Bishops Visit – France and More – Chantilly, the Duc and his horses

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Calais is grey and wet but I have time to affix our “GB” sticker identifying our place of registration on Thistle under an umbrella outside of the hotel. We have an early start for Chantilly amidst continuous rain gusting wind and heavy trucks. By the time we reach Chantilly the rain has lessened to a constant drizzle but not enough to dampen our visit to this icon of French art and history – Chateau Chantilly and the Musee Conde. The chateau is a recent invention of the Duc d’Aumale combining two earlier chateaus after they had been destroyed by revolutionaries of the first republic. The Duc was the son of King Louis Philipe of France and served in the Foreign Legion until his father was dethroned by the third republic when he went into exile in the UK and started collecting. Once he was able to return to France, he selected this site because of its connection to Prince Conde the son of the Sun King Louis the XIV (and Dauphin of France) and he dedicated the art and library to this distant relative – Musee Conde.

This is grand as only the French can do grand. The library is second only in importance in France and the Art is second only to the Louvre so when the Duc in his Will left the estate and its treasures to the Institut de France he was gifting invaluable treasures of France’s history in manuscript and Art to the people of France plus a piece of his own history in the house, his taste, style and personal effects. Worth a visit. Check it out on http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Château_de_Chantilly

Within the estate is the Musee Vivant du Cheval (Living Museum of the Horse) directly alongside the Chantilly Race track. This building is built in the same grand style as the Chateau and again by the Duc. In fact he could view the stables from his study window (across the moat and up the hill). Today the stables are a monument to the horse and its relationship with men through the centuries. On entering you are met by the sweet smell of horse poo as there are live animals in the stables representing some of the 52 recognised breeds in France.

The stables are built in a square with a large court yard in the middle. The museum meanders through the building giving you everything from the original breeds giving rise to the thoroughbreds we know today to the attire ladies wore when riding side saddle. Again well worth a visit and have a look at its history here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Museum_of_the_Horse

After the museums we retired to our rooms for a nanna nap before dinner. Dinner at the hotel was enjoyable as our host was a chirpy little Frenchman prepared to welcome the non-french speakers. The only other diners that evening was a table of 18 gendarmes some bearing their automatic weapons. They all had burgers and frites so it must be some outsourcing arrangement to feed the troops.

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