On Thursday I took another day trip from An Hour From Paris, to Chantilly. Zhizhong Joël Yao had recommended this visit, and I wasn’t disappointed. I took iPhone snapshots of the relevant guidebook pages to avoid lugging the book with me, or ripping the pages out as I have sometimes done in the past.
Once again my Andrews Federal Credit Union chip-and-pin card worked with the ticket vending machines, and I was tickled to get a 25% senior (60+) discount, since the trip was outside of the Île–de–France (though as it happened I forfeited the discount on the return trip since I missed my original train and the deal doesn’t apply in rush hour).
The guidebook suggested a quiet walk through the forest as the best way to approach the Château. As usual I loved the bird song, which seems so much more vigorous and varied than in northern New England forests. The day started off cool but got quite warm by the end of the afternoon.
I was bemused by warning signs about galloping horses on certain trails at certain times, since Chantilly is a horse racing center. The guidebook route avoided these tracks but you do need to be cautious! I’m not particularly into horses myself, so I skipped the Living Museum of the Horse. The grand stables are quite impressive, however, reminding me of the Musée d’Orsay.
The Château itself is lovely, though much smaller than Versailles.
The interior decor rivals Versailles, but Chantilly is more manageable in scope, and much less crowded.
The last owner was an avid art collector, and he donated the property with the stipulation that the art would remain just as he left it, similar to the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston and the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. The result is a bit of a hodge-podge, but with some gems hidden among many more ordinary pictures.
The great treasure of the museum is Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. The manuscript is too delicate to be put on display, however, so you see only facsimiles. While they are nicely done, with gold leaf, etc., it’s an odd museum-going experience.
The grounds are extensive, including gardens in several styles, but the grandest is the French garden designed by André Le Nôtre.
There’s even a little pretend village, where rich folks could play at being peasants, like Marie Antoinette at Versailles.
I wonder whether Bill and Melinda Gates have something similar: a tiny suburban town where they play at being Ozzie and Harriet?