Rich History, Delightful Cuisine, and Picturesque Landscapes of Chantilly
by Stefanie Michaels
If you’ve ever dined at a fine French restaurant here in the states, you’ve most likely enjoyed some sort of beautiful confection with a dollop of Chantilly cream as its piece de resistance. Not your average whipped cream, but rather a delicate balance of sugar and cream laced in either vanilla or perhaps cognac.
Just as the cream rises to the top, my overnight excursion from Paris to the small town of Chantilly serves up an original perspective only such a unique place could offer.
Heading just 40 km from The City of Light, Chateau de Chantilly without a doubt offers one of France’s prized jewels of its cultural crown. Several highlights piqued my interest, such as the Condé Museum.
Only second to The Louvre, Condé Museum houses the largest number of antique paintings in France and consists mostly of Italian and French works, totaling a collection of 2,500 drawings. It is also home to a library including 1,500 manuscripts, 200 of which are illuminated.
Also, Musse du Cheval, which is the largest princely stable in all of Europe, examines the relationship between humans and horses throughout history, as well as hosting shows most days by the museum’s equestrian team.
Designed by renowned architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart (and just within view of the stables), a visit to the Church of Notre Dame Chantilly lends reverence to such a master of composition. This parish was named a historical monument of France in 1965 for its unique design not found elsewhere in the region.
Evoking the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, Le Potager des Princes– the prince’s vegetable garden–is a garden and animal park in the town center where the resident peacocks won my affection. During the summer months, the park’s Theatre de La Faisanderie presents plays and concerts for guests.
And with that catchy 1950s song “Chantilly Lace” as my most recent earworm, the Musée de la Dentelle explores the history of lace making. It also demonstrates the infamous handmade bobbin lace with its unmistakable black color and design originating from Chantilly.
Even now, I never tire of the town’s signature delicacy, Chantilly cream. Served at most restaurants, such as Le Bouchon Gourmand, it features a host of la coupe glacée—many of which are accompanied by my new favorite indulgence.
For the crème de la crème of dining experiences, look no further than where my dreams still return beyond my stay at Auberge du jeu de Paume, set on the prestigious Domaine de Chantilly country estate. Overlooking the castle’s gardens and inspired by local terroir, Chef Anthony Denon combines tradition and innovation at the property’s Michelin-starred The Constable’s Table.
Did you know?
Château de Chantilly, is a stunning example of French Renaissance architecture. The château was home to the princes of Condé, a powerful noble family in France, and was famous for its beautiful gardens and impressive art collection.
However, many people may not know that the château was almost destroyed during the French Revolution and was only restored in the late 19th century.
These days, it houses the Musée Condé, one of the world’s finest collections of Renaissance art.
A little history:
Chantilly is a commune in the Oise department in northern France. The history of Chantilly dates back to the medieval period and has been an important cultural and artistic center for centuries.
The earliest recorded history of Chantilly dates back to the 9th century when a castle was built in the area. During the Middle Ages, the town grew around the castle and became a center for trade and commerce.
In the 16th century, Chantilly became the property of the Montmorency family, one of France’s most powerful noble families. During this time, the town underwent significant cultural and architectural development, with the construction of grand mansions and gardens.
In the 18th century, Chantilly became an essential center of the French artistic and cultural scene. It was home to the famous Chantilly painting school, founded by the renowned French artist Jean-Baptiste Oudry.
In the 19th century, Chantilly was further developed by the Duke of Aumale, who built the stunning Château de Chantilly and its famous gardens. The castle and its grounds became a popular tourist destination and a center for cultural events and exhibitions.