Thursday, 24 November 2016

Chateau de Chantilly | Day trip from Paris

I spent one of the best days this autumn visiting Chantilly castle with Diana. The endless shades of green and rusty red were almost more intense after the spot of rain and there was that crisp smell of winter in the air which made it even more perfect. 

Before you get to the Chateau, you should pass by the Écuries which were the stables. The town is actually a bit like Ascot or Epsom in that it thrives off a very famous horse training academy and a racetrack that sees a hatted high society flock in the summer.

I'd say the Chateau is more Renaissance on the outside and more Versailles on the inside. And refreshingly, it has one of the most beautiful library I've seen in a private residence ever. They have a ridiculous number of titles since the Prince de Condé was very into his history books, not that anyone's complaining!

The interior decor of the palace is what you would expect of a 'house' like this, but Chantilly is actually way more special than the stock white-and-gold wood panelling might have you think. There's two rooms in this castle (the second being only open to the public upon booking the guided tour) which are decorated with hand painted Chinese influenced motifs which were all the range in the 18th century. They're known as 'singeries' because of the mischievous monkey motifs and the ones in Chantilly are especially delicate and valuable.

The chateau also boasts a pretty impressive art collection, with the whole south (?) wing taken up by salon rooms. I particularly liked the small Dutch paintings but they also had a number of portraits by Ingres or Delacroix to name just a few.

Another thing Chantilly is known for is its lace manufacturing (on top of their porcelain one that is). Some examples of the traditional needlepoint work is exhibited in the chateau.

Chantilly is like a mini Versailles, it has everything! The par terre gardens are exquisitely French, the hameau was actually the inspiration behind Marie Antoinette's model village and the forest around it is stunning in autumn, the perfect detox to Parisian smog.

However, my FAVOURITE part were the English gardens which made the trip really. It was snowing down leaves, the lake was perfectly reflecting the auburn trees and the small winding path went over bridges and cute neoclassical colonnades where Fragonard and Watteau characters would sneak out for a romantic rendez-vous... can you tell I was in heaven?

Saving best for last, a little bit of sweet! When in Chantilly, you should definitely treat yourself, either to a giant macaron from Valeur d'artisan boulangerie or to a hot chocolate topped with the equally famous Chantilly whipped cream. For a more upmarket experience, the Chateau has a very nice café but there are also loads to be found on the main street, such as Le Boudoir for example.

  Ultimatelly, Chantilly is a charming little town around the beautiful castle grounds which makes it for a perfectly manageable day trip from Paris. The hunt for new beautiful buildings and art historical gems continues nonetheless!

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