Chantilly Castle


Chantilly Castle brings to my mind images of lace and thick whipped cream. A gorgeous castle complex on the outskirts of Paris, it’s a Beauty and the Beast kind of castle, with stables filled with thoroughbred horses, tiny little ponies and a myriad of sad looking donkeys. But don’t worry; even amongst the luxury, splendor and rich history of a European castle – I still kept my eyes peeled for whipped cream.

Finding the correct train to take from Paris to Chantilly was difficult. The information on TripAdvisor had made it seem like a direct route, as if the steps one should take through the terminal were outlined on the ground, and arrows pointed from one platform to the next. But, no. Instead, there was a lot of hectic yelling and palms hitting foreheads at the ticket machine as my husband and I tried to ascertain the correct zone for which we needed tickets. In the end, we bought the ticket that went to ALL the zones at a whopping 35 euros each. Which, in the end, of course, was also wrong. We needed a ticket to travel outside the zones – which only cost 8 euros each. Obviously.

Nevertheless, the train station at Chantilly is small, and no one except the two of us disembarked there (after being soundly admonished by the agent for our improper tickets). The walk to the castle is quite a hike, but the vision of the structure looming on the horizon is enough to keep you stepping. Large, stray cats dot the walkway and peer with an expression that is in itself very French and disdainful; yellow eyes glowing up at you, as if you’re not even worth begging from.

On arrival, the first sight is the stables, which is also where tickets for the tour are sold. We had apparently arrived too late to see some type of film about the castle, which we were not at all put-out about, but right on time for the horses – which were not at all pleased to have visitors. After a cursory walk through, we approached the castle.

Chantilly is certainly beautiful, with a bright white stone façade that appears to rise like a fairyland amidst the glass-like lake surrounding it. The light blue roof and sprouting wildflower-like turrets make the sight both fairytale and formidable. It’s a vision of unbelievable beauty and strength – not only the brawn of stone, but the fortitude of centuries standing as an immovable glacier in the blue of the water.

The castle’s interior is impressively gilded, with gorgeous furnishings and paintings – my jokes about stealing them were not amusing to the docents (they really would have looked perfect in our living room!). Chantilly houses possibly the greatest artwork in France – except for the Louvre – including two works by Raphael and one by Botticelli.

But after a time, I must admit that the grandeur of the castle pales with the needs of the stomach, and it was then that the castle restaurant called our names.

Would any trip to Chantilly be complete without the aforementioned Chantilly cream? Is there any more supreme experience – even when compared with paintings by the masters – than eating real, authentic, Chantilly cream? I didn’t think so, either.

An hour later, appetites sated by a bowlful of thick, fat-filled Chantilly’s finest and a bottle of wine, we waddled our stomachs back to the little train station. There, we bought the proper tickets for a return to the City of Light, and tried not to think about how sick we both felt from consuming too much cream.


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