Domestic holidayers missing their trips abroad can still get their summer fix of French architecture, gardens, wine and food, by taking a visit to Waddesdon Manor, the Rothschild House & Gardens in Buckinghamshire.
The architecture of the Loire Valley
Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild chose a French Renaissance style inspired by the châteaux of the Loire valley for Waddesdon Manor, and engaged a French architect, Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, to create this. Around the Manor are intricate details taken from a number of buildings such as the châteaux of Blois and Chambord, the Louvre and Versailles. The Stables were built in a French 17th-century style, with façades designed by Destailleur – very grand accommodation for the horses and carriages needed to bring Ferdinand’s guests to and from Aylesbury Station, and for tours around the Estate. Today, the Stables Courtyard is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch after a look at the special exhibition Nick Knight: Roses from my Garden in the Gallery converted from the old Coach House.
The interiors of Parisian townhouses
The French influence continues inside the house, where Baron Ferdinand added a touch of Parisian glamour to many of the interiors. Rather than continuing the Renaissance theme, he asked Destailleur to create rooms using wall panels taken from 18th- century French houses. These ornate, carved boiseries are not just a background, but are works of art in their own right. They come principally from Parisian hôtels particuliers (private town houses) removed either when these houses were being refurbished or demolished in the 19th century. Baron Ferdinand also surrounded himself with objects made for French royal and aristocratic patrons. This year, little-known watercolours by the 19th-century symbolist artist Gustave Moreau are on display.
The gardens of Versailles
Ferdinand de Rothschild appointed French landscape architect Elie Lainé, to help with the creation of Waddesdon’s gardens. They were designed to complement the Manor, and as a result are an intriguing mixture of French formality and English romantic parkland. At Waddesdon’s cast-iron Aviary, erected in 1889, visitors can discover echoes of the trelliswork pavilions found in French 18th-century gardens, including Versailles. Facing the Aviary is an important marble figure of Apollo triumphant over the monster Python. This sculpture, by Jean Raon, was originally intended for the gardens there.
The wines of Bordeaux
Waddesdon is a perfect destination for wine lovers and has one of the largest collections of Château Lafite Rothschild outside France. Wine has been an important part of the Rothschild family story since the purchase of Château Mouton Rothschild by Baron Nathaniel in 1853. Today, visitors can enjoy Waddesdon’s wine connections with a visit to the atmospheric cellars created in 1994 which hold over 15,000 bottles, the largest collection of Rothschild wine in the world (included with your House admission). The impressive wine shop features 126 Rothschild wines on offer, plus a further large selection of handpicked guest wines.
The artisan food markets of the Dordogne
For foodies who are missing the cobbled streets of a market square and choosing baguettes, brie and beignets can pick up these delights at Waddesdon’s monthly Artisan Food Market. Taking place every second Saturday of the month in the car park, visitors can support local small businesses and take home a fantastic selection of treats. The event is free to attend.