06) and Versailles (November 22), and now the region of Yvelines, for the final installment of the "Marie Antoinette" excursion.
Yvelines – The Chateaux of the Royals
Yvelines is a province that is close to Paris and home to the Chateaux ("hunting lodges", castles and palaces) of her husband, King Louis XVI and his royal ancestors. It’s also home to the royal palace of Chateau Versailles.
Our first stop in Yvelines was the 13th century Chateau Villette, made famous as the home of Tiebing in the movie The Davinci Code. (My brother Johnny had just visited this chateau and actually filmed in it for his upcoming TV travel show.) The amazing chateau has very tall ceilings and stone walls and floors which emphasize its old world charm and grace. The expansive grounds are incredibly gorgeous as well. The gardens were redesigned in 1970 to look like they had in the 1700’s when Count Villette owned the chateau and gave it its name. In the 17th century the celebrated garden designer Le Notre created the French-style formal garden. He used strict geometrical patterns and broad perspective. He also used man- made ponds, which mirror the sky. His style, designed for Versailles, was recreated at the Chateaux of other people of the court including Chateau Villette. Just visiting here, you may feel you are a count or countess! You can arrange a two hour tour of the chateau for 35 to 95 Euros ($45-$125) per person, depending on the number in your group. Or you may play the part of royalty and actually stay at the Chateau! The entire glamorous place can be rented for six days at 4000 Euros ($5,230) per person, which includes a cook and a housekeeper and accommodates up to 28 people. With eighteen bedrooms and a chapel on the grounds, it would be an ideal place for a destination wedding, something very special and a room for every auntie! Check it out at ChateauVillette.com.
Next we headed to the royal village of Rambouillet the home of Chateau de Rambouillet - the former hunting lodge (castle) of Louis XVI which dates back to the 14th Century. The town is quaint and although we did not see very much of it, the Hotel Mercure Rambouillet Relays du Chateau (Mercure.com) made an impression with its 17th century façade. Many kings loved the forest here as it has always been abundant with wildlife and it is still a popular place to visit and in some places hunt wild stags and birds. Louis XVI wanted Marie Antoinette to spend time with him here, but she found it too boring. To please her, he had an ornamental dairy built so she could play shepherdess, which was the in-vogue thing to do at the time! She still did not spend much time here! The castle has had many additions through the years, being the residence of King Louis XVI through the history of the Republic. Now it is a presidential residence that is open to the public except Tuesdays and when the president is in residence. Besides being an interesting ancient castle, the historical value of the original furniture, artwork and tapestries is worth the tour, and walking around the gardens is mind-blowing. This castle has witnessed the death of Francois I, the abdication of Charles X and many other historical figures and events. Chateau Rambouillet is a state property and the website is Monum.fr. The hours are 9:30 – 5:30, and the admission is 5.50 Euros. ($7) I also found the information for Rambouillet on ParisInfo.com under chateaux. The 20,000 hectares of woodlands nearby offer great opportunity for outdoor enjoyment. The Espace Rambouillet is in the heart of the forest and provides walking trails to view protected wild life. It is open daily. Check the website for the exact hours which depend on the season: onf.fr/espaceramb. For the Rambouillet tourist office go to ot-rambouillet.fr.
Chateau de Villiers-Le-Mahieu
Back in the VW bus, we traveled along wooded roads to have dinner at The Chateau de Villiers-Le-Mahieu. This impressive chateau has evolved into a 4 star hotel and restaurant. It is another great place for a destination wedding or business conference. Only 30 minutes from Paris by car, the hotel has 80 rooms and is surrounded by a moat, since it was originally a 13th century castle. All bedrooms are beautifully decorated and have modern conveniences including internet connections. The room rate ranges from $159 - $259 Euros ($208-$338) per night. Buffet breakfast is an additional 15 Euros ($19), very reasonable compared with Paris prices. The night we were there, a large wedding was taking place and we ate in a private stone room with low cave-like ceilings. The ambience and the meal were wonderful. After our main course, we were treated to a selection of French cheeses and that was before dessert! The service was perfect, friendly and inconspicuous. After several hours when we could not eat or drink another thing, we left our private dining chamber and went outside. We were all taken with the romantic lighting of the castle and the reflections on the moat. Our group were finally rendered speechless! ChateauVilliers.com.
The next morning we enjoyed our breakfast at Trianon Palace (StarwoodHotels.com), Versailles, a location that was perfect for visiting Rambouillet and our next castle, the Chateaux Vieux in Saint-Germain-En-Laye. Actually, you can take the Metro right from Paris and be here in 20 minutes! The city of Saint-Germain-En-Laye is one of the most interesting in the Parisian area, having maintained much of its medieval urban layout. The streets are fun to stroll, and have many trendy shops and cafes and houses that date back 500 years or more. The Chateau Vieux (old castle) just happens to be one of its many highlights. The Chateau de Saint-Germain (Chateau Vieux) was built in 1122 as a defensive fortress with its elevated position 90 meters above the Seine River. My favorite part was the remarkable inner courtyard. Many kings tried to alter its outward appearance of a fortress, but to no avail, so Henri II built Chateau Neuf (new castle) near it. Most of the Chateau Neuf was torn down except the part where Louis XIV was born, now a hotel – Pavillion Henry IV (more about that later). Before Versailles was the center for the French government, it was situated in Saint-Germain-En-Laye. King Louis XIV used the famous architect Mansart to alter the appearance of Chateau Vieux and hired Le Notre to design the garden. Lined by two hundred year old lime trees, the terrace garden is the real deal, 2,400 meters long and 30 meters wide with an elevated sublime view of Paris. This place was the favorite spot of Impressionist painters including Sisley and Turner, and now a favorite area for locals and tourists to stroll. The Chateau Vieux is the site of the Museum of National Archaeology which has the largest collection of prehistoric art in Europe. The tourism office offers guided tours of the city and has all the information about the museums and local restaurants and shops. For more info log on to Tourisme.SaintGermainenlaye.fr.
Pavillon Henry IV
The end of the trip began with drinks on the terrace of Pavillon Henry IV (Pavillonhenri4.f) with the same view of the Terrace Gardens – overlooking Paris. The weather was great and the experience awe-inspiring. As the sun began to set, we moved into a small square room with high ceilings, and faded antique murals. The room was lit only by candles and the large round table was laid in white linen and set with silver. The twelve of us sat down to a special meal of Filet of Beef, Pommes soufflés and Bearnaise sauce. Pommes soufflés (puffed potatoes) and Bearnaise sauce were both created at that restaurant more than one hundred years ago by Chef Colinet. The food was superb. The antique hotel is tastefully decorated and has 43 rooms. Double rooms start at 140 Euros ($170). As the six of us reminisced over the last five days, we learned from members of the Saint-Germain-En-Laye tourist office that Louis XIV was born in the very room in which we were having dinner, in 1638! Although Marie Antoinette had never been to this town, her husband’s great grandfather had, so the conversation, of course, went back to Marie Antoinette!
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