Chantilly â€“ In Case You Need a Break from Paris
Sensual and charming as a French courtesan, Paris has the power to keep any tourist mesmerized, with its countless attractions. But if you somehow find the strength to break free from the cityâ€™s powerful tentacles, and are looking for quiet retreats (other than secluded hotels in Paris) look no further than Chantilly, on the outskirts of Paris.
Visiting a place like Chantilly is a lot like opening an old chest, in your grandmotherâ€™s attic. It may be ancient, but it contains so many priceless treasures that you canâ€™t make up your mind on which one to pick up first. It may sound silly, even cheesy, but thatâ€™s just the kind of feeling you get when you discover Chantilly. Just 50 km away from Paris, this jewel of French heritage has belonged to the Institute of French Academy, ever since 1884. Thatâ€™s when the Duke de Aumale donated it, after both his sons died. His only condition was that the Chantilly domain be open to the public, after his death.
Before 1900 it was virtually impossible to gain access to this fairytale land where only royalty were welcome. For centuries, some of the most illustrious families in Franceâ€™s history made Chantilly their residence. Montmorency, Francois I, or Henric II, each left a mark on this famous domain, enriching it with every generation. Surrounded by water, Chantilly features an ensemble of monuments, covering half of a millennium of French culture and history. All you have to do is close your eyes and let yourself be transported back in time: the music, the fancy dresses and sumptuous balls, they all seem like they belong here.
Chantilly castle lies in the middle of an 8,000 ha domain, surrounded by three centuries-old forests. In this idyllic setting nature, art and order work together to deliver some of the most stunning views youâ€™ve ever seen. There are several gardens to visit, of which the French one, designed by the famous Le Notre, the genius landscape artist behind Versailles, is the most breathtaking. The castle lake, home to a few beautiful swans, is where youâ€™ll find the island of love, where Venusâ€™ temple is located. In the restaurant close by, tourists have the chance to sample the famous Chantilly crÃ¨me, which Baron de Oberkirch called the best he ever tasted.
For art lovers, the CondÃ© Museum is an attraction that should not be missed. It sports a collection of over 1,000 paintings and 5,000 engravings and drawings, created by some of the biggest French artists (Delacroix, Ingres, Corot, Watteau, etc.). There is also a library with over 30,000 rare books to check out, if time is on your side.
If you have the chance to visit Chantilly, you will definitely discover some unforgettable sights. It only depends on the time you are willing to spend here, but I definitely encourage you to give it at least a full day. Itâ€™s worth it!