Sep 17th, 2017, 04:42 PM

Les Concours D'Elegance à Chantilly

By Lillian Wagner
It is basically the Kentucky Derby of France, but change the race track for castle grounds.

In the U.S, one of the most prestigious events of the year is the Kentucky Derby. Women in humorously large hats and men in their best pastel colored suits parade around the race tracks to watch horses fly by and spend their money just as quickly. This year I was kindly invited by close family friends to attend the Concours d'Elegance at Chateau de Chantilly - which is basically the event of the year to les français as the Kentucky Derby is to Americans. As the Kentucky Derby is filled with horses, France switch to horsepower and had a day full of classic and distinguished cars. On a Sunday morning in September dressed to the nine's, we drove to the domain of Chantilly and got ready for our day of classe. 

La Mode 

Image Credit: Matthieu Bonnevie

I would have to say the most intimidating part of going to this event was preparing what to wear. It is stated on the official website that the staff at the gates have the right to refuse entry to anyone who is not dressed to the standards—yet (sadly) I didn't see that in action. As a good Parisienne,  I wore all black with only accessories in white.  The people who turned the most heads were dressed in light colors with classy hats—elegance at its finest. Women wore heels and accessorized with scarves, nice purses, barrettes in the hair while men accessorized with their favorite cigar wedged between their fingers and designer watches (as the event sponsor is a luxury watchmaker, Richard Mille).  I just couldn't get over wearing heels all day hiking up and down stairs, walking on dirt grounds, and on cobblestone. I'm sure by the early evening I looked as a giraffe learning to take its first steps while the other women looked as if they had just come from the runway. 

La Nourriture

Image Credit: Matthieu Bonnevie

Many of the attendees pre-ordered a pique-nique for their enjoyment of a classy event. Picnic baskets came filled with bread, jams, champagne, cheese, charcuterie, foie gras, and pâté—could it get more French? These people are those as pictured above using their Louis Vuitton scarf as a blanket on their Ferrari car to eat their picnic.  For those who didn't order a 330€ picnic for two offered by the event, many packed their own picnic and brought it themselves. People scattered across the lawns to share a meal with friends and family. Others, such as my group, made the 550-meter trek (remind you, I was in heels) to a small restaurant on the castle grounds slightly hidden from the giant crowds. We shared a lovely meal full of salads and canard, while ironically ducks from the castle ponds surrounded the table begging for a portion of pain. We ended our meal with ice cream topped with the castle specialty crème chantilly (hints the name of the castle). Our lunch surrounded by nature taking in the sun was a great addition to our lovely day. 

Les Spectacles 

Image Credit: Matthieu Bonnevie

The day was filled with a wide verity of interesting events for guests such as horse shows, car exhibitions, boat rides on the pond, an art gallery filled with Picasso and Poussin, and much more. As this event did take place on castle grounds, the chateau was open for free visits as well. This is an event for car enthusiasts, therefore many people were seen conversing with others in their respective car categories sharing a glass of vin. Aside from the extensive galleries and cliché walks around, there were many themed small pop-up tents such as Moet et Chandon Champagne Bar and even a nail bar in a vintage RV. If getting above the crowd is what you prefer, there are hot air balloon rides available.  My personal favorite activity of the day was the art gallery exhibiting Bacon, Picasso, and Poussin. Even though the day was a classy event, the theme of the gallery was Migration & Refugees, it brought the event back to earth. 

Les Enfants

Image Credit: Matthieu Bonnevie

The kids weren't left home by any means, they were brought along with mom and dad to indulge in an event for high-society. There were many activities for the kids to enjoy that didn't involve tablets or electronics—refreshing, I know. Kids were seen playing cricket with a picturesque background of Chateau de Chantilly. Around the castle domain the event organizers had set up vintage board games on tables and these seemed to attract children and adults alike. Yet, the fun didn't stop there; in the castle gardens were ten's of vintage children's bikes & carriages—and kids swirled around the gardens laughing and taking in the sun peddling away. If they weren't on two wheels, children were seen at the small carnival which had many activities such as face painting and dart tossing. It is safe to say that no child was left bored. 

Les Gagnants

Image Credit: Matthieu Bonnevie

Throughout the course of the day, there were judges in white and orange stripped hats circulating the castle grounds. These judges were carefully judging all attendees while looking for la créme de la créme of the three categories. In the final event, the coveted cars were driven around the castles center fountain on the make-shift race track and displayed for everyone to see. Each owner was brought to say a few words about the car and if they did not win a trophy they were sent on their way. The Grand Prize for Clubs is separated into three categories and therefore three cars win—while these three cars take home best in show. This year it was unusual and there was a tie between Renault Trezor and Citroën CXPERIENCE in the futuristic category—not surprising that a team of French men couldn't make up their minds. The best in show for the other categories were the Ferrari TR 58  and Bugatti 57 S Atlantic.

If you are interested in attending this cultural event next year, I advise you to start taking a look at the official website around June 2018 to purchase tickets. If you purchase tickets up to one month before the event takes place, each ticket is 50 percent off the normal price. If you aren't completely sold on going, watch the video below to give you some live shots from the day. 

Concours d'Elegance Chantilly Arts et Elegance Richard Mille 2017