Lovely springtime in Chantilly – Meanderings through France n° 182
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Spring is back and it feels good to get out in the countryside and enjoy nature’s rebirth. Being only about 45 minutes by car from Paris (20 minutes from “Charles de Gaulle Airport”) and set in the heart of a vast forest, Chantilly is one of Parisians’ favourite destinations for a bucolic weekend. The opening of a brand new Hyatt Hotel is a great excuse to visit this area where you will discover lovely villages, several golf courses, a racecourse, Asterix Theme Park… not to forget the wonderful Chateau de Chantilly that celebrates Leonardo’s 500th death anniversary by exhibiting his seldom seen “Nude Mona Lisa”. Who could still pretend that countryside is boring?
Space and discreet luxury at the Hyatt Regency Chantilly
The hotel is located in a 40 acres estate crossed by a small river, the Nonnette. Its eight different buildings were built in the 17th century first used as a laundry before being turned into a paper mill. The impressive old wheel mill and its wooden gears have been carefully restored and are now part of the lobby’s decoration. This industrial past gives the hotel a unique look where the original steel structures, brick walls and chimneys have been preserved and incorporated into the hotel’s architecture and design. The Hyatt Regency Chantilly is an unexpected mix of luxury and rough materials.
As soon as you’ll get to the huge lobby you will discover the Zen atmosphere of the hotel created by the sober decoration with soft colour harmonies and fine materials such as leather, wood, wool carpets, polished concrete floor… The same attention to details makes the hotel rooms comfortable cocoons where it feels good to relax and enjoy the quality bedding, the big bathroom or the very, very large flat screen TV! The Regency Club Rooms give you access to an all day drinks and snacks lounge, to a private concierge service, and an evening drink at “Le Condé Bar” is also included.
After several years spent abroad, mainly in the UK and Canada, Guillaume the Condé’s bartender and mixologist is back in France ready to surprise us with his own creations. Presented in large glass bowls his cocktails are both innovating and tasty. We particularly enjoyed “L’Herboriste” made with gin, Champagne, bitter orange and lime comfortably seated by the fireplace. In summertime a vast terrace will welcome the hotel guests on the riverbank. (I would also note that prices are reasonable for a luxury hotel).
Chef Christophe Scheller is in charge of the two hotel’s restaurants. Open for breakfast and lunch ‘The Craft” has been set in a former big workshop of the paper mill. Wooden or tiled tables of all sizes and shapes welcome guests under a high industrial ceiling and the place is filled with natural light. Of course seasonal products are largely favoured and the buffet offers a wide selection of starters, cold dishes and desserts. You can directly order a hot dish at the cooks that are working in the open kitchen set in a corner next to the buffet. In another corner of the restaurant you can also buy food made by local producers, prepare your own picnic and have it in the park or in your room. Simple and easy!
In a totally different atmosphere “Le Nord” is open for dinner. Long heavy curtains, big chandeliers, large armchairs, parquet floor and warm colours create a kind of theatrical setting. Here Christophe Scheller’s talent is fully expressed. He skilfully revisits Northern France recipes such as the Carbonade, a beef dish with mustard, beer and star anise slowly cooked for 48 hours. A real treat that melts in the mouth! Both restaurants have terraces to enjoy an outside meal in summertime.
More at: www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/france/hyatt-regency-chantilly/cdgrc
Leonardo da Vinci, Château de Chantillly’s special guest
From June 1st till October 6, Chateau de Chantilly celebrates Leonardo’s 500th death anniversary and presents the “Nude Mona Lisa”. This unique sketch is part of the chateau’s collection since 1862 when the Duke d’Aumale added it to his private collection. The Duke d’Aumale was one of King Louis Philippe’s sons and “created” the chateau de Chantilly as we know it today. The “Nude Mona Lisa” has seldom been exhibited and has recently been through extensive laboratory exams and it is now known for sure that this drawing was made in Leonardo’s workshop but we still aren’t sure if Leonardo drew it himself. The mystery remains partially unveiled!
Senlis village, a authentic Renaissance gem
A few minutes drive from the Hyatt Regency will take you to Senlis one of the best-preserved Renaissance villages of Northern France. It comes as no surprise that this village has been used as a live set for many cinema or TV shootings. With its cobblestone streets, gothic cathedral and Episcopal palace, romantic castle ruins, ancient abbey and many beautiful private mansion houses, Senlis offers a rare travel back in time. Feeling hungry? The “Scaramouche restaurant” is ideally located on the cathedral square and you’ll enjoy great views of this beautiful monument from the outside terrace where lunch is served when weather allows. Fine cuisine, nice staff and good prices make this restaurant an easy stop during your visit. https://le-scaramouche.fr/
The Chateau de Pierrefonds, the height of romanticism
When Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugénie discovered Pierrefonds castle they fell in love with it at first sight. This 14th century chateau was falling to ruin but the imperial couple decided to save it and had it completely rebuilt and redecorated by the most famous French architect of the time, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. This brilliant man created his own vision of a Middle-Ages castle with countless turrets, frightening gargoyles, French coffered ceilings, wall panelling, huge throne room… When finally the renovation works were over, Napoléon III who first thought to make a country residence of this fairy tale castle, decided to turn it into a museum and opened it to the public. This interesting visit really is well worth! www.chateau-pierrefonds.fr/en/
The Chantilly area is a quiet and interesting place to discover at only 45 minutes from Paris or directly from Charles de Gaulle airport by car or by train (The Hyatt Regency Hotel can organise a pick up service from and to the Chantilly railway station if you don’t rent a car at the airport). Discover all close by places of interest at www.oisetourism.co.uk/mots-cles
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes