The Désert de Retz is open to visitors every day except Sunday, from April to October inclusive.
All visits to the Désert de Retz are led by a guide and are by reservation only. During the annual European Heritage Days, however, entry is unrestricted.
Visits by individuals are conducted on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month during the opening of the Désert; departures are at 14:00, 14:45 and 15:30.
The reservation for an individual visit or group tour should be made with the Cultural Affairs Office of the municipality of Chambourcy [+33 1 39 22 31 37] or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The booking period is open from February 1st each year. The reservation is effective only after payment of the entry fee by check in Euros payable to "Trésor Public".
Entrance fees are €10 per adult [age 16 and up] and €5 for children [8-16 years] for visits led by volunteer guides from the association "Le Désert de Retz Jardin des Lumières.”
Visits by groups can take place every day except Sundays and the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month. A parking space for tour buses and coaches is nearing completion on the site of the Désert de Retz to facililtate visits by groups.
In case of cancellation [high wind or heavy rain...] tickets remain valid for a later date to be determined in arrangement with the Chambourcy Cultural Affairs Office.
In addition to visits sponsored by the municipality of Chambourcy, the tourist offices in Saint-Germain-en-Laye [+33 1 34 51 05 12], Marly-le-Roi [+33 (0)1 30 61 61 35] and Poissy [+33 1 30 74 60 65] also conduct scheduled visits to the Désert de Retz.
Scholars or researchers may also wish to contact the previous owners of the Désert de Retz, Jean-Marc Heftler-Louiche and Olivier Choppin de Janvry, or Pierre-Emile Renard, president of Histoire de Chambourcy de Retz et d'Aigrement (HISCREA).
Mr. Jean-Marc Heftler-Louiche
14, rue Saint-Guillaume
75007 Paris, France
Mr. Olivier Choppin de Janvry
6Bis, Grande Rue
78290 Croissy-sur-Seine, France
Histoire de Chambourcy de Retz et d'Aigrement (HISCREA)
30, rue de Gramont
78240 Chambourcy, France
Tel/fax: 01 30 74 47 51
President: Mr. Pierre-Emile Renard
4, rue Georges Thill, 78240 Chambourcy
In addition to the Désert de Retz, you may wish to visit the other picturesque gardens described in the table below. For additional information on these and other gardens in the Paris region, consult
Les jardins de Lumières en Ile-de-France by Dominique Césari, published in 2005.
Although the book is currently out of print, copies may be purchased from Amazon.fr, which ships worldwide, as well as from second-hand book dealers and websites. This pocket-sized vademecum, enhanced with color photography by the author, is highly recommended. Texts in French.
Location and access
Lien en français
45 kilometers northeast of Paris
Train or automobile
Owned and designed by the Marquis René Louis de Girardin, influenced by Jean-Marie Morel and Hubert Robert. The Parc Philosophique was inspired by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Numerous structures are visible including the Tombeau de Roussseau, a Philosphers's Cabin and an altar dedicated to "La Reverie."
Built by Louis Phillippe d'Orléans, Duke of Chartres, designed by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle and Thomas Blaikie, a Scots landscape gardener who settled in France in 1776. Designed to "unite in one garden all places and all times." The park now contains five surviving 18th century structures: the rotunda--attributed to Ledoux--the naumachie, a pyramid, three tombs and columns from the Temple of Mars.
Created by Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, in the extensive park at Chantilly, the 18th century garden consists of two parts, the Hameau and the Jardin Anglo-chinois. In the Hameau--an inspiration for Marie Antoinette's Queen's Hamlet at Trianon--five structures, including a billiard room, a dining room and a mill, have survived. In addition, an English Garden, created in 1820, contains a number of structures including a Temple of Venus. Also worthy of a visit is the château, rebuilt in 1875-81, housing the the exceptional collections of the Musée Condé.
Hameau de la Reine--Marie Antoinette's Estate, Trianon
22 kilometers southwest of Paris
Train to Versailles Rive Gauche or automobile
After visiting the Désert de Retz and Chantilly, Marie Antoinette decided to create her own folly garden in the form of a miniature farm on the grounds of the Petit Trianon. The Queen's Hamlet--the Hameau de la Reine--was renamed Marie Antoinette's Estate in 2006. The park contains numerous copies of Norman farm buildings, including a dairy and a dovecote, along with a Temple of Love and a delightful Belvedere, both created by Richard Mique.
L'Ile Adam, 25 kilometers north-northwest of Paris
Train or automobile
Designed by the painter Hubert Robert for his friend and patron, Pierre-Jacques Bergeret de Grancourt, and erected in 1790, the octagonal Chinese Pavilion served both a utilitarian and decorative purpose. In addition to being a brightly-colored recreation of a Chinese pagoda whose interior panels were decorated with paintings of birds evoking both Orient and Occident, the structure served to regulate the level of water in the adjacent artificial lake. The pavilion, in ruins, was acquired by the town of L'Ile Adam in 1971 and soon restored to its former glory.
45 kilometers west-southwest of Paris
Train or automobile
A wonderful example of a 20th-century picturesue garden. Owned by the late esthete Carlos de Beistegui y de Yturbe [also known as Charlie de Beistegui], and designed by Cuban interior designer and landscape architect Emelio Terry. The garden contains 14 structures including a Chinese pagoda, a pyramid, a Palladian bridge and even a Tartar Tent, whose interior walls and floors are decorated with a mosaic design incorporating 10,000 tiles of Delft china. There can be no doubt whatsoever that this garden was directly influenced by the Désert de Retz.
225 kilometers southeast of Paris
An excellent example of a 20th-century picturesque garden in the spirit of the late 18th century, the Parc Floral d'Apremont was created by the late
Gilles de Brissac (1935-2002), who studied landscape gardening in England, and designed by architect-painter Alexandre Sérébriakoff. The garden contains a series of ponds, a man-made cascade and meadows where charolais cattle graze and an English garden in addition to a Chinese-style Pagoda Bridge, a Turkish Pavilion on its island reached by stepping-stones, and a Russian-inspired Belvedere. The walls of the interior of the Belvedere are decorated with a series of eight faïence panels evoking a voyage of pulcinelli around the world through images of Venice, China, Africa, the Antilles, Mount Kilimanjaro, Peru, India and...the Parc Floral d'Apremont. The garden is open daily from April through October.
Vendeuvre was built between 1750 and 1752 from the plans of
(1705-1774), and is a great example of an eighteenth century country house. In addition to the richly decorated interior, the grounds boast a number of gardens. The Utility Gardens contain a fish pond, a dovecote and and a
pyramid ice house reminiscent of Monsieur de Monville’s. The Surprise Water Garden contains a number of hydraulic mechanims including a Crystal Tree that sprays water from its branches, the Fountain of the Muses, a Tortoise Cascade, a Water Nymph’s Grotto, a Shell Grotto decorated with 200,000 shells, a Temple of Serenity and a Chinese Bridge. The Vendreuvre Gardens also boast a regular maze of yew hedges and white rose bushes and a one-acre field labyrinth, in which visitors attempt to find a small rabbit.