If you have visited Europe, you have surely been ecstatic by the design and spectacular nature of the gardens and parks of palaces and residences. One of the most particular is the Désert de Retz, in the Chambourcy commune to the west of Paris, capital of France.
The exquisite property today occupies some 38 hectares. The gardens respond to the Anglo-Chinese style, a fashionable combination in the 18th century. The features were those of a typical English landscape garden with trimmed lawns and groves and historic structures imitating classical temples or Roman bridges. In addition, they had the layout of Chinese gardens, to generate a harmonious whole with the environment.
The space was designed by the aristocrat François Racine de Monvillea man with a special vision of architecture, a great love for botany and also a famous organizer of picnics, dances and parties.
Enlightenment in the soul of the Désert de Retz
The Désert de Retz gardens were built between 1774 and 1789, when the Enlightenment was at its height. This era was characterized by the appearance and diffusion of new ideas and knowledge.
Following the philosophy of that time, Monville thought of a space where his guests could learn about other cultures through typical constructions like a Chinese house, a Gothic church or an Egyptian obelisk.
This aristocrat placed on his estate the most diverse architectural testimonies, such as classical buildings, oriental-type structures and others related to the sciences. He even outlined, with the construction of the greenhouse, an ecological imprint that was not yet known at the time.
Why Desert if it is a garden in a forest?
In the XVIII century, the concept of “desert” was used to name the spaces separated from the main enclosures of a farm. Often the constructions of a Desert they were intended to give guests privacy.
Also, at the time it was called desert to places far from the cities, where there were not many settlers. Marly Forest had those characteristics back then.
However, not only is the name of the Monville property peculiar, but also its constructions, called manufactured, arranged in the form of a walking circuit to tour the estate.
The exotic “factories”
The original landscape design included more than 15 structures. Those that currently survive and you can visit are:
- The Destroyed Column: Shaped like a classic ruined column, the structure has a spiral staircase and five floors of rooms. It was the Monville summer house.
- tartar carp: imitation of a Turkish tent placed on the shore of a lake.
- Ruined Gothic church.
- Temple of the God Pan: a structure with a semicircular shape that represents the Greek culture, since Pan is the Greek god of shepherds and flocks.
- small ruined altar in French, the Petit Autel presque ruiné.
- open theater or uncovered theatre.
- the ice house either glacier pyramide: It was built with stones and in the shape of a pyramid.
On the other hand, the buildings that have disappeared are:
- The Chinese house.
- the hermitage
- Orangery or orangery greenhouse.
- Isle du Bonheur or the Island of happiness.
- The Egyptian Obelisk.
- greenhouses or you will see them
- The thatched roof hut Chaumiere.
History of the Desert of Retz
Built with the vision of an 18th century aristocrat, this unique complex had famous visitors in its heyday. Some of them were Queen Marie Antoinette and Thomas Jefferson, when he was the United States ambassador to France, in the year 1786.
Nevertheless, its splendor declined after its original owner sold the estate in 1792. From then on, it had several owners, but none of them properly maintained the structures, which gradually deteriorated. Many of them disappeared over time.
It was not until 1938 that a survey of the property was carried out. Later, in 1941, it was declared a historical monument, although nothing was done to begin its restoration. In subsequent years, nature took over the space and many of the buildings suffered dismantling and damage.
In 1966, faced with this state of deterioration, the Minister of Culture André Malraux included the Désert de Retz in a bill for the rescue of historical monuments. Between 1973 and 1979, the first restoration financed by the French state was carried out.
Later, in the 1980s, private US capital helped further improve the Desert. The Worms group bought the farm and occupied the land with the Jovenval golf course; In addition, it collaborated in the restoration of the main gardens.
In 2007, the municipality of Chambourcy paid a symbolic euro for the ownership of the Désert de Retz. From this moment on, a great recovery project began for the buildings that are still preserved.
Visit the Desert de Retz!
If you want to take a guided tour of the Désert de Retz, ask at the Chambourcy Town Hall. They will inform you of the dates on which the tours are enabled.
Likewise, Another alternative to find out more is through the website of the Désert de Retz Jardin des Lumières association.. For example, they will comment on issues such as the different routes. In this regard, you can easily get there from Paris by car, a 50-minute drive on the A14 to Chambourcy, and from there to the Desert.
In short, the Désert de Retz is another of the almost exotic destinations that you can find very close to Paris. Schedule it for your next outing if you like to discover places where nature and history magically combine.