Chateau de Pierrefonds
The Château de Pierrefonds was originally built in the 12th Century with additions by the Duke of Orléans in the 15th Century. It was partially destroyed in the 17th Century on the orders of Richelieu, although his troops didn't finish it off as it was too big a job! The Château remained a ruin until Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III of France) visited it in 1850 and asked Viollet-le-Duc to undertake its restoration. Whilst Napoleon envisaged the creation of an imperial palace money soon ran out and after his death the reconstruction was scaled back somewhat. What does remain though is a fabulous facsimilie of a 14th Century French defensive castle. Nowadays the Château is open for visits with a walk along the ramparts offering a fabulous view over the surrounding countryside. Many of the rooms have been sumptiously redecorated and there is a working lead workshop, recreating for sale some of the decorations which have been made for centuries for some of the leading architects of France. The town of Pierrefonds is also a lovely place to visit, offering healing baths in the natural waters, and boating on the lake. There is a lovely restaurant with views out over the water from which you can see the house Alexandre Dumas lived in, having been born in the village next door. More recently the Château has been used for filming such works as Merlin for the BBC and The Joan of Arc story. The Château is open all year The Château sits in a park, featuring extensive parterres and water features, which was laid out principally by André Le Nôtre. It also contains a French landscape garden with a cascade, pavilions, and a rustic ersatz village, the Hameau de Chantilly, which inspired the Hameau de la reine of Marie Antoinette in the Gardens of Versailles. The estate overlooks the Chantilly Racecourse and the Grandes Écuries (Great Stables) which contains the Living Museum of the Horse. According to legend, Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon, Prince of Condé believed that he would be reincarnated as a horse after his death. In 1719, he asked the architect, Jean Aubert to build stables suitable to his rank. These 186m long stables are considered by some as the most beautiful in the world. The Château has been in the public eye in recent years, with concerts by Pink Floyd in the nineties, a part in the James Bond film 'A View to a kill', and it has played host to celebrity weddings including Ronaldo's in 2005.