Disney has done an amazing job of fixing the image of a fairy tale castle in our minds, drawing inspiration first and foremost from the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, but also many other famous castles in Europe, including France’s Château de Chenonceau and Château de Chambord.
I have yet to visit any of the famous castles of France, but I have no regrets since there is a fairy tale castle right in our backyard! The Château de Vizille is less than an hour from Grenoble, and easily accessible by public transport (bus number 23 runs between the University and Vizille), since it’s part of the Grenoble conglomeration. It’s also a very short and easy drive through the mountains.
Former residence of the Dukes of Lesdiguières in the 17th century, the Château de Vizille was also a presidential residence from 1925 to 1960, the castle, before becoming the property of the Department of Isère. In 1984, the castle was transformed into a Museum dedicated to the French Revolution because of its strong connection to the events of 1789. A part of the network of museums in the Isère region, it boasts of several masterpieces depicting this important period in French history.
I remember getting excited when I saw “La Mort de Marat” by Jacques-Louis David, a leading artist of the late 18th century. The painting depicts the murder scene of Jean-Paul Marat, a radical journalist who was killed in his bath by Charlotte Corday. The famous painting is part of the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium, so I was really lucky that it was exhibited in Vizille in 2009.
The castle is set in a park of 100 hectares, which combines a more landscaped garden and a more natural, or rural park with an animal reserve. The “romantic” garden, an amalgamation of park land and woods, has been left natural and is ideal for picnics…or a long, meandering stroll of several kilometres along the canal. Since entry to the castle and the museum is free, it’s also a very popular destination amongst students and families.
I’ve been to Vizille thrice since my first visit in 2009, and am just as charmed each time by the park. Ideal for lazy weekend picnics, it’s also a place that makes you want to slow down, and just breathe in the abundance of natural beauty.
It’s a place where I can’t help but softly recite Leisure by W.H Davies as I meander along the paths, stopping to admire a wild flower here, or a tree there, crossing small bridges to go over to the other side, circling around small ponds, and getting lost in the sound of the water gurgling down small cascades.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
2 thoughts on “Fairy tale Castle (Almost) In My Backyard…”
Wow what a beautiful castle to explore and photograph! Most of the castles in Ireland are in ruins and only a handful are preserved 🤗
France is very good at preserving their historical monuments, but I’m still impressed at how well this castle is maintained, even though they don’t have any entrance fees. You can see that the taxes are put to some good use at least ! 🙂 😉