A short drive or a 30 minutes train ride away from Gare du Nord, Paris is this charming little commune called Chantilly in Northern France. As we drove in, I was told that this 18th century town is known for some of its exquisite lacework, beautiful porcelain and whipped cream. The one thing that you can’t miss out in this charming get-away is the Chateau de Chantilly. As the history unfolds an interesting story, this beauty is a creation by this prince, son of the last king of France. This man, considered to be the great collector of his time, made sure the Chateau stood as a testament to the rich culture & history showcasing some of his vast collections that included masterpieces in art and manuscripts.
The Musée Condé art gallery inside the Chateau is a must-visit when in Chantilly. The Petit and Grand Châteaux strike an awesome pose with the surrounding still water reflecting this beautiful structure as an extension and a compliment. It offered a picture perfect view as we stood there in the green lawns a distant away. In my mind I couldn’t help but think about the princely life once lived, his collections and the wonderful stories that this Chateau holds as it stands through centuries and for more to come.
This is not a tale about this prince Henri d’Orléans, though it holds more than a great story for every traveller. Chantilly is all about horses with its 18th century grand stables to house over 200 horses and is one of the most popular horse-raining centres. It is called the French ‘Capital of Horses’. This is the prime reason why I was in Chantilly. As a part of the team invited by the iconic watch brand Longines, I was in this charming commune to attend the most popular Longines Prix de Diane.
Longines always identified itself with equestrian, supporting the sport the world over, for years. The brand resonates the tradition, the racing aesthetics and the glory of this sport with their design values, as one of the most admired Swiss watch maker. Longines as the title sponsor, the Prix de Diane happens every year in Chantilly, the equestrian racing hub of France, during the month of June. Ever since 1878 when Longines designed a watch with a jockey and a horse on the dial, it is said to be associated with most equestrian events.
This grand event attracts tourists from across the globe to this northern French part to witness some of the finest horses being raced. With the beautiful Chateau de Chantilly and the surrounding Renaissance-style architecture forming the backdrop, some of the most pedigreed & race-bred fillies assembling in style for one specular racing afternoon, what actually adds the best of colours is the prestigious Mademoiselle Diane held by Longines Concours d’Elegance. And this actually, is the most fashionably interesting part of this tale that I am framing here.
Le Prix de Diane Longines is a Group 1 race, which is the highest level in horse racing, is also an event of High-Fashion that attracts women flaunting the fanciest dresses & particularly the hats to compete in the prestigious Mademoiselle Diane competition…in such elegance.
The event offers nothing short of the latest in high fashion, absolutely spectacular hats, and overall an electrifying atmosphere with a picnic spirit. On a typically beautiful sunny French afternoon, the event heats up with some of the best wines being poured along with the choicest of culinary delicacies popping up out-beating one course after the other.
The one thing that stands out from all of these is this specular collection of hats worn by the women with flair as they walk in large numbers. Its one big carnival by noon and with the finest race action in the middle showcasing some of the fine horse-racing, you can never go tired of watching the hats. Intricate floral arrangements, placement of fruits, beautiful lace work that Chantilly is known for, different assortments of feathers, naughtily netted & knotted, tall and structurally architected and a plethora of more interestingly designed hats.
These hats worn with such elegance captures every imagination of how creative one can get. As event warrants an elegant attire and sophistication, the hats are easily the stunners. Every creation deserves appreciation as it showcases craftsmanship and taste, as an incredible evidence to stand apart from the crowd in style, boldness, elegance, exclusivity & as a winner.
Every year, the event attracts more than 400 participants parading on a catwalk set up in the centre of the Village de Diane. Among 45,000 spectators at Prix de Diane Longines, Aishwarya Rai, the Miss World title winner & an actor from India turned heads in her black Armani ensemble teamed perfectly with a chic hat and sporting the newest timepiece from the DolceVita collection. She still is one of their most sought-after brand ambassadors, having been associated with Longines for over 16 years. Apart from launching the new DolceVita line, Aishwarya also gave away the ‘Mademoiselle Diane par Longines’ Award for Elegance to the most stylish woman at the race.
A sunny afternoon in French oaks, most picturesque racing event with the very Chateau de Chantilly for a backdrop, the finest of race-bred horses, the best young jockeys from around the world, some great French wines & champagnes, a well designed & delectable menu and a generous dose of some high fashion distinctively marked by the HATS!
That is exactly what Prix de Diane in charming Chantilly is all about. You cannot ask for a better reason to plan that French trip during the race schedule…and to get absolutely charmed by Chantilly with ‘hatted’ elegance.
Pictures – irk99 | www.instagram.com/irk99