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Emmanuelle Vaczlavik

Emmanuelle is one of the few experts of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Emmanuelle began her career as a student of tourism and art history in both Paris and Lyon. A veteran of the hospitality industry, Emmanuelle has been leading guests through prominent French landmarks for years, specializing in the artistic patrimony and the châteaux of Île-de-France, the region where she grew up and lives. With Secret Journeys, Emmanuelle guides guests at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the masterpiece of architecture, art, and landscaping that inspired the design of the Palace of Versailles.

You lead Secret Journey’s visit to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. What strikes you the most about it?

What strikes me most is the beauty of the place and the perfect harmony between the château and the gardens. I like the perspective and the intelligence of the gardens designed by the genius André Le Nôtre. I am still amazed by the theatrical and baroque mise-en-scene of this elegant human-size house topped by a powerful dome and surrounded with a moat filled with water. At first glance, anyone understands why Vaux-le-Vicomte, preface of Versailles, is a masterpiece of the French 17th century.

The story behind the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is almost stranger than fiction. What techniques do you use as a storyteller to bring a place like this to life? 

In the French châteaux, artists' homes or Parisian townhouses, I am, in some way, “the voice” of the place and I bring the human touch. I like telling the true story of well-known personalities. In-situ, narration makes sense. People can see, feel and understand. Vaux-le-Vicomte is a gift. The château has been preserved intact since 1661 and is the perfect story setting. The life and fate of its owner, Nicolas Fouquet, Lord High Treasurer of the kingdom, is like a novel and even inspired the famous 19th-century French author Alexandre Dumas. Below the beautiful ceilings or outdoors, I like distilling information and arousing curiosity, telling my visitors the quick social ascent of Fouquet, his ambition and breathtaking château, King Louis XIV's takeover, the jealousy of Colbert, the fearsome conspiracy, the arrest by the musketeer D'Artagnan, the accusations, the famous political trial and the sentence...

Fouquet was an aesthete, a master in the art of living, and a generous patron surrounded by the finest artists and intellects of his time: Molière, Jean de La Fontaine, Madame de Sévigné ...

This château, like no other, allows an immersion in the refined 17th century, marked by the apogee of the arts: architecture, painting, poetry, gardens theater, music. I come back to the finest hours of Vaux, the lavish receptions and the exceptional feast of August 1661. I also bring light on the painting by Charles Le Brun, on the mythological themes and the allegories, full with references and hints. Through the château, my audience understands the deep personality of the outstanding man. 

The success lies in the subtle balance between the artistic comments eliciting aesthetic emotions and the narration of the great history and the little stories.

How do you make the experiences you create unique for guests? 

I like to share my passion for French culture and heritage with visitors who I always consider as guests. My experience has taught me to listen to them and to understand their expectations. I adapt the Journey and speech to their pace and to their interest for the topic. Each experience is different. My lifework is to show, to tell, and to transmit a knowledge. But in a fast-moving world, I leave room for contemplation, emotions, and feelings. I want my guests to capture the raw essence and the spirit of the place and to submerge in a time period, in the elegant 17th century at Vaux-le-Vicomte, in the pomp of a huge Royal Palace at Fontainebleau, in the warm atmosphere of the charming village of Barbizon at the edge of the forest where landscape painters converged in the 19th century. It’s essential they catch the uniqueness of each place and live a memorable experience. 

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