Stumble into a film set through an avenue of clipped sphinx. Tintin might be round the next corner or Jaws and 007 dicing and dueling somewhere in deep green corridors. The swans are black and the cacti house big enough to seat 50 for dinner. The asparagus beds are furlongs long and the blue aviaries hold a dusty collection of white peacocks and other birds.
There is an amphitheatre that repels an invitation to sit as the seating is box hedging and there are miles and miles of cut hedges. The pairs of parterres can be seen distinctly from google earth and the Yew monoliths showed signs of clippings and discarded ladders. A lone gardener strives manfully with shears over a sphinx. Walk on to reach what looks like the horizon. Golden fish play spouts in sarcophogi-like bathtubs and gold frogs spit a steady flow down a cascade.
On mounting the steps to take a sight back towards the chateau, a whole new level rises up in a trick borrowed from Le Notre. The landscape surges on through the Grand Canal, about a third of a mile in length and culminates in a massive obelisk representing the Spirit. The garden has a philosophy beginning with Mineral, Vegetable and arriving finally with the Level of the Spirit. Diana, Apollo and Leda all are nodded to cursorily on the way.
To get the measure of the awesome scale; (terrifiying to consider in teams of the invisible army of gardeners that must be in thrall) go and visit the house. The owner, who in his absence takes on a tinge of Goldfinger or another Bond baddy, is Jacques Garcia. This aura due to knowing that this groundscape, almost megalomaniac in proportions, has been created from scratch since 1992.
If you hadn’t heard of Garcia, know that the top hotels in Paris and New York have the hallmark of his interior design on them. He is also an avid collector of royal objects dispersed after the French Revolution. Our guide, Catherine, with the biggest eyes and animated manner, took us on a tour of the apartments. Looking out of the windows the perspective of the whole garden unrolled like a carpet.
Inside we saw stuffed iguanas, mounted butterflies, the last Sevres dinner service made before the revolution, the clock delivered to Marie Antoinette before she fled, a dizzy and dazzling array of patterns, silks, priceless museum pieces. Suffocating to live in such a museum. And so it was not too great a surprise to discover, back outside, the diggers at work behind a tall hedge. Garcia is quietly carving out a slab of land as the Red Fort, complete with pavilions and rills reminiscent of gardens by the Dahl Lake. He will be moving into a perfect Herge setting for “The Mystery of the Blue Diamond”.