Passion Points: Escape
Beyond Paris: Two Great Hotels
Less than an hour from Paris, Chantilly and Versailles have long been favorite daytrips for families and couples. In addition to decadent estates, picturesque gardens, and lovely walking trails, Indagare contributor Mara Hoberman visits two stunning hotels that make spending the night (en famille or en amoureux) part of the royal experience.
Opened in 2012, the Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly welcomes guests with 18th century-style décor, white-glove service, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a spa featuring luxurious whipped (Chantilly) cream treatments. The hotel is just a five-minute walk from the Chateau de Chantilly with its famed art collection and Le Notre-designed gardens. Another local attraction, the Grand Stables built for Louis-Henri de Bourbon, is now home to Chantilly’s Horse Museum. Daily live demonstrations in a dramatic circular stadium are sure to delight children and adults alike.
Just a ten-minute drive (or a 30-minute bike ride) from France’s most famous royal residence, the Chateau de Versailles, Les Etangs de Corot, which opened in 2008, is home to France’s second Spa Caudalie. After a visit to the royal palace and grounds, couples can pamper themselves with a signature Vinothérapie® treatment and tuck into a sumptuous meal at one of the hotel’s three in-house restaurants.
Les Etangs de Corot
At a Glance: Easily accessible from Paris by train or car, Les Etangs de Corot is a delightful refuge where guests can relax in country-chic accommodations, explore beautiful nature trails, feast at a gastronomic restaurant, and get pampered in a world-class Caudalie Spa.
Review: Just a 20-minute train (or cab) ride from Paris, an elegant retreat in a picturesque setting awaits. Les Etangs de Corot in Ville d’Avray is named for its historic setting, overlooking the ponds and forests that inspired many great painters and writers—notably the forefather of Impressionism, Camille Corot. Owned and operated by Alice and Jérôme Tourbier, who also run Les Source de Caudalie in Bordeaux, the 43-room hotel, which opened in 2008 combines upscale creature comforts with the charm and character of a weekend country house.
Alice Tourbier’s smart and original interior design integrates antique furniture and contemporary decorative accents throughout the hotel. In a nod to the illustrious artists who spent time in Ville d’Avray, the guestrooms feature reproductions of 19th-century French landscape paintings. Meanwhile illustrations of birds and animals by contemporary artist Walton Ford (on display in the lobby), offer a modern take of nature-inspired art. Despite the palette of rich grays and browns—from the zinc bar and buttery leather armchairs in the bar/lounge to the dark wood floors and exposed-brick walls of the Café des Artistes—the guestrooms and public areas remain airy and bright thanks to lots of large windows and glass doors. The cozy guestrooms and suites are individually decorated with family heirlooms and flea market finds (including secretary desks and brass lamps) and modern flourishes like bold Farrow & Ball patterned wallpaper and oversized mirrors. The suites feature a separate living room and rustic-chic slate bathrooms. Some guestrooms look out onto the street over hotel’s main entrance, but those on the opposite side have views of the forest and the lily pad–covered pond.
There are three in-house restaurants at Les Etangs de Corot, each offering a unique ambiance and menu. The gastronomic eatery Le Corot features large bay windows, high ceilings, chandeliers and dazzling blow-ups of the eponymous artist’s famous paintings. Garden views, wicker chairs and fresh-cut flowers give the room a sense of airy verdure, almost like a greenhouse. In a nod to the historic hunting culture of the nearby forest, the walls and mantels are decorated with faux trophy heads. And while the menu does feature game (such as roasted venison with berries, celery, and quince wine sauce) there are also plenty of lighter options like a flakey John Dory fish flavored with ginger consommé and lime.
Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Café des Artistes is a more casual dining option. With mismatched bistro chairs and no tablecloths, the ambiance here is more country-chic than Versailles-glam. A well-curated selection of wall decorations—from vintage farm tools to old lithographs of Versailles—make Instagram-ready subjects. Lots of natural light and tall vaulted ceilings imbue this cozy spot with freshness and cheer. The seasonal menu features hearty, refined dishes like cream of squash garnished with bacon and chestnuts, or roasted quail served with potatoes. In the summer months, a third dining option is available. Les Paillotes is a lofted covered terrace overlooking the scenic greenery and pond where guests can dine en plein air on summery fare like pea and mint gazpacho, sea bass à la plancha, and strawberries and cream.
Like the Tourbier’s property in Bordeaux (Les Source de Caudalie), Les Etangs de Corot incorporates wine into all aspects of the hotel experience. For example, the long windowed hallway connecting the reception area to the bar/lounge is lined with 2,500 empty green bottles from the family’s château, Smith Haut-Lafitte. Complimentary glasses of wine offered upon arrival (which can be enjoyed at a moment of your choosing) make guests feel right at home, and a unique tap system in the hotel’s open cave next to Café des Artistes allows diners a rare chance to sample grand crus by the glass. But perhaps the most luxurious wine-related indulgences are hotel’s signature spa treatments, which feature products derived from grape vines as well as the grapes themselves. Known for antioxidant treatments and luscious skin-care products, Caudalie Vinothérapie® was developed by Alice Tourbier’s sister, Mathilde Thomas. The original spa is part of Les Source de Caudalie and the newest outpost, at Les Etangs, features a large outdoor hot tub, a water-massage area, and treatment rooms with beautiful views of the natural surroundings.
Who Should Stay: Couples looking to escape city life for a night or two of R&R without committing to a long haul will appreciate the fresh-air atmosphere, proximity to Versailles, and the luxurious spa treatments.Indagare Loves:
- Signature Caudalie Vinothérapie® treatments like the Crushed Cabernet Scrub, Honey and Wine Wrap, and Vigneron Massage.
- Biking to Versailles! The concierge will reserve bikes for you and provide a map. It’s about a twenty-five minute ride, half through the picturesque forest and half on main roads (though there is always a designated bike lane.)
- Fur lampshades, comfy leather club chairs, and cowhide bolsters make the lounge/bar a romantic setting for a cocktail or a cup of tea.
- The spa’s very large, open-air Jacuzzi lets you enjoy the lovely scenery while benefitting from the hot water and massage jets.
Auberge du Jeu de Paume
Vibe: Combining regal tradition with contemporary luxury, this five-star hotel aims to make guests feel as privileged and pampered as the dukes and duchesses who once lived at the neighboring Chateau de Chantilly.
At a Glance: Just twenty minutes from Paris’s Gare du Nord, Chantilly feels a world away. The main tourist attraction, the Chateau, was once home to the king’s cousins and now houses the Duke d’Aumale’s famed art collection as well as an impressive array of manuscripts and gilded and bejeweled furnishings. The opening of five-star hotel Auberge du Jeu de Paume (in 2012) brought a new level of contemporary luxury to Chantilly, making it a stylish weekend getaway destination with much to offer couples and families alike.
Review: Located across from the majestic 18th-century stables originally built for Louis-Henri de Bourbon and a ten-minute walk from the grand Chateau de Chantilly, the Auberge du Jeu de Paume plays up its historic setting by offering guests a modern-day “royal treatment.” Whether you drive or take the train from Paris (the concierge can organize a town car pick-up at the train station), your first encounter with the hotel’s white-glove (slightly theatrical) service will be the valet. Outfitted in royal blue coattails and a matching gold accented bowler hat, he will help you out of the car and into a fantasy of courtly ceremony and décor.
The hotel’s interior design pays tribute to the chateau’s treasures with reproductions of paintings and furniture adorning the guestrooms and pubic areas. The concierge desk, for example, is inspired by the Duke d’Aumale’s private library. In addition to being a bibliophile, the duke was also passionate art collector. In bequeathing the chateau to the Institut de France (upon his death in 1884), the duke specified that it be maintained as a museum. Boasting over 800 paintings, the chateau holds the largest collection of pre-1850 paintings in France after the Louvre. The Auberge du Jeu de Paume’s Jardin d’Hiver restaurant is decorated with reproductions from one of the most delightful painted series on view at the Chateau—Christophe Huet’s Grande Singerie, which depicts monkeys dressed in finery and engaging in various noble leisure activities. This room is a highlight of the Chateau tour (which means it is often a bottleneck for tourists), thus the restaurant offers a chance to enjoy these extraordinary images over a relaxed breakfast or lunch.
The guestrooms at the Auberge du Jeu de Paume balance old-style luxury with contemporary comfort. Plush Louis XV–style armchairs and sofas are given modern flair with striped wool upholstering and contrasting throw pillows. Accents like French toile and tasseled sateen drapes offer a taste 18th-century French finery without feeling like a museum display. All of the rooms are bright, airy, and comfortable and equipped with flat-screen TVs, movies-on-demand, Wifi, and coffee makers. The large bathrooms feature beautiful glass mirrors custom-made in Murano, Carrera marble floors, separate tub and shower, and delectable Hermes products.
Highlights of the Auberge Jeu de Paume experience include the hotel’s spa and Michelin-starred restaurant. The spa has five treatment rooms (including one for couples), a small pool with attached Jacuzzi, a steam room and sauna, and a small fitness center. In a nod to one of Chantilly’s most famous products, the signature treatments feature whipped cream. Using less cream than the spa (thankfully), Arnaud Faye presides over the open kitchen at Le Table du Connétable. Faye’s gift for unexpected flavor combinations and artistic presentation make his seasonal menu a delight for the eyes as well as the mouth. A standout fall entrée was a filet of white fish cooked in a fig leaf that was unwrapped and plated tableside. Adventurous chocoholics should not miss pastry chef Ophélie Bares’s sweet and savory combination of creamy cèpes mushrooms and rich dark chocolate. Like the rest of the hotel, the dining room has dramatic flair. The waiters may be dressed in tailcoats and use white gloves to set down gilded silverware, but it’s the culinary creations that steal the show.
Who Should Stay: Families will find plenty of kid-friendly activities in Chantilly such as visiting the Horse Museum, located directly across from the hotel. Many different breeds of horses—from tiny ponies to august stallions—can be visited in their stalls and there is also a comprehensive overview of the history of equestrianism. Horse demonstrations take place several times a day (ask the concierge for the schedule or check the museum’s website: http://www.chateaudechantilly.com/domaine-de-chantilly/nouveau-musée-du-cheval-grandes-ecuries) Children will also enjoy the hotel’s heated indoor pool, which is surrounded by a spacious deck with lounge chairs and a snack bar.
In addition to touring the chateau’s apartments, art collection, and sprawling Le Notre-designed gardens, visitors to Chantilly also have easy access to miles of horse trails—which are ideal for strolling, jogging, and biking. The concierge at the Auberge du Jeu de Paume can provide trail maps and arrange for bicycles.
Couples looking for a romantic getaway will enjoy wandering the grounds of the chateau, followed by a couples-massage and a romantic diner at Le Table du Connétable. Depending on the time of year, it is also possible to take in a horse race at the nearby hippodrome.Indagare Loves:
- The boudoir-esque cocktail lounge accented with red brocade and dark leather is a romantic spot for a pre- or post-dinner drink.
- The spa’s Chantilly cream body wrap leaves your skin smooth and sweet smelling. Afterwards you can enjoy a poolside “degustation” of whipped cream and lychees.
- The Deluxe Suites overlook the Le Nôtre-designed gardens of the Chateau de Chantilly and its beautiful Beauvais Fountain.
- Quality reproductions of masterpieces from the Duke d’Aumale’s painting collection decorate every room and suite.
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