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Condé-en-Brie

89km (55 miles) E of Paris; 24km (15 miles) W of Epernay

West of Epernay, Château de Condé, rue du Château, Condé-en-Brie 02330 (tel. 03-23-82-42-25; www.chateaudeconde.com), was bequeathed to the comte de Sade in 1814 and remained in his family until 1983. The name gained notoriety from the works of the marquis, an innovative writer (Justine, Juliette, The 120 Days of Sodom) whose sexual practices as described in his works gave us the word "sadism."

Enguerrand of Coucy built the castle in the late 12th century. A part of the old keep -- two big rooms with great chimneys and thick walls -- survives. Cardinal de Bourbon, a member of the royal family, reconstructed the castle in the Renaissance style early in the 16th century. His nephew, Louis de Bourbon, called himself the prince de Condé, most likely because he had many fond childhood memories of the place. After sustaining damage in the 18th century, the château was rebuilt for the marquis de La Faye. The Italian architect Servandoni invited artists Boucher and Watteau to do frescoes and paintings, which you can see today. Servandoni decorated the largest room, making it a theater for music and entertainment. The present castle is exceptional, with its paintings, woodwork, chimneys, and so-called Versailles floor.

In 1994, the new owners, the de Rocheforts, discovered several Watteau frescoes behind mirrors installed during the 18th century. Now, at the push of a button, the mirrors open to reveal the previously hidden treasures.

Admission is 9.50€ for adults, 4.50€ for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. The castle is open only during the afternoon, and only between mid-April and mid-October, Tuesday to Sunday from 2:30 to 5:30pm. Visits are self-guided, conducted with the help of a free leaflet outlining the history of the building and some of its most important features. Families with children sometimes opt to collectively follow a self-guided treasure hunt, whereby the gift at the end of the hunt is a key that opens a treasure chest loaded with candy and simple toys.

If you're driving between Château-Thierry and Epernay on N3, head south at Dormans, and follow the signs to Condé-en-Brie.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.