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If you dream of exploring some of the world’s most enchanting gardens and castles in the countryside surrounding Paris, join the Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) in this unique 5-day tour designed for lovers of natural beauty.  For an authentic experience of the French garden style, we open the doors to award-winning private gardens where the owners take the time to explain their plant choices over afternoon tea or drinks.

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Royal Châteaux & Gardens in the Ile de France

 

If you dream of exploring some of the world’s most enchanting gardens and castles in the countryside surrounding Paris, join the Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) in this unique 5-day tour designed for lovers of natural beauty.  For an authentic experience of the French garden style, we open the doors to award-winning private gardens where the owners take the time to explain their plant choices over afternoon tea or drinks.

Retrace the evolution of French garden design while visiting the royal castles and parks surrounding the City of Light with your specialist guide. Take advantage of your base in a legendary hotel in the heart of Paris to make daily excursions into the surrounding countryside.

Begin at the royal Château de Fontainebleau, a monumental palace built in a vast hunting forest and surrounded by a richly landscaped park. Its architectural decor spans over 400 years and bears the stamp of both Renaissance King François I and the Emperor Napoleon I. Strolling through its courtyards, you will discover a landscape of stylistic contrasts between the secluded Renaissance-style Garden of Diane – goddess of the hunt, the English Garden, and the terraces around the Bassin du Tibre.

At the nearby Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, discover the breathtaking gardens designed by André Le Notre who intended them to be a harmonious extension of the castle. These monumental jardins à la française constitute one of the earliest examples of this new classical garden style and was the precursor to Versailles. Vaux-le Vicomte was built in 1661 for Nicholas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister. The young king had him arrested on charges of embezzlement shortly after attending its lavish inauguration and then ordered its designers, including Le Nôtre, to enlarge the hunting lodge he had just inherited from his father at Versailles.

Explore the celebrated interiors and gardens of the Château de Versailles, the epitome of French classical design and the blueprint for royal castles throughout Europe for nearly two hundred years. Observe to what extent André Le Notre’s masterly garden design transforms nature to create a perfect harmony with Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart’s architectural design. The gods and goddesses of his richly sculpted fountain groups in the bosquets, closest to the palace, echo those in Le Brun’s magnificent painted ceiling in the Hall of Mirrors.

Tour the romantic Trianons and the bucolic Hamlet of Marie-Antoinette, where the naturalistic gardens are a poignant reminder of 18th century anglomania and a clear reaction to Le Nôtre’s formal jardins à la française. Visit the impressive Potager du Roi, the king’s vegetable garden, to better understand the importance the court attached to a royal menu composed of homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Make an excursion to the Château de St.-Germain-en-Laye to stroll along Le Nôtre’s monumental terraced walk high above the river Seine. Then, by appointment, stop to admire the exotic Desert de Retz, a pre-revolutionary example of a jardin anglo-chinois hidden in the forest of St. Germain-en-Laye and normally closed to the public. Discover the Château de Malmaison, where the Empress Josephine created a rose collection immortalized by the botanist Redouté, and admire its original Empire-style furnishings.

Then wander through the enchanting gardens of the Château de Chantilly comparing its 17th century formal water gardens designed by Le Nôtre with its 18th century natural landscape gardens adorned with rustic cottages. Inside the neo-Renaissance castle, a superb pastiche rebuilt by the Duc d’Aumale in the 19th century, take the time to admire its exceptional French painting collection, second in importance only to the Louvre.

This bespoke 5-day tour of the Royal Châteaux and Gardens in the Ile de France offers you a survey of the finest French châteaux and gardens with privileged access, luxury accommodation and transportation, a specialist historian/guide, the assistance of our Académie Hostess, and all reservations, entrance fees and taxes.

The exclusive AAV tour can be customized to meet your interests and requirements. Available all year, through April through October are best for optimal garden conditions. Price upon request.

  • Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) Download

Here is the first report back on the tour – thank you for making it so successful: All very well, water on the coach each morning, superb weather, hotel with modern decor and clean and efficient; the visits have been really good with interaction with the owners and some of them real characters and very friendly. AAV in Paris has done us proud. Heather is charming and easy to get along with. Our driver is possibly the best I have ever had. Baie lekker!
Keith Kirsten, South African garden specialist and television celebrity (Johannesburg, South Africa) on his AAV experience

This bespoke 5-day tour of the Royal Châteaux and Gardens in the Ile de France offers you a survey of the finest French châteaux and gardens with privileged access, luxury accommodation and transportation, a specialist historian/guide, the assistance of our Académie Hostess, and all reservations, entrance fees and taxes.

Your private AAV tour can be customized to meet your interests and requirements. Available all year, though April through October are best for optimal garden conditions. Price upon request.

Please email AAV at info@parisaav.com or telephone + 33 (0)9 52 94 59 38 to begin the planning process for your bespoke garden tour.