Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Racing rabbits

When writing yesterday’s post about our nightly abbey adventure, I got so carried away that I forgot to tell you about our 2009 visit to Chantilly.

Chantilly is not only famous for its castle but also for its ‘Musée Vivant du Cheval’. It is located across the road from the château in a very stately building that could well be a palace. As I’m not really into horses, I’ve never visited the museum, nor attended any of the recurrent horseshows.

As you probably know Chantilly also has its own horse track where important international races are run. But did you know that the town also has a ‘lapinodrome’? What’s a ‘lapinodrome’? Don’t laugh … ‘Lapin’ being French for rabbit, a ‘lapinodrome’ is a miniature race track for rabbits. It’s located in the gardens of Chantilly castle and a big hit with children. Every day during tourist season at 3.30 p.m. a hurdle race is run by several competitive rabbits. The rabbits live and are trained in the nearby ‘rabbit village’

I wish we could have visited the ‘lapinodrome’ and see the daily race, but it was well over 4 p.m. by the time we arrived in the castle’s grounds after our meal in Triel-sur-Seine. Although it was too early to go to the chambre d’hôtes, we decided to go and look for it before driving into the centre of Chantilly to buy a baguette. Following the instructions of Mauricette – our GPS, remember – we drove through a fine residential district with beautiful 19th century villas with large gardens. As Chantilly is less than an hour from the centre of Paris and even less from the ‘La Défense’ business district, I suppose most of the villas are owned by or let to affluent businessmen and top managers.

We enjoyed our drive until we realized that we turning around in circles. We therefore decided to ignore Mauricette’s instructions and drive straight to the town’s centre and ask for directions. We parked in the main square and walked into a bakery to get the baguette for our supper. We asked the saleslady about the chambre d’hôtes. As she didn’t live in Chantilly she was unable to help us. She suggested we’d ask one of the policemen who where writing parking tickets in the square. When we followed her advice and mentioned the name of the chambre d’hôtes to the policemen, they both looked puzzled. “Never heard of.” one of them said. When we mentioned the name of the street, they simultaneously beamed: “Ah oui, ça on connaît.” (Ah yes, that we know) and then started discussing which would be the best way to get there. They ended up by sending us in opposite directions and a final advice: “Maybe you should ask in the bar across the street!” Right!

Having no other options, we walked over to the bar and sat down at a table on the sidewalk terrace. When the landlord came out to take our order, we enquired about the chambre d’hôtes. The man had heard of it, but wasn’t sure about its location. “I’ll look it up for you.” he promised. It took a while before he returned with our drinks … and the solution to our problem. He had looked it up on a map in the local telephone directory. It turned out that our destination was at less than 500 metres from where we were.

We enjoyed our drinks sitting in the afternoon sun, before returning to the car and driving to our chambre d’hôtes. Thanks to the landlord’s directions we had no trouble finding it. However, when we arrived the gates were closed and remained closed even after ringing the bell twice …

(to be continued)



chm said...

It sounds more and more like a mystery novel. Keep up the good work!

Was Mauricette trying to get you even more confused as to where to go than you already were? LOL

Leon and Sue Sims said...

Loved Chantilly - lovely buildings, gardens and history.
We were there 2009 and also Senlis.
Next time I hope we can get closer to Belgium.

ladybird said...

Chm, Mauricette can be a bit whimsical ... If we had followed her instructions last year when we were in the Loire Valley, we would have ended up smack in the middle of the Fleuve Royal! On other occasions, however, she can be surprisingly efficient. It probably all depends on whether she has had her morning coffee or not :)

Leon, Chantilly and Senlis have a lot of charm ... but so have Leuven, Brugge, Gent, Namur, Dinant and Liege ;)

As you said, maybe next time!

chm said...

Marine you forget also Antwerp and Tournai.

That reminds me of a devinette:
How many bells does the church at Tournai have. Four hundred. Why? The answer could only be in French, parce qu'il y a cinq clochers, mais quatre sans cloches. Ha! Ha!

chm said...

Martine, excuse my lousy typing. I meant Martine.

ladybird said...

Chm, LOL ;)