Sport of Kings, Ducs and Sheikhs
This is the center for pure-blood (racehorse) training in France. It is where the first dirt track was built and has heavily attended week-end races in mid-June. It is the training and stabling area for over 3,000 race horses and 1,000 apprentice training riders (called lads in both French and British parlance. boys in the US). There are miles of stables and fine riding areas in the Chantilly Forest. It seems likely that "ordinary" riding horses may be available. The track is just beyond the Grandes Ecuries. Lots of Money
more to follow...
"introduction + background"
I visited Chantilly in July 09, the main reason being to go horse racing at the Hippodrome de Chantilly - see my sports tip.
I also took the opportunity to visit the Château and Parc - that comes under the "things to do" section.
I spent the night in nearby Senlis, so take a look at that page if you're looking for accommodation ideas (and a flavour of Senlis itself).
I flew into Beauvais Airport and rented a car to travel the rest. It is also easily accessible from the A1 (Paris - Lille autoroute), and by train from Paris.
The Château etc is fabulous, and really I need another full day there to see the rest of the building (I had to skip the private apartments), the rest of the gardens and the stables.
The horse racing is worth going back for too!
I'd also like to see the village itself, and some of the environs.
The area is popular on Sundays, so best to choose your day. Maybe midweek outside the peak season, to get the best out of it.
Brief notes from my diary
"Saturday, 8 November 2003"
I am planning to add some photos here whenever I get them scanned!
I arrived in Gare du Nord in late morning. The place was bustling and the queues were quite long. I finally found the ticket counter and queued for about 30 minutes before I got to the counter. The very friendly fella selling the tickets humoured my French for a few minutes and then decided it was easier to switch to English. His English was excellent and he was very helpful.
I had a 45 minute wait for the train to leave and I walked around to see what else was in the station and to watch people. I found it strange to see a counter selling cheap food next to a counter selling expensive Godiva chocolates. Who buys expensive chocolates at a train station? I have never tried Godiva chocolate and nearly bought some just to see what the fuss was about. But I changed my mind, I doubt it is Fair Trade and I prefer my Green and Blacks anyway.
I noticed several large tube lights covered in grills. They were vertical and approximately 2 metres tall. Many people seemed to be attracted to them and as I walked past one quite closely, I realised why. They were heaters. I found one that wasn't too crowded and stood close to warm my hands. After a few minutes, I began to smell burning. I checked - nope, not me. Then I saw a woman on the other side of the heater stand away suddenly and check her handbag. I don't think there was too much damage.
"The train journey"
At last the voie number was posted and I went to the train. It was nice and comfortable and I found a quiet seat upstairs. The view would have been really nice if the windows had been cleaner.
The landscape between Paris and Chantilly is softly rolling with vast expanses of farmland interrupted now and then by a town or a small forest. It was very pretty on a sunny day with all the autumn colours but I couldn't help but wonder if it was quite bleak in the middle of winter on a grey, rainy day and I was reminded of Thomas Hardy.
I arrived in the train station and expected to find signs pointing to the most popular visitor attraction in the town but couldn't see any. Like a sheep, I followed the other passengers to a street and started walking in what I thought was the direction of the town.
Fortunately, I was right and soon found the wooded walk that the guidebooks suggest taking to the stables. I decided not to take it, just in case it wasn't what I thought.
I saw in the distance a huge building that I took to be the chateau and started walking towards it. There was a huge public green area that I walked through and then headed to the front of the building. I continued walking along the road and eventually came to another smaller building, surrounded by a moat, that I knew was the chateau. I found a sign pointing back the way I had come to the horse museum. The huge building I had seen was actually the stables! It is massive in comparison to the chateau - this prince really did love his horses!
I went on to the museum and as soon as I walked in the door I knew I was in a stables. The horses are all right there and if you have a sensitive nose, you may not enjoy this place.
I spent about an hour walking around the many displays and then headed to the small menage where the demonstration was held. This lasted about half an hour. I then headed to the train but as I had not had any lunch and as the restaurant in the museum was closed for winter, I stopped off at a small boulangerie for a croque monsieur and a yummy cake. The girl serving was very friendly and kindly wrapped my croque monsieur up in kitchen roll so I had something to wipe my hands on after I had eaten it.
My journey back to Paris was only about 25 minutes but from Gare du Nord to Jussieu on the Metro took around half an hour.