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Romantic road trip France – castles & Paris pre-Christmas shopping

I love France because of its history, authenticity, classy character, diversity, many castles and unique regions and cities like Paris. So it’s not a surprise that I have been on 3 trips to France this year alone already, of which 2 included a visit to Paris as well.

France is a huge country with many wonderful areas to visit, but Paris keeps drawing me back in, as it's always a good idea, and easy to reach from my hometown The Hague, just about a 3 hour train ride away, and 6 hours by car. In July I revisited this classy city for the 10th time, as you can read in this blog: Hidden Gems of Paris.

But in winter time, especially before Christmas, Paris gives off a whole different vibe. We really loved the decorations, Christmas market, gorgeous window displays of the big department stores and pre-Christmas shopping here 2 years ago, so we decided to go back again 3 weeks ago at the end of November, when Paris was decorated already, but not that crowded yet.

However after visiting 3 stunning castles in the Loire last July we decided to also combine our city trip with a castle visit, this time north of Paris, in Chantilly.

And as I love the free feeling of driving through Europe and wanted to test the new: Peugeot 308 SW 1.5 Blue HDi we made it into a road trip, like we did last June on this Ultimate France Road Trip, now for 5 days.

This new model of Peugeot was very spacious, comfortable and drove smoothly, which made the trip to our castle in Chantilly even more convenient! In just 5 hours driving we arrived at our first road trip destination; a charming and quiet village dominated by a historic domain, about which I will tell you all in this blog, with of course many of my own pics:

A big part of the village Chantilly consists of the domaine around the Palace. Spread over 7,800 hectares, the Domaine de Chantilly includes a big diversity of unique architecture, monuments, forests, imposing gardens and wide landscapes, surrounding the Chateau, the Grand Stables and of course the impressive horse racecourse.

The history of this domain is one of the jewels in French cultural history and goes back 8 centuries to the Middle Ages.

Even though it had many owners Henri of Orléans, the Duke of Aumale has shaped the heritage site to what it currently is, by constantly paying tribute to the rich culture of the domain.

Chantilly is easy to reach by train, just 25 minutes from Paris and 45 minutes by car, recommended to combine with a Paris city trip for a day, or even 2,5 days like we did. We really loved this historic French village, surrounded by several other unique towns and filled with beautiful quiet streets and so much heritage, as you can see in this gallery:

But Chantilly is mostly renowned for its Palace, which immediately dooms up in front of you when driving into the village. The Château currently houses the Condé Museum, with 1,000 paintings, 5,000 drawings and engravings and 3,000 works in the stunning Library. Furthermore the palace is filled with a big diversity of objets d’art and royal furniture, which the last owner ordered to only be revealed to those who come to Chantilly.

The Duke’s dying wish was to preserve the Palace as a public museum and his testament states that the Palace's treasures could never leave the premises or be lent out to other museums, which makes a visit here truly unique.

Even though gorgeous and opulent inside, the surroundings of the Palace are certainly worth exploring as well! With 115 hectares, the gardens of the Château de Chantilly are very diverse and stunningly shaped over more than 3 centuries.

Another famous sight on the Domaine are the Grand Stables, which once housed 240 horses and 500 hounds for the hunts on the estates. Built for Louis-Henri de Bourbon, the 7th prince of Condé in the 18th century, currently this is a living horse museum where equestrian and fashion shows are held throughout the year, in the unique historical setting of this imposing building.

Located right across from this gorgeous monument, in the perfect location in Chantilly, next to the entrance gate, was our stunning 5 star hotel:

This warm historic hotel, member of Relais & Chateaux, with 92 rooms and suites, combines luxury with the quaint atmosphere of the village so well, and provided us with everything we needed to enjoy our stay to the fullest. The staff of the Auberge du Jeu de Paume certainly holds hospitality high, and although very spacious, the atmospheric lobby, quaint French patio’s and stylish restaurants, salons and bar made it feel both cozy, elegant and comfortable.

As the hotel is located in the historic heart of the Domaine de Chantilly the sights are only footsteps away, and you walk right into the forest or village as well, whatever might be your preference.

I absolutely adored the spacious Spa, a 600 m2 Moorish styled space, surrounding a large indoor pool and whirlpool, with several steam rooms and sauna’s, offering a diversity of treatments and relaxation after a day of exploring.

I loved the fact that Spa access was also included in the room charge, and that the hotel offered a fitness centre, equestrian sports, golf, and 2 different restaurant options, of which the gourmet restaurant, La Table du Connétable, even has 1 Michelin star!

This hotel certainly knew how to make me feel like a princess in our Junior Suite, with direct views upon the English Garden and traditional fountain.

I was totally smitten with the design of our small apartment-like room with console tables, Louis XV armchairs for the separate living area, intricate patterned curtains, matching with the fine toile de Jouy fabrics printed walls, and the spacious Italian marble bathroom. And the delicious in-room breakfast made the experience even more perfect, see for yourself here:

Even though we have stayed in over 150 different accommodations already, among which several castles and unique luxury hotels in France, more in this blog: Authentic luxury hotels Provence. This 5 star hotel with its unique style and sophistication certainly impressed us, mixing prestige, class, comfort, modern amenities and tradition perfectly, which should not be missed!

Find out more and book your own stay for the best rate here: Auberge du Jeu de Paume Chantilly

After a wonderful relaxing stay in this quaint village we spent 2,5 days in Paris, where we checked into another regal 5 star boutique hotel in one of the most beautiful districts of Paris:

This romantic hotel, set in a 17th century building, almost hidden behind the galleries and shops of the Place des Vosges, is built around a quaint courtyard, overgrown with colorful vines, amidst natural greenery and wonderfully lit during the winter months.

The original house was built in 1612 by King Henry IV of France in honour of Queen Anne of Austria, and is currently privately owned and family-run. The hotel offers a Spa, gourmet restaurant, bar and 56 bedrooms and suites, all individually designed.

Our suite was a beautiful 2 story room with exposed beams, gorgeous fabric wallpaper and with direct views upon the courtyard, with wide balcony at the frontside of the building.

Some rooms have large mirrors and antiques, others have more contemporary furniture, all decorated distinctively, each unique and designed to create a sophisticated, yet comfortable atmosphere. The historical setting is enhanced through an intricate mix of rich materials, oil paintings, contemporary interiors and original antique furniture throughout the building, giving it a unique boudoir feel, see for yourself here:

We were happy to sample the recently opened gourmet restaurant of the hotel, next to the stylish lobby and bar, which is already in the running for a Michelin star.

Although they also have an A la carte and daily menu, we were surprised with a 5 course menu by Chef Mathieu Pacaud with matching wines, which was excellent!

Not only was the ambiance perfect and did the dishes look stunning, they were delicious as well! I can truly recommend this restaurant for an atmospheric and tasty night out, even if you are not staying at the hotel! Get an impression in this gallery:

Le Marais has always been one of my favourite areas in Paris and I have always dreamt of staying at the Pavillon de la Reine Hotel & Spa. It's the only hotel on the Place des Vosges, just a short stroll from the Musée Picasso, Musée Carnavalet, Place de la Bastille and many unique shops, restaurants and galleries, which makes it the perfect location in Paris.

Next to that it's truly one of the most unique boutique hotels I ever stayed in, and I adored the stunning courtyard, overgrown with vines that change color during the seasons, making it very photogenic. Furthermore the hotel’s interesting regal history and gorgeous atmospheric design make it a must stay, and also favourite among many celebrities like John Malkovich, Jane Fonda, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeremy Irons, and others!

Find out more and book your own stay for the best rate here: Pavillon-de-la-Reine

Place des Vosges, even though one of the better kept secrets of Paris, has been often referred to as one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Once the centre of high society in Paris, today this square is still one of the most chique places in Paris. See why in this video:

Located in the heart of Le Marais, one of the most vibrant, yet authentic districts of Paris, and also the oldest, dating back to the 17th century. Filled with cobblestone streets lined with quaint local boutiques, small galleries, unique museums, atmospheric cafe's, restaurants and hidden courtyards, all to be discovered.

Get an impression here:

There are however many more beautiful districts, hidden gems and wonderful sights worth visiting in Paris, which I already recommended in my earlier Paris blog. But especially during the weeks before Christmas I would advise to visit the following areas, as they are perfect for a romantic day of sightseeing, pre-Christmas shopping, or just a stroll around the city to get into that holiday mood:

I adore boat trips, always wanted to do a Seine cruise at night including dinner, and found the perfect one at PARISCityVISION.

They have a big offering of different boat trips, even with live music and a gourmet chef. Our cruise included a hotel transfer per minivan, a window seat with 4 course gourmet meal including champagne and 2 bottles of wine.

And we even had 2 singers and live piano music throughout the 2,5 hour boat ride past all the famous sights! The food was absolutely delicious and all of this created such a romantic atmosphere, which made a perfect night out in this wonderful city of love. Truly highly recommended and one of the highlights of our visit to Paris!

These were some of my favourite romantic things to do, sights and hotspots of Paris and our short road trip to France. But of course there is much more to see and do in and around Paris and Chantilly. If you are looking for more tips and inspiration you can also check out these websites: &

Did you know these hotels and Parisian pre-Christmas tips already, or have you ever been to Chantilly? Do let me know in the comments below or find me on social media via the icons at the bottom of this page for more daily pics of the beauty of France!

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