Day Trips: Chantilly

I’ve always emphasized that this is a Paris blog first and foremost, but that picture of Paris is incomplete if it doesn’t include the day and weekend trips I take around this beautiful country.  I always tell Americans that France is 75% the size of Texas, which simultaneously conveys how large France is (because Texas is BIG) while giving a sense of how small it is in comparison to the continental 48 United States.  You can get almost anywhere in France within a day’s drive.

As I’ve said to many, after 500,000 miles (more than 1M kilometers) driven in the US, I’m retired from driving other than when I have absolutely no choice, and weekends away are no different.  I’m almost always going to take the train where I’m going.

On the border of Île-de-France is Oise, which has the stop Chantilly-Gouvieux within its borders.  Nine euros each way and about 45 minutes later on the train you will find yourself a 20-30 minute (scenic) walk, at a decent pace, from the stables and Château of Chantilly.

Most of the château dates from after the French Revolution, as during that disgusting and disgraceful time of French history the revolutionaries burned and destroyed so many beautiful things, and murdered so many people.  And yet, the history of the grounds, château, and stables, for anyone who bothers to read about it, is the typical story of noblesse oblige, conservation, and heritage that made France such a jewel of Europe.

I’ve been to Chantilly three times now, and each time I’ve been joined by friends for a picnic beforehand.  I bought an Annual Pass on my first visit as I could see that I would need a number of visits to properly see it.  On my first visit I thoroughly visited the gardens, designed by Andre Le Nôtre, who designed, among other masterpieces, the Gardens at Versailles.  On my second visit I visited the stables and the museum of the Grand Écuries, which is adjacent to the château.  I didn’t have time to go see a horse show, alas (the property famously hosts two major races each year, on par with America’s Kentucky Derby).  I also took a tour of the private apartments.  On my last visit, just this last month, I finally took in the château itself, with its very fine art collection.  Indeed, there are almost as many Poussins here as in the Louvre!

And no visit to Chantilly would be complete without tasting that famous Chantilly cream, which you can eat just out of the bowl, as my friend Linda did, or if you’re feeling more traditional, with some fruit and sorbet.

This was one of those photos that you can’t believe look so picturesque, even as you’re taking it.

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