Château de Chantilly has belonged to the princely families of France since the medieval ages. Sprawling across 115 hectares of Le Nôtre-designed formal gardens, it rivals that “other château.” The Musée Condé, part of the grounds, houses one of the finest 17th- and 18th-century art collections in France after the Louvre (including Botticelli’s Autumn and Raphael’s Three Graces, for starters). Don’t put the art before the horse: The Great Stables, commissioned by Louis-Henri de Bourbon – an 18th-century prince who, legend has it, was convinced he was going to be reincarnated as a horse and wanted a home worthy of his rank – was built to hold 240 horses and 150 hunting dogs. Today, the 17 garages originally used to store horse carriages have been converted into gallery rooms and eateries. Crème Chantilly was born here, so don’t skip Restaurant La Capitainerie to try its tomato and Espelette-pepper version with marbled-salmon terrine, or the more traditional version with raspberry and pistachio sponge cake, crowned with raspberry coulis and pistachio whipped cream. Splurge and ask the chef to demonstrate the secret of making the famous topping tableside.
After lunch, wander along the cobbled streets of Senlis before ducking into the Chantilly Polo Club – home to the largest polo school in the country – for a glimpse of racehorse breeder Aga Khan, Chantilly’s horsey benefactor. And finish your evening at Auberge du Jeu de Paume, an understated Relais & Châteaux property with 92 toile de Jouy rooms filled with Louis XV-style antiques, located between Le Nôtre’s gardens and the Great Stables. Arnaud Faye, chef of the hotel’s Michelin-starred, terroir- driven La Table du Connétable, puts tradition out to pasture (here the pot-au-feu is lobster slow-cooked with seaweed and smoked salt, while cabbage is hand-rolled into coral-flavoured maki), serving up dishes fit for a prince.
Gunnar Nordqvist doesn’t horse around when it comes to running behind-the-scenes visits and guided afternoons at the races in French, English, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian at the horse-training facilities in Chantilly.
Photos: Gabor Jurina (Arnaud Faye); Gary Otte (Musée Condé); Stéphanie Giraud (horse-training facilities)
Air Canada offers daily non-stop flights to Paris from Toronto and Montreal. Chantilly is a 30-minute drive from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport.