Thursday, 26 May 2016

Chantilly Estate: worth a second visit but skip the cream

Crème Chantilly, also known as whipped cream with vanilla flavouring, is tied to the town and grand estate of the Chateau de Chantilly in Picardie, somewhat north of Paris and a two-hour bus drive from Chartres. You can't see this estate in half a day and if you're with a group you'll need a full day to deal with the inevitable waiting around for a group rendez-vous. This was my second visit but this time in Spring.
We started with the ecuries or Grand Stables. (see the photo at left). Our group arrived much too early and had to wait outside. The doors don't open before 10am. Once inside there's a lot of crowding and hanging about for tickets as the passageways are cramped. Not ideal but then you walk along and look at the horses in their stalls. There are 30 horses housed there. They are involved in dressage displays and spectacular themed shows. There is also the horse museum so if you're into horses this is the place for you; history of breeding, use of horses for agriculture, transport and entertainment through the ages. There is quite a collection of carousel horses on display. 
And everywhere the smell of hay, horses and manure. Fortunately not too much of the latter. After a toilet stop we made our way past the carriage courtyard with two giant bronze horses' heads to the dessage display area, handily comprising covered seating on two sides. It's an interesting experience watching the riders explain, at such an historic site, how horses are trained.
We then walked a short distance to the chateau. It's had a bit of a tough time in the past with demolitions and destruction at the time of the Revolution but a lot was rebuilt in the nineteenth century. The Chateau is also famous for its Condé Collection of Artworks. Over the centuries it has been added to and rebuilt by various noble families such as the Montmorencys, the Bourbon-Condes, the Orleans. It is currently owned and developed as an important monument by the Institut de France. For a quick rundown on the history of Chantilly which is so closely involved in the great events and personnages of France visit  The artworks include paintings by Van Dyk and Raphael. You can see here a painting of the Great Condé - not a handsome man but he was cousin to Louis XIV and developped his Chantilly estate to an almost Versaillesque degree. 
Key features of the chateau are the painting gallery with its rotunda, the library which contains thousands of rare books, the music room with its harp, the gallery with paintings of battles, the monkey room where the ceiling is covered in delightful painted antics of monkeys and other animals, the grand staircase with its exquisite metal detail, the gardens and parterres by famed landscape genius Le Notre. 
Another display that caught my eye was that devoted to fine china dinnersets and vases as well as cutlery and golden candlestickholders. All in perfect condition. The chateau makes the perfect complement to the stables. Quality throughout.
JC wanted to try the creme chantilly while he was there and so he did, but the service was extremely slow. It was also suffering from a very heavy hand with the vanilla essence. My whipped cream which is a little more interesting is better in taste but not in consistency. The cream used at Chantilly seemed to be of a better whipping quality than that available in supermarkets here which is greatly inferior to cream sold in NZ. That cream doesn't stand up for long and starts melting distressingly as soon as you stop whipping.                                                                                       To read about my previous visit in 2011 go here
I wanted to explore the gardens, the hamlet but there was no time before we had to catch the bus back. As we left we were passed by a wedding party arriving for photos. What a fabulous place to create memoiries of that nature. But then France just oozes magnificence in its cultural heritage.


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