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The Chateau at Chantilly was the first I ever visited when I arrived in France two years ago. It is absolutely beautiful, situated on a lake with lush grounds and gardens all around. When you arrive at Chantilly down a small country road you can see a magnificent building straight ahead. I, like many others, mistook this for the chateau. It is in fact the stables. The chateau is off to the right.

The chateau has seen many recreations since it was originally built in 1560. It has primarily been associated with the Conde family and houses one of the most magnificent private art collections in all of France, including three Raphael’s. The library at Chantilly houses some of the oldest and most priceless volumes in all of France and makes me drool with envy each time I enter it. I love libraries and it is my dream some day to have one in my house with a ladder and all. The library at Chantilly is magnificent in and of itself but the priceless books it houses makes it even more spectacular.

The way the chateau was gifted to the State the paintings are never allowed to leave the chateau and in fact are not to be moved from the places the last Duke of Orleans hung them. The site comprises two attached buildings : the Petit Château built around 1560 for Anne de Montmorency, and the Grand Château, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s.

In the 17th century Molière’s play, ‘Les Précieuses ridicules’, was debuted here in 1659. There is also a story that when Louis XIV visited Chantilly for a hunting trip the chef was so upset that the fish he ordered for the first dinner was not fresh enough that he killed himself. If you ever have an opportunity to visit the chateau I highly recommend fitting in time for lunch at the restaurant situated in the former kitchens of the chateau. Likely where the unfortunate chef mentioned above came to his demise.

When you look at the Chateaux at Versailles and Fontainebleu you may, like me, just find them absurdly big to the point of being ridiculous. While the chateaux we have visited more recently are still quite large it is far easier to actually imagine real people living there. After Vaux le Vicomte the chateau at Chantilly is my favourite and well worth the train ride north of Paris.

This ends our travels through French history…..for now. We started almost a year ago in the 12th century at the Basilica Saint Denis where the monarchy were buried until the revolution; saw the monarchy rise and fall; met Napoleon as he rose to power and ultimately watched his downfall, too. We met wonderful characters like the devious and deadly Catherine de Medici and the unlucky and ill-fated Nicolas Fouquet. I have enjoyed almost every minute of these travels (I did not so much enjoy train delays, closed chateaux, the weather, etc) and am so happy that you chose to come with me on these adventures. It has made my two years in France that much more rich. By understanding her history and past I have come to not only love France even more but to understand the French and the culture and country I have adopted for the past two years. My first year in France was not easy and by following this book and by finding France’s history I was able to learn not just about this country but a little about myself too.

As I prepare to move back to Boston I am in search of a book that will allow me to do something similar following early American history. I hope you will follow me on that journey as well.

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