Prix de Diane – When the charming Chantilly gets ‘Hatted in Elegance’

Chateau de Chantilly

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. 

Riding the hoods!

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. 

Carnival mood!

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. 

Party in pink n blue!

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.

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. 

Elegantly hatted!

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.

Hatted conversations

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. 

weirdly interesting hats.
Carrying an architecture…
Taking on the sun…
Showing off…their hoods.

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. 

Aishwarya Rai…the brand ambassador
Carrying a craft.

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!

Hatted in Style!
Hatted in Elegance

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

A masterpiece in mighty metal, that millions marvel!

If there is one thing that comes to everyone’s mind the moment the city of Paris is mentioned, it is the Eiffel Tower. And it is also the very reason why it is clearly the No-1 if not the top attraction for every first-time visitor to what has been long cherished as a most romantic city in the world. 

As a traveller I am no different and neither do I wish to be different not to put the Eiffel Tower right at the very top in the list during my first visit to Paris. As most visitors, my expectation too was as towering high, right on my way to the Eiffel that showed itself in glimpses as we drove towards it. Standing over 1000 feet tall and weighing over 10,000 tons, this amazing structure in metal on 4 pillars clearly makes us go awestruck at first sight. As it is claimed, this incredible structure having taken 2 years, 2 months and 5 days, without a doubt has amazed millions till date and will continue to do so for 100s of years to come. As a testimony to French engineering, this tower is a frozen moment of the great industrial era at the end of 19th century.

The mighty Eiffel…just when I turned into the road to encounter the marvel

Though the wait in the queue may put you off, it is definitely worth it once the ascent begins. Having been modernised in 1900 by Gustave Eiffel, a decade later after their inception in 1889, two of the original elevators are still in service. Now this is an incredible fact that elevates the excitement and interest levels of most visitors like me, as we move up. As someone with the lens in hand and hungry for the views that are differently captivating, every stop that we made at different levels offers more of them. 

A structural marvel

The lovely landscapes around…

As we move up, the first sight is a spectacular landscape that showcases an orderly built city, star-studded with centuries old monumental structures such as Palais de Chaillot, the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, esplanades, the beautiful River Siene and the beautiful lush green Champ-de-Mars park forming the intermittent spaces that completes a perfect panorama. Every frame from the tower’s high, offers nothing short of centuries of rich history and culture. The slowly moving boats carrying loads of enthusiastic tourists on River Siene, adds more than life to every view, be it live or through the lens. 

On the way to dizzyin’ heights…
Shining bright to stand out from the rest.
The most scenic River Siene

The higher one gets on the Tower, more interesting are the views and the experience. The whackier side of me is made to imagine a large cake with some intricate icing in white and a green base, that has been precisely cut into a pattern of different sizes.  And thats exactly how one of these city views appear right from the top.

A spectacular view of the nearer old and the farther new of Paris!
Perfectly designed…a green view from the top.
…the green junction
An incredible view…

Every little variations seem to be adding more beauty to these sights. And one cannot miss the beautiful bridges that seem to appear like those incredible line drawings that connect interesting points on carefully drawn travel plan on a large canvas. The three main bridges Pont d’Lena, Pont d’Alma and Pont de Bir Hakim pose elegantly for me as they connect the two sides of the waterways, right below the Eiffel Tower, and also conveys much about the sophistication in planning of this romantic city.

Beautiful bridges
A view from the other side…
Tall & awesome.
A mighty engineering marvel & truly a strain in the neck view!

The Iron Lady, as it is called, standing tall above the French capital, celebrates 130 years and this goes as a little tribute remembering the Parisan engineer Gustave Eiffel, the creator. This mighty engineering marvel is sure to awe millions from all over the world for 100s of years to come. 

Its so Paris…and incredibly so, from the running Seine!

The best of Paris by the River Seine…as I cruise along

This undeniably romantic city never fails to charm a traveller, be it, the first time or a frequent one. As travellers we identify and reminisce every place we visit with a distinct feature of its own. When it comes to Paris, many such features converge to make this beautiful city, one of the most adorable one without a doubt. 

Beautiful bridges that never fail to impress…

Be it the beauty of the Parisian landscapes, the awesome architecture, the incredible history in the form of the memorable museums, the art or just the magical beauty, Paris bares it all, incredibly so when viewed from river Seine. This particular trip to Paris, one of my ‘must do’, was the day Cruise on the River Seine. As Seine runs through in a pattern just as if to show some of the best sides of Paris, it is a pure treat for my eyes as well as my lenses.

Cruising along…for a pure visual treat of rich history.

Running through the heart of this beautiful city, river Seine defines Paris and its very character in such an adorable way. And the perfect way to enjoy this ride is to be on the top floor of the boat positioned just enough for spectacular views and to frame ‘em with your lenses. Another wise thing to do is to take a ride that starts late afternoon and ends just after the sun goes down. This way you get to see the best side of Paris in different lights. The sunny late afternoon glare, the pleasant evening light with an orange shade as it beautiful turns pink and then red, and finally the pale dark as the city lights get switched on. The ear plugs for the pre-recorded narration provided in multiple languages, is a must to understand and adore the history that you pass by as the boat cruises along.

Differently designed…to bridge the present with incredible history

One of most interesting and inevitable part of this ride is when the boat cruises under those ‘differently designed’ and ‘built to impress’ bridges. So many of them. If you are one with a camera, I bet you cannot deny yourself of not being tempted to capture most of them. Adorned with magnificent statues and sculptures, some of these beautiful bridges are artistic masterpieces.These bridges big and small, sort of creates a pattern with equal time periods, like the clap board for different scenes, that Paris offers for us to enjoy.

Clap board 3…shot 5 and the count of the bridges continue…
Adorned with magnificent statues and sculptures!
Clap board 18…shot 27 and still counting with great views.
Cruising through history amidst works of art…

As we pass through the tree-lined boulevards, the majestic structures stand in beautiful order studded with many iconic landmarks and it is a sight that we can soak into. Not to forget, some adorable sights that features beautiful people being themselves to reiterate why Paris is such a romantic city, true to its claims.   

Moments in partnering…in a city so romantic!

Musée d’Orsay appears to awe as we sail, with its interesting history of transformation from a modest railway staton to a museum that treasures a trove of masterpieces from great artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir and Gauguin. 

Once a prison that had dingy dungeons underneath, The Conciergerie now, that houses law courts, appears elegantly. It is bizarre to know as the history tells the story of many men and women were herded to the guillotines like lambs to the slaughter, right from this structure.

Notre Dame, as a most famous church building in the world and as one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture appears next to amaze us. The sheer beauty of this structure urges you to wish the boat slows down so that you had an ‘eye-full’ of this masterpiece that treasured some of the best objects of faith such as the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and the Holy Nails.

The river divider…in the finest French Gothic architecture

If these are not enough, some of the most interesting history captured and created in the form of breathtaking structures such as Palais Garnier and Opéra National de Paris appear one after the other as we cruise along. And yes, the one and only Louvre museum shows off the iconic facade, declaring why it is the best of its kind as the boat sails past. 

Giving sky, the shine…

And as the sun sets, by now, with the cloud lines blurring and the pinkish red of the dusk streaking across, the darkest brown structure in metal magnificently standing as Eiffel Tower poses in all its glory, as the cruise nears the end. 

The Eiffel…sandwiched!
A view of Eiffel while cruising along river Seine…as the sun goes down

Without a doubt, for an unforgettable experience of this beautiful city called Paris, the Seine cruise is an absolute must.

Pictures – irk99 | www.instagram.com/irk99