Un week-end autour de Paris : le château de Chantilly
The château de Chantilly has to be one of the most charming castles around Paris.
It’s not as grand as others such as Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles or even Courances (on a smaller scale) but it has particular charms that make it just like a fairytale castle. Its architecture is beautiful, especially the towers and it has a unique and even peculiar look as it sits in the water. The area around the castle is lovely too. What I enjoy the most is the park, where you can take long walks along the river and spot beautiful charming treasures. One such treasure is the Anglo-Chinese garden with quaint half-timbered cottages called Le Hameau (this is the place to go to for whipped cream) and, if you keep walking to the Île d’Amour (Island of Love – that is so unsurprisingly French, don’t you think?), you will find the Pont des Grands Hommes. It is a beautiful bridge, which to me is the most beautiful spot in the park. There, you can admire the stunning green treillage that has been restored over the years by Tricotel representing French savoir-faire at its best.
Of course, the main thing of interest to most visitors is the château itself, which includes not only one of the biggest collections of paintings in France (it has the second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre museum), but also a great and grand library.
The castle is also very famous because of the crème Chantilly (the real whipped cream, which has wrongly been attributed to the famous French chef, Vatel). This rich cream is so good, that in itself should be reason enough to visit the castle. You will hardly find as delicious whipped cream anywhere else. The recipe they are using at the castle is the original one and I’ve never tasted a crème as good as this one. Never. Jamais. To tell you the truth, I’ve even bought a one-year pass for the park just so I can have the pleasure to eat this whipped cream whenever I want. That is what we call in French « les petits plaisirs de la vie ».
But desserts are not my only raison de vivre (that’s not true! don’t believe everything I write), I also enjoy going to the Flower and Plant Show that is held twice a year in the park of the château de Chantilly (even though it has the potential to be so much better). I love this gathering of French and foreign plant nurseries in front of the castle in the Spring and in Autumn. It is quite a sight and you never come home with empty hands!
After your visit to the domain, why not take a little tour of the town of Chantilly itself? It is not very big and you can walk around, stop at a nice coffee shop to enjoy a warm cup of tea with a pastry, have lunch at a good restaurant, or visit the Grandes Écuries opposite the castle (built in the XVIIIth century). Those amazing stables are now a museum dedicated to horses and remain the biggest and most beautiful stables in Europe. It is interesting to mention that Chantilly is not only a ville princière, it is also a town where horses are extremely important. There are many stud farms around and one the biggest polo clubs in Europe is located in a village nearby. There is also a very famous racetrack where the prix de Diane Longines (formerly known as the prix Diane-Hermès) is held every year and is the chicest event of the season.
So when you are visiting Paris, hop on a fast train and you’ll be in Chantilly in 20 min to spend there a wonderful time!