Chantilly brings to mine lace and thick whipped cream. But, the name comes from a gorgeous castle complex on the outskirts of Paris. 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.
The correct train from Paris to Chantilly was difficult to find. The instructions 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, or there were arrows 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 we tried to ascertain the correct zone we needed tickets for. In the end, we bought the ticket that went to ALL the zones at a whopping 35 euros a piece. Which, in the end, of course, was also wrong. We needed a ticket for outside the zones. Which only cost 8 euros each. Obviously.
Nevertheless, the train station at Chantilly is small, and no one excepting the two of us disembarked there, (after being soundly told off by the agent for our incorrect tickets.) The walk to the castle is quite a hike, but the vision of the castle 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 one isn’t even worth begging from.
The first sight is the stables, which is also where tickets are purchased. We had apparently arrived too late for some type of of film about the castle, which we were not at all put out about, but right on time for the horses—who 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 facade appearing to rise like a fairyland amidst the glass of the lake surrounding it. The light blue roof and the sprouting wildflower-like turrets make the sight both fairytale and formidable. 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 interior of the castle is impressively gilded, with gorgeous furnishings and paintings which the docents did not seem amused by my jokes about stealing. (They really would have looked perfect in the living room!) Chantilly houses possibly the greatest artwork in France—excepting only 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 my name.
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 bowl full 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 correct tickets to return to the City of Light, and tried not to think of how sick we both felt from too much cream.