We've recently discussed P'Niche's favorite French author, the late and great Alexandre Dumas. Recently, we were lucky enough to take a day trip out of Paris to visit his gorgeous home, le Château de Monte-Cristo. Rev up the time machine and let's take a P'Niche peek to learn more...
We're in 1844 and riding on the literary (and financial) success of Dumas' two novels "The Three Musketeers" and "The Count of Monte Cristo." (Fun note, both of these were first published as serials in weekly newspapers.)
If you haven't yet read Dumas, P'Niche suggests starting with "The Count of Monte Cristo" - truly one of the best books yet published - my all time fave!
While Dumas needed to continue his works and writings, he was searching for a place of peace and solitude to do so. To that point, our Dumas had been living in the Saint Germain en Laye area.
Holding this area of the Seine close to his heart, Dumas' search brought him to the gentle slopes of Port-Marly, where he personally selected the plot on which he would have his new home designed and erected.
Upon the plot selection and purchase, Dumas engaged Monsieur Hippolyte Durand as his architect.
Durand was a master of medieval-style architecture - particularly for churches, where he restored and/or designed many buildings.
His most notable work is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, completed in 1872.
In addition to the main château and secondary house, Dumas declared to Durand, "You will draw an English park in the middle, in which I want a Renaissance house. For my study, a gothic pavilion surrounded by water... There are springs, and you will make waterfalls for me."
What an ambitious plan. Houses, waterfalls, and grottoes, oh my!
Noting that no expense should be spared in creating his dream home, Dumas hosted his glorious housewarming party on July 25, 1847.
Over 600 friends and family arrived to join the fête, with friend and fellow writer, Honoré de Balzac claiming the evening to be "one of the most delicious follies ever made."
Guests at that event would have been treated to the most sumptuous food and surroundings.
Upon entry, you would notice the coat of arms (featuring 3 eagles) of la Famille Davy de la Pailleterie, Dumas' aristocratic family lineage.
The château's interior housed, on the ground floor; several grand salons, the dining room, and kitchens.
On the first floor (second floor for us Americans), the famous Moorish living room exists, along with Dumas' private bedroom and washroom.
Incorporating his love of history, culture, the arts, etc., decorations containing whimsical animals, small angels, musical instruments, and weaponry are on display throughout the main house and the entirety of the Monte-Cristo property.
There are so many nooks and crannies and delightful wonders to discover, it would be nearly impossible to list them all. And why not leave a little to your own discovery, P'Nicher?... More on that in a moment...
Outside, nestled among the garden and grottoes, is the separate second house - Dumas' private writing studio, aptly titled "le Château d'If" after the very famous setting in "The Count of Monte Cristo."
Sometimes, exhausted from his tireless writing, Dumas would be known to rest upstairs in the tranquility of this petit and docile domain.
Sadly, the party was not to last long at the Château de Monte-Cristo. We mentioned earlier this week how poorly Dumas handled his finances, and further, the Revolution of 1848 saw Dumas' complete financial collapse.
In February 1848, the Tribunal of the Seine decreed that the château be sold for a meager 31,000 gold francs (despite the much larger value he had spent in the creation of his Utopia). Much of the money from the sale went to the spousal support due to his ex-wife, Ida Ferrier Dumas.
At the kind consent of the buyer, (coincidentally also named Dumas!) Alexandre Dumas was able to reside at Monte-Cristo until 1851, when he exiled himself in Brussels for a short time.
After Dumas' passing in 1870, and with subsequent owners, the château fell into disrepair. In time, two groups, the Syndicate Intercommunal and the Société des Amis d'Alexandre Dumas, forged a great cooperation to restore the château to Dumas' visions of glory.
Château de Monte-Cristo was thus restored and granted the classification of a historical monument in 1970.
All of those funds and hours of restoration have really paid off. Now, you too, can wander the grounds of Dumas, imagining yourself as the Count, a Musketeer, or even a dear friend and guest of Dumas.
What quirky, romantic, or swash buckling adventure do you have in mind, P'Nicher?
The Château is honestly not that easy to have a day trip to, but it is well worth the effort!
Château de Monte-Cristo
Chemin du Haut des Ormes
78560 Le Port-Marly
1st March to 30th June 1st September to 1st November
Open every day except Monday.
Tuesday and Thursday: the Château opens from 10am to 12.30pm and from 2pm to 6pm.
Wednesday and Friday: the Château opens from 2pm to 6 pm.
On Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays (Easter Sunday, Ascension Day, May 1st, May 8th, July 14th, August 15th, November 1st), the Château opens from 10am to 6pm.
P'Niche PSA: Make sure you check the hours before you go, as they often fluctuate!
Ask me how I know (groan)...
To get to the Château de Monte-Cristo:
* RER A direction and stop Saint Germain en Laye. Then take bus line 10 direction Marly le Roi. Stop ”Les Lampes," and then, go down the avenue Kennedy. Then, first on the right, chemin des Montferrand. Follow the pedestrian route (which is approximately 5 minutes by foot).
* Transilien direction Saint Nom la Bretèche, stop Marly le Roi. Then, bus line 10 direction “Les Lampes.” Go down avenue Kennedy, then first on the right, chemin des Montferrand. Follow the pedestrian itinerary (which is approximately 5 minutes by foot).
If you self drive, there is free parking for château visitors.
What do you think, P'Nicher, are you ready to explore all of the treats Alexandre Dumas left behind for you to discover? Have you already been? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!