2013 is the year of the royal gardener Le Nôtre, for the 400th anniversary of his birth. But 2013 is also the year of the opening of the new Horse Museum. ParisNews meets Patrick Allais, Sales Manager of the Estate of Chantilly, who tells us about the latest news on the Chateau, the Great Stables, the museum, the park … and gives us his best gourmet addresses in Chantilly.
How long have you worked at the Château de Chantilly for, and what is your job there?
P.A.: I joined the staff at the Château de Chantilly in November 2007, 18 months after the creation of the Foundation for the Safeguard and Development of the Chantilly Estate, which includes the Château de Chantilly and its gardens, the Great Stables, and since September 2012 a brand new hotel, ‘The Auberge du Jeu de paume’. I am, with a team, in charge of national and international client groups on the leisure and business market segments. We are also responsible for managing the famous Chantilly racecourse outside the 40 annual race days, Chantilly being still first and foremost the capital of horse racing and the biggest training centre in Europe.
What is happening at the moment at the Chateau? The estate is currently being much talked about on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Le Nôtre but also because of the new horse museum.
P.A.: That’s right, there is a lot happening in 2013! We are celebrating the birth of the most famous French gardener, André Le Nôtre, of which Chantilly remains one of his finest works. Our French style gardens were restor d in 2009 strictly in keeping with the original ones, including the hydraulic effects which remain faithful to the original project … an exhibition is also open to visitors in the Salle du Jeu de paume with maps and other original paintings showing the gardens of Chantilly 400 years ago, including drawings of outdoor games, the ancestors of the theme parks of today! During the last Prix de Diane Longines horse race, we also inaugurated the new Horse Museum. Objects exhibited in 15 consecutive rooms address several themes: the evolution of the horse and different breeds of horse in the world, the technical development of equipment for horses, the role of the horse in relation to power, war and hunting. The sport and equestrian events, in particular racing events which have made Chantilly famous since 1834, are also represented in three spaces. Finally, a large room is devoted to the horse in art, with works by world-renowned artists such as Dürer, Rubens, Poussin, or Géricault.
There is another side to the Chateau; the estate offers a vast amount of events and shows all year long. Can you tell us a little about some of these?
P. A. : The Chantilly Estate offers numerous activities and events all year round for the pleasure of our visitors looking for exciting moments! Chantilly is perfect at any season. The superb dome at the Great 18th-century stables hosts renowned international classical music concerts, equestrian shows all year and in December the much-awaited Christmas show is a combination of dressage, history, superb costumes … with our team of riders, events for the public, the triathlon of the chateaux for sporty types at the end of August. Prestigious horse racing events at the racecourse include the not-to-be-missed Jockey Club and Prix de Diane Longines in June, (and even the Grand Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2015!) plus of course film shoots, orienteering events, etc. There is always something happening in Chantilly!
Who are your visitors? Are they Parisians, people from the Paris area or rather foreign tourists sightseeing outside the French capital.
P.A.: Out of a total 500,000 visitors or so per year, around 30% are adult client groups, children and company events, i.e. 350,000 individual visitors. Visitors from the Paris region are obviously the most numerous, followed by visitors from northern Picardy, the largest population groups around the Estate. Foreign visitors account for 40% of group visitors, and Russian visitors and those from Russian speaking countries are in pole position, followed by Indian, German, Brazilian, Japanese and Belgian visitors. In 2013, Chinese visitors will emphatically enter the ranks of the Top 5; visitors from South-East Asia, notably Thailand are also showing a strong increase. Our proximity to Paris and the Aéroport Paris – Charles-de-Gaulle as well as our geographical position on the motorway axis on tours of Europe (Amsterdam – Brussels – Paris) make Chantilly an essential place to discover! We take pride in welcoming first time visitors who, on visiting Chantilly, discover a concentration of Versailles and the Louvre in a single place with ideal visiting conditions! Tourists need to get out of Paris to discover the great chateaux, whether it’s Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte or the chateaux of the Loire Valley …
Is there an ideal time for a visit?
P.A.: Every season has its own charm … even in springtime when nature comes into its own again. Or when there is a veil of autumn mist over the moat and the Le Nôtre’s ornamental ponds, and of course the wonderful autumn colours on the foliage of the majestic trees in the grounds of the chateau all make for a great getaway! In winter, the snowy landscapes of recent years have been pure magic and then the Great Stables (heated for the equestrian show) is where it is all happening!
For several years now, there has been a more concerted offer for tourists including hotels, restaurants … Does that mean that Chantilly is becoming a destination in its own right?
P.A.: Yes, that’s right. The opening of our hotel ‘The Auberge du Jeu de paume’ has completed an existing offer of suberb establishments of charm and character, some with a large capacity, with first class facilities for congresses and seminars. After-work leisure events are also a big plus point: a tour of the Estate, gala evenings, incentive activities such as dragon boat and rowing competitions on the Grand Canal are a few examples. Sports teams playing at the Stade de France also like to meet up in the green setting of Chantilly. In the course of 2014, a new 4-star 200-bedroom establishment, with one of the biggest spas in Europe and a covered exhibition centre for the launch of new vehicles will open: great news for our visitors … and our visitor figures!
For visitors staying in Paris, is it easy to get to Chantilly by public transport or do incoming agencies offer trips?
P.A.: From Paris, the most comfortable way to get to Chantilly is by TER train from Gare du Nord, which takes 20 minutes or so for direct trains. The RER D also serves Chantilly station but makes more stops on the way. On arrival in Chantilly, our visitors can take a walk of around 15 minutes through the centre of Chantilly which is a listed town for its art and history, or take a free ‘DUC’ shuttle bus to the Chateau and the Great Stables. Incoming agencies also offer Chantilly as a destination from Paris, and from this year, a shuttle runs from Porte Maillot and the Aéroport Paris – Charles-de-Gaulle to the Chantilly Estate.
What are your favourite addresses?
P.A.: For gourmet fans, we have two Michelin-starred addresses with the ‘Table du Connétable’ (restaurant at the Auberge du Jeu de paume) and the Carmontelle (restaurant at the Hôtel Dolce), the restaurant at Le Château to stay in the period of Vatel and numerous restaurants in the town centre like the Histoire 2 and La Prego with reasonable prices and good food.
Just as a side note, could you give us a tip on where to taste the best Chantilly cream, which undoubtedly gives a touch of charm to the destination …
P.A.: Two addresses, with the same recipe to enjoy to your heart’s content: the Cuisines de Vatel at the restaurant at the Château de Chantilly and at the Restaurant du Hameau, in the idyllic setting of the Anglo-Chinese gardens with homemade gingerbread or a dish of ripe red fruit!
A final question regarding the French capital: if you had to choose a tourist attraction in Paris what would it be?
P.A.: Paris has such a wealth of things to offer that it is difficult to choose! For something that is not a major attraction, I would choose the Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of fairground arts) in the Bercy district – the history of an art and its enthusiastic creator.
Domaine de Chantilly
7 rue du Connétable, Chantilly
Tel +33 (0) 3 44 27 31 67
Shuttle buses Paris – Chantilly and Aéroport Paris – Charles-de-Gaulle – Chantilly
Tel +33 (0) 1 49 46 29 00
Auberge du jeu de Paume
4 rue du Connétable, Chantilly
Tel +33 (0) 3 44 65 50 00
Resta urant Carmontelle
Hôtel Dolce Chantilly
Tel +33 (0) 3 44 58 47 57
Resta urant Histoire 2
28 avenue du Maréchal Joffre, Chantilly
Tel +33 (0) 3 44 21 79 68
Resta urant La Prego
75 rue du Connétable, Chantilly
Tel +33 (0) 3 44 53 25 11
Musée des Arts forains
Pavillons de Bercy
53 avenue des Terroirs de France, Paris 12th
Tel +33 (0) 1 43 40 16 15