We are in France! On Thursday, while Rama set off for a concert in Belgium, Elodie and I embarked on our own adventure to visit some friends in the lovely town of Chantilly. Just a 25-minute train ride from Paris’ Gare du Nord train station, Chantilly is the horse-breeding capital of France and is home to a beautiful chateau. Since all that rococo detailing isn’t very conducive to sticky four-year-old fingers, we didn’t go inside, but instead spent a few glorious hours exploring the vast gardens. First stop: the cafe.
According to the English language brochure, a series of rustic, English-style cottages were built on the grounds in 1775 for the Prince of Condé. They now house a restaurant, so we headed over to taste the authentic whipped cream. “Chantilly” means “whipped cream” in French, and was actually invented here. Elodie’s chocolate chaud came with a wopping dollop of thick, rich, buttery, cream that tasted more like cream cheese frosting than ready-whip. Decadent indeed!
After our afternoon treat, which they call “gouter” en francais, we set out to find the children’s play area. Down a grassy path, over a wooden footbridge, and past a wide field, we were met by a flock of carved and painted wooden sheep. So sweet! The enchanting playground also featured a series of tiny wooden houses and grass-covered mounds of earth that formed a swirling pattern that was so fun to run on. An adjacent labyrinth was created for a prince’s birthday party. I read that when the children made it to the center of the maze, they found a table piled high with sweets and treats. We were nervous about getting lost in the labyrinth, so didn’t venture inside, but I once heard that if you run your hand along the right side of labyrinth, you will eventually find your way out.
Our friends are hoping to move back to the States soon, so who knows if we will ever go back to Chantilly, but we’re so lucky we had the chance to visit. And if we do make it back to that delightful town just north of Paris, we’ll certainly return to the chateau and while away an afternoon like happy French royals.