This women only summer tour offers the best in French joie de vivre, a deep, almost defiant commitment to appreciating the good things in life. This is one of the most deluxe, elaborate and special trips we’ve ever put together.
First and always we have Paris and so we shall start there with a champagne welcome to the city of light. With our in-house Garden Historian we’ll be visiting important gardens in Paris and beyond as well as attending a world renown horserace at the historic Chantilly tracks. For garden lovers, first time visitors, or those who have traveled to Paris before, this tour offers a new way to enjoy the beginning of summer in the city. We will take a one-day trip to Monet’s glorious gardens in Giverny, when the flowers are blooming in their summer splendor. We’ll explore the most important gardens in Paris as well as the fascinating history behind them. We’ll stop at Chateaux you’ve likely never heard of around Paris and explore their gardens where tourists are few and where roses are in bloom.
Then we will travel to Chantilly to attend the prestigious Prix de Diane horse race. If you ever needed an excuse to wear an outlandishly fancy hat, this is it. We will visit the chateau at Chantilly, a ‘second Versailles’ where some of the finest art collections are found that never leave France. From Chantilly, we will visit four other historic gardens you’ve likely never been to and enjoy sumptuous meals including tasting the delicious Chantilly cream all the while staying at a luxurious 5-star Auberge.
Susan Taylor-LeDuc is your guide and host for these luxury tours for women and super VIP adventure in Paris & Chantilly. She is a garden historian that specializes as well in the history of many of the famous women of Paris such as Marie Antoinette, Josephine, Marie de Medici and Nelie Jacquemart among others. Susan, an American, has lived in Paris for many years and is well acquainted with the ways of the French. She will be your guide not only in all things historic and sensory but in capturing that Joie de Vivre that the French understand so well. Our aim is to bring some of that sense of the true joy of life back home to incorporate into our own daily lives.
After arriving at CDG airport you’ll make your way via taxi or Uber to the Hotel Saint Marc in the 2nd arrondissement, right in the center of Paris, a stone’s throw away from the Palais Royal where Napoleon and Josephine once dined. Our 4-star boutique hotel is located on a quiet street but within walking distance to so much that Paris has to offer. We love the chic art deco décor as well as their indoor pool and hammam and in particular their delightful garden. Take some tea in the garden to freshen up when you arrive. Later on, we’ll meet here for a champagne welcome around 7pm.
This evening we will have a traditional bistro meal at La Petite Régalade a lovely small French restaurant created by Sebastien Pradal, a master of wine and Chef Alexandre Bourdas, a 2 Michelin star winning chef. Despite their bona fides, this place is relaxed enough for us to let down our hair and enjoy ourselves on this first night. Tonight, we’ll toast to our ensuing adventure!
Tour the Tuileries Gardens and the Palais Royal
Today we explore the Tuileries, the birthplace of the French formal garden style. Commissioned by Queen Catherine de Medici during the French Renaissance, the garden became an iconic expression of royal control over the landscape as well as a training ground for generations of gardeners, notably André Le Nôtre who in the 17th century transformed the garden into the one we know today.
We will learn about the Carrousel Gardens (redesigned by Jacques Wirtz) and the sculptures in the open-air museum. We then will continue on to the adjacent Palais Royal gardens, also built in the 17th century but radically transformed in the 18th century into a fashionable shopping district. As we stroll the arcades that surround the garden, we visit the trendy boutiques and learn about the cafés here that once inspired French revolutionaries.
We will take our lunch at the Palais Royal and then walk from there to explore the historic gardens of the Marais. We will stop at the Hotel Soubise and check-out the surrounding gardens, and then walk through the Jewish district where a garden has recently been dedicated to the children from the neighborhood that were deported during WWII. We will finish our walking tour at the Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, which is surrounded by the finest Marais boutiques.
We will enjoy some free time here to discover the Marais shopping district until we regroup for dinner. Our meal tonight is also a short walk from our hotel at the 1 Michelin star restaurant Pantagruel. Here we will partake in an 8-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Ad magazine says of this lovely restaurant:
“Chef-owner Jason Gouzy wins the holy grail of his first Michelin star in 2019 thanks to his earthy cuisine which celebrates both the best of pure French gastronomy – pithiviers (a puff pastry pie) and foie gras are the most beautiful examples but also the daring combination of cauliflower and haddock tart or purple carrot with sardine and coriander.”
The key to learning about the French Joie de Vivre is to enjoy pleasures guilt-free. Let’s try this shall we?
Today we’ll walk across the Seine to explore the Left Bank until we arrive at the Luxembourg gardens. Beloved by residents and students on the Left Bank, the 25-acre garden is an early example of the French formal garden and includes an orangery and orchard.
Queen Marie de Medici commissioned the garden on what was then a suburban site, introducing the latest innovations from Italy, including fountains and a grotto that can still be seen today. While strolling the garden, we visit the orangery, the grotto and an orchard, and learn about some of the 125 sculptures, many of which are dedicated to the queens of France.
We will return to the right bank by taxi to visit the Jacquemart Andre nineteenth century house and museum. We will have lunch in the former dining room under a fresco by Giovanni Tiepolo followed by visit to the fabulous collections. We’ll learn about Nellie Andre, an artist who became an avid art collector together with her husband. Nellie’s collections became so extensive she purchased her former school at the Abbaye Chaalis which we will visit later on in the trip when we are in Chantilly.
No matter how many times you’ve been to Giverny, it’s not enough. Every visit will reveal something new. A sojourn to this legendary garden which Monet called his greatest achievement is an invitation to be amazed. Today’s exploration will be with a knowledgeable botanical guide at your side as well as Susan, our historian and host.
After our fill of Monet’s artistry, we’ll decamp to the historic Ancien Hotel Baudy on their bucolic terrace where we can imagine Monet and his friends emerging from the past. Just 5 minutes from Monet’s gardens by foot this charming spot was frequented by Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley, Rodin and Mary Cassatt in Monet’s day.
After our répas we’ll head over to the annex of the Musée d’Orsay where we will take in a temporary exhibition at the Musée des Impressionisms. Here we will also delight in the gardens designed by the American landscape architect, Mark Rudkin.
On our ride back to Paris we will pay a visit to the kitchen gardens at the Roche Guyon with its spectacular views of former chateau on the Seine river.
Upon our return to Paris, we have arranged for a rendezvous at an exclusive hat shop in Paris for those who want to prepare properly for the Prix de Diane. Veronica Marucci designed hats are de rigeur for posh ladies in the know who are wishing to look their best for a day of racing.
We conclude our stay in Paris with a dinner at the Maison d’Amerique Latin one of most exclusive as well as exquisite places to dine set inside in a little known eighteenth- century townhouse and garden.
We depart our hotel and in route to Chantilly, we will stop to visit the cloister Garden at Royaumont, where we will come to know more about medieval gardens as we tour this gracefully restored site.
Our ladies luncheon today will be at Royaumont where we’ll savor a light lunch with ingredients plucked directly from their garden.
Later we’ll explore the nearby Chateau of the Renaissance at Ecouen. This chateau houses a collection of French Renaissance art, including original frescos dating from the sixteenth century, ceramic tiled floors, furniture and tapestries. One of the highlights of the museum is a cabinet of curiosities which includes silver, jewelry, shells and corals.
This afternoon we’ll check into our glorious 5* hotel, the Auberge du Jeu de Paume Chantilly where we’ll settle in and relax before meeting up for dinner in their winsome bistro on site, the Jardin d’Hiver (winter garden). Before our meal you might like to take some time to walk around the property, perhaps stopping into their spa which uses Valmont products, or simply take a dip in their indoor pool. We recommend the signature facial or the Ayurvedic massage. (Treatments not included in cost of trip)
The Domaine at Chantilly still resembles a royal estate: it is not only an historic château, but boasts an exceptional art collection, pristine horse stables, and gardens designed by André LeNôtre, the landscape architect of Versailles.
The present-day château was singularly remodeled by Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, who was one of the most important 19th-century collectors of magnificent paintings and rare books. Our tour of Chantilly includes a visit to the restored apartments, art collections as well as the gardens. We will visit the kitchens where one of the first celebrity chefs, François Vatel, introduced ‘nouvelle cuisine’. We will enjoy tasting (later on) one of his most celebrated recipes – Chantilly cream. This is the man who invented what we know today as whipped cream, which they call Chantilly in France.
In the morning we’ll visit the Museum and the Chateau. Our tour includes viewing exquisite stained glass, three paintings by Raphael as well as drawings. We will also visit decorated period rooms from the seventeenth and eighteenth century in the chateau.
We will leave the chateau to visit the gardens and then to have lunch in the Hameau, built in the seventeenth century, one of the best places to discover Chantilly cream.
We conclude our visit in the luxurious stables built by Duc de Condé, who wished to be re-incarnated as a horse. We will never find out if his dream came true! For those passionate about horses, you will carry on and see the extensive horse and carriage museum. Others may return to hotel for some unstructured time.
Tonight’s dinner will be a simple but scrumptious one. We’ll walk over to one of the local Crêperies in town where we can enjoy savory and then sweet crêpes washed down with some Bretan alcoholic cidre.
A Day at the Races
The Prix de Diane is one of the foremost races in all of Europe. Akin to Ascot in the UK or the Kentucky Derby in the US, this is the day those in the French horse-world wait for all year long. A day for society madams and maidens to sport their most fashionable or outlandish hat that marries with their lovely summer frock. Sponsored by watchmaker Longines, it is the high point of the season in Chantilly – and you’ll be getting a center seat.
For those in the know, it’s the biggest fillies’ race in the world, for those not familiar with all things horsey, it’s a day to drink some champagne, watch some horse races and put a few euros down on your favorite jockey. After watching the fillies’ race, you’ll want to peruse around the grounds for excellent people watching as well as hat spotting. For lunch we’ll sit down together for a petite picnic which we will have ordered ahead of time. We’ll lie back on our picnic blankets and enjoy the sunshine as we sip our rosé and enjoy our elite alfresco repas before heading back to watch more races and places more bets.
As its walking distance from our hotel, you can stroll back at your leisure once you’ve enjoyed enough of this very special day at the races.
Dinner tonight will be at a fun casual place that bills itself as a neo-Auberge. Le Vertugadin is spearheaded by famed chef Michaël Ejzenbaum who presents simple cuisine made with rigor.
Gardens near Chantilly
Today we shall pay a visit to the gardens of Ermenonville, the final resting place of philosopher and novelist Jean Jacques Rousseau and one of the most significant gardens of the English style in eighteenth century France still in existence.
Afterwards, we’ll carry on and explore the Abbaye Chaalis where we will have a light lunch of quiche and salad followed by a visit to this ancient site.
Nélie Jacquemart not only converted this former Abbaye (originally founded in 1137 by King Louis VI) to house her art collections, but she developed extensive gardens, including a rose garden on the grounds which should be blooming nicely by the time we visit.
After a moment or more back at our hotel for rest and relaxation we’ll meet up at the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, la Table du Connétable for our final gastronomic experience and “Joie de Vivre practice”. We will toast to a week or more of extraordinary sights, smells and tastes as well as long lasting friendships made.
Depart from Chantilly to CDG airport, a 20-minute drive from the hotel.
Or stay an extra day (not included) to indulge in some spa services at the hotel.
GG2P always reserves the right to alter the itinerary based on weather or availability as well as exciting opportunities that might crop up!
NOTE -> Not to worry – Vegetarians will be well fed in all cafés and restaurants as well as those allergic to seafood or gluten. Options are plentiful.
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