Category Archives: History

The Glorious and Distinctive History of French Chateaux

Chateau

A Chateau in France is the singular of chateaux and forms a very special place at the heart of French society and culture.  Originally defensive strongholds, they rapidly came to be anything from medieval keeps, castles and towers to decoratively elegant palaces and manor houses to represent the seats of power of their owners.

 

They can be found all over France but are most numerous in the Loire Valley region in the North West of the country. There are several notable and world-famous chateaux in the country the show the glorious and distinctive history of France, her rulers and her people.

 

The most famous Chateau in France is probably The Palace of Versailles located south west of Paris. A UNESCO world heritage site, Versailles was the principal seat of French rulers for over 100 years form its construction in 1682 to the revolution in 1789.  The vision of Louis XIV, the Sun King, Versailles became famous for its extensive gardens with an intricate network of fountains, canals and geometric flower beds and groves. Versailles became a byword when it hosted the signing of the treaty that officially ended the First World War in 1919 and set the problematic terms for peace.  Now owned by the French state as a museum and galleries, Versailles is the most popular chateau for visitors in the country.

 

The magical and awe-inspiring Chateau de Chenonceau has to be seen to be believed. It spans a bridge over the river Cher in the Loire valley and begins with a medieval Keep at one end and a long angular art gallery on the other that sits atop the bridge.

 

Originally built by the Marques family in the sixteenth century, it is currently owned by the Menier family who owned the famous chocolate brand. Used as a hospital during the First World War, it was bombed by both the Allies and the Axis in the Second World War.  Aside from the beautiful river setting, the chateau also has extensive gardens and an intricate maze to entertain and confuse visitors.

 

Chambord is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley and a unique mix of Renaissance and Medieval architecture and influences that was never formally completed. It was said to have been designed in part by Leonardo Da Vinci and was constructed as a residence by King Francois 1 beginning in 1519. It celebrates its 500th anniversary next year.

 

The links to Leonardo Da Vinci don’t end there. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the art collections of the Louvre and Compiegne museums including the Mona Lisa and the Venus De Milo were housed here for safe keeping.  They had a close call with an American B-24 Liberator bomber crashed on the lawn in 1944. The chateau has inspired architects and designers all over the world for centuries and many buildings including The Founders Building at the Woolwich College, University of London and Fettes College in Edinburgh take their unique looks from here.

 

The Palace of Fontainebleau is now a national museum but is so much more. Another UNESCO World Heritage site, it was a residence for French rulers from Louis VII to Napoleon III.

 

One of the largest royal chateaux, it was both a medieval royal castle and resplendent palace. Although most closely associated with Versailles, Louis XIV spent more time at Fontainebleau than at any of his other residences. Napoleon 1 loved it and renamed the main courtyard the Courtyard of Honor, a name which it is still known by today. Occupied at various points during the Second World War it later became the headquarters of the Allied Forces of Central Europe until 1966.

 

The art galleries, museums and restored rooms contain priceless artefacts from all over the world as well as hosting magnificent gardens and landscapes for visitors to explore.

 

The Palace of Fontainebleau

Another UNESCO world heritage site and residents of French rulers from Louis VII to Napoleon III. It is now a national museum.    

 

One of the largest royal Chateau’s, it was a medieval royal castle and palace, Most famous for Versailles, Louis XIV spent more time here than any other monarch. Napoleon I loved it and renamed the main courtyard the Courtyard of Honor.  It was occupied at various parts of the Second World War and afterwards served as the headquarters of the allied forces Central Europe under NATO until 1966.

 

The art galleries and museums contain priceless artefacts from the French Republic, royalty and all over the world as well as hosting magnificent gardens and landscapes.

 

Chateau Bouffemont is in good company when it comes to the homes and palaces of the nobility and leading citizens of France. You don’t need to be a King, Princess or an Emperor to experience such luxury and splendour today, just visit the website and see for yourself.

5 Jaw-Dropping Features of the Resplendent Château Bouffémont

Chateau Wedding

If you are even contemplating staying overnight or holding an event at a French chateau, you will naturally wish to choose a property that draws the eye and woos every person who sees it.

This is why, when you select the historic stone-built Château Bouffémont as your private venue for such purposes, it’s reassuring to know that you can experience all of the below…  

 

The stunning estate

It is customary for many a French chateau to be set in spectacular manicured grounds. However, even by those standards, the five acres of verdant greenery surrounding Château Bouffémont have to be seen to be believed.

After all, there aren’t too many French chateaus that can offer such jaw-dropping gardens as ours over not just one, or even two, but three levels, exuding the French classicism that informed the entire design of our estate.

 

The extensive terrace

Where is the finest spot from which to survey the entirety of the estate during your short time as lord of the manor at Château Bouffémont?

That may come down to individual taste, but the noble stone-built property’s 120-square-metre terrace certainly affords quite the place to relax with your favourite tipple as you gaze across our extensive gardens and contemplate how to idle the day away.  

 

The halls and living rooms

If the sight of the outside of our fairytale venue would already seem to leave you spellbound enough, you simply have to see how the magic continues inside.

Such tasteful, historically sensitive touches as crystal chandeliers, authentic wood panelling and fine fabrics across prestigious spaces like the Dandy Lounge, Grand Salon and Salon des Anges serve as a testament to the remarkable skills and judgement of the Italian architects, Augusto Busnelli and Marco Allievi.  

 

The suites and guest rooms

Château Bouffémont comprises nine prestigious suites and rooms that are capable of accommodating as many as 27 guests.

These beautifully furnished spaces also demonstrate how adept our venue is at blending aristocratic charm with modern comforts such as flat-screen televisions, radios, telephones, the Internet and Wi-Fi.

 

Its location in the heart of the Montmorency Forest

One could scarcely choose a more desirable setting for a French chateau than the Montmorency Forest. As the website of the suburban railway service SNCF Transilien explains, this natural area is an invaluable green lung of the Val d’Oise region, 90% of its surface being covered in sweet chestnut trees. It is also an excellent playground for the more active type, with such activities as walking, mountain biking and horse riding all taking place here.

It is also from here that the visitor can easily reach the cosmopolitan delights of Paris, which is situated a mere 30 kilometres from the French chateau.

Many of the world’s most renowned art galleries, museums, historical sites, theatres, restaurants and cafes await your discovery in the French capital. So if you have day trips in mind, why not read the Paris tourist office’s own advice about the many great things to see and do in the city?

Such ingredients as the above all show that Château Bouffémont can be depended on to take the breath away of everyone who encounters this sought-after former residence of the Marquise of Preignes and Baron Empain. Contact us today, and you will soon be able to experience it for yourself.

5 Historical Paris Landmarks That You May Have Never Known

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A trip to the City of Lights will never be solely about immersing oneself in the artistic treasures of the Louvre, marvelling at the intricate Gothic detailing or flying buttresses of Notre-Dame Cathedral, or even revelling in sumptuous interiors during your downtimes in the prestigious chateau.

That’s because, with its distinguished history stretching back to the third century BC, as well as the ease with which it can be explored on foot, Paris will always serve up fresh and undiscovered delights to the sufficiently curious visitor.

Here, then, are just a few of the unsung Parisian landmarks that are well worth incorporating into your itinerary during your time in this incomparable art, historical and fashion capital.

 

Paris’s oldest house

As outlined in this Architectural Digest article, you will find what is reputed to be the oldest stone house in the city at 51 rue de Montmorency in the 3rd arrondissement. It was built in 1407 by the alchemist and manuscript seller who was also its most famous occupant, Nicolas Flamel, and it is even rumoured that he carried out experiments here.

The building underwent restoration in 1900, and its ground-floor space is now the Auberge Nicolas Flamel Restaurant.

 

53 rue Volta

This Marais property was once thought to be the city’s oldest house, its architecture having suggested to many observers that it may have been built in the 14th century. In 1979, however, as detailed by the Travel France Online site, archaeologists found documents dating the property to 1644.

The house is therefore now thought to have been constructed specifically to resemble a medieval design, and it’s fair to say that it continues to inspire great affection among the French, and is absolutely worth the detour.

 

39 rue du Chateau d’Eau

There aren’t many more unusual architectural sights in Paris than what has been declared the city’s smallest building, wedged between two 10th arrondissement buildings and constructed to resolve a property dispute.

Measuring a mere 3.3 feet wide and 16.4 feet tall, the structure was initially a shoemaker’s studio incorporating an upstairs live-in studio, but has since become an apartment.

 

Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume

While there is no shortage of buildings in Paris that have a rich association with fine art, there are surely few with a stronger and more intriguing heritage in this regard than the Galerie Nationale de Jeu de Paume.

The rectangular structure housing the museum can be found near the Place de la Concorde, in the northern corner of the Tuileries Gardens, and was constructed in 1861, during the reign of Napoleon III. At first, it housed real tennis courts, but between 1940 and 1944, it stored Nazi plunder, including masterpieces from the collections of French Jewish families.

From 1947 to 1986, it served as a museum of impressionist art prior to the opening of the Musée d’Orsay, and in more recent years, it has been a gallery of modern and postmodern photography and media.

 

The Abbey Bookshop

If you are a Canadian, British or other English-speaking visitor and consider yourself a bibliophile, there could surely be a no finer destination in Paris than the Abbey Bookshop, which has been a fixture of the Latin Quarter since it was opened by Brian Spence in 1989.

While the more than 35,000 books piled to the ceilings are certainly a major attraction – with many not exactly the kind of tomes you can find on Amazon – the handsome building in which it is based, the 18th-century Hotel Dubuisson, is scarcely any less a draw.

As you can see, there are many more historical charms to be encountered in Paris than the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe! Don’t forget, too, that you can even rest your head overnight in a building of rich heritage in its own right, in the form of the fairytale French chateau near Paris, Château Bouffémont.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF HISTORY

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The Château Bouffémont was built during the reign of Napoleon III (in 1860) by the Vallée family. After a short period when it belonged to the marquise de Preignes, it was permanently acquired by the Empain family, through the major general baron Empain.

 

baronEmpain

Edouard Louis Joseph Empain comes from a family of five siblings (three girls and two boys) and spends his childhood in Belgium. General and aide-de-camp of King Leopold, he is knighted by the king in 1907. He  founds a company that will become an industrial empire: the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer métropolitain de Paris built and exploited Paris railroads, among others, until 1945.

Following Edouard Empain’s death just after World War II, in 1946, his wife takes over the Château’s management. Nearly three generations of Empain will live there for over half a century.

Similarly to the residences of the nobility of the era, the Château includes large annexes stretching over a 250-hectare domain, at the heart of the Montmorency forest. The inhabitants of Bouffémont are involved in the Château’s activity and provide the manual labour and farm work for the Empain family.

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Involved in the welfare and prosperity of the village community, the Château was the setting of the traditional award ceremony for schoolchildren.

Located in the Oise department, 30 km (18.5 miles) from Paris, at the edge of the Montmorency forest, the Château is now a private residence, fully dedicated to rental.  Boasting an architecture and Louis XIII style furniture, the Belle Epoque has left its mark on the Château.