Friday, May 27, 2011

Cole Haan Boots Reborn

I thought these Cole Haan Air Daughtry boots were a must-have item for my trip to France this past April.  I initially tried them on at the Nordstrom Rack and fell in love with the leather- in the picture it looks stiff, but in reality it's very floppy and butter soft.  In my mind I saw these as being perfect for walking aroundm for wearing with leggings or cute dresses.  I imagine that over time they will break-in and look really cool.  I usually wear a 10 but my heels were slipping out when I tried walking in the 10, so I ordered them in a 9 1/2 online instead and that's worked out well for sizing.

 A week later we went on our trip.  After a few days in Paris we took the kids to Disneyland Paris.  My kids are 13, 7 and 4, so there are rides we can't all go on together such as the Space Mountain: Mission 2 rollercoaster.  My son and I rode Space Mountain and then waited for the rest of our family to come back from the ride they went on instead.  It was super sunny and beautiful:

And what did I do?  I tripped and scraped off the toe of my new dream boots!  You would think I had cut myself instead of the boots if you could feel the sudden sinking in my stomach that ocurred.  Here it was the beginning of our trip!  My new babies!  I had like 2 more weeks to go with this flap of leather? Sigh.  Oh, well.  I had to regroup and decide that if I didn't want to take the time out of our trip to find a cobbler to fix them, I would just grin and bear it until we got home.  Eventually a little hunk of the leather that had been flapping in the breeze came off and it wasn't that noticeable to anyone but me. 

After we came home I went to the local cobbler.  He examined the toes and held the boot back to look at it.  "Why did you buy these?" He asked me.  He continued on to explain that he didn't care for the contrasting soles and they would have been better looking if they were black.  I think I might have gotten out an "Um" but truth is, it didn't offend me that he didn't like my boots.  He fixed them!  If he thought they were ugly, that is okay with me- I'm just glad I got my boots back good as new: 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chateau de Chantilly

The Chateau de Chantilly was a nice part of our recent visit to France. We were staying in Paris and drove to Chantilly for the day.

Originally built during the 15th century, the Chateau de Chantilly was home to the noble Montmorency family, most notably Anne, the Duc de Montmorency (1493-1567) who served several kings of France as a soldier and diplomat.  The Chateau remained a Montmorency posession until 1632, when it was confiscated by King Louis XIII after Anne's grandson, Duc Henri II de Montmorency, was deemed guilty of treasonous activities against the crown.  After Henri II's execution, the property was given to his sister Charlotte-Marguerite and her husband, Henri de Bourbon, Prince de Conde.  Charlotte and Henri were to become the parents of the most famous Conde of all, le Grande Conde, Louis II de Bourbon.

The Grande Conde, also called Monsieur le Prince, was a one of the highest ranked among all the nobility in the Court of France and a great general whose victory at the battle of Rocroi is still studied by students of military strategy.  He fell from favor in the early part of Louis XIV's reign when he participated against Louis XIV in the French civil war known as the Fronde.  He was exiled to Spain but eventually allowed to return to the Chateau of Chantilly where he remained until eventually regaining favor due to a successful plan to gain new territory for France in the region of Franche-Comte.  The Grande Conde entertained and eventually spent much of his last years at the Chateau de Chantilly, although he did not pass away there.

The Chateau is very beautiful and richly decorated, with many impressive pieces of furniture, even some that had originally been at Versailles in the possesion of Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.  The Chateau is comprised of an older style building that was rebuilt due to damage that occurred during the French Revolution and a more modern half built by the Duc d'Aumale including a chapel and an extensive library.  Almost every piece of art is original in the Chateau.  Some photos of the older part:

Gallery of Battles

The Tribune

The Guardroom

The Cabinet of Books

The Chateau de Chantilly has over 13,000 rare and valuable books and manuscripts.  According to the will of the Duc d'Aumale- a bibliophile- they are available to the public to look at upon approval of the curator of the Musee de Conde.

Many people know of the Queen's Hamlet at the Chateau of Versailles.  Marie-Antoinette had this mini village built to be a place of refuge and enjoyment, complete with a working farm featuring perfumed sheep.  (Visit my other site, Life at Versailles, and click on "Photo Albums" on the left hand side panel to see photos of it as it looks today.)  But did you know that her vision was inspired by the construction of the Hamlet of Chantilly?

This Hamlet was built in 1774 by Prince Louis-Henri de Bourbon, the great-grandson of le Grand Conde.  He was known as Monsieur le Duc.  He served as Prime Minister of France under Louis XV from 1723-1726.  Like his ancestor, he fell out of favor and was exiled to the Chateau de Chantilly.  He made the remainder of his life there productive; he improved and enlarged the house and grounds of Chantilly, built the impressive Grands Ecuries which today houses the Living Museum of the Horse, and founded a porcelain manufactury.

In the Hamlet there is a little restaurant where you can have treats including the famed Chantilly Creme, whipped cream flavored with sugar and vanilla, which was invented here by Vatel, the legendary chef with a perfectionist streak.

Monsieur le Duc entertained so many guests at the Chateau de Chantilly he built the Chateau d'Enghien so they would have somewhere to stay.  The name of this "guest house" is in honor of the late Duc d'Enghien, the last male descendant of the House of Conde.  Newly married in Germany, the young Duc d'Enghien had taken from his home in near the Rhine by French forces under the direction of Napoleon and executed for treason based on questionable charges.  He had been the only son of an only son, and with his death the House of Conde ceased to be. Today the Chateau d'Enghien is the residence of key staff members of the Musee de Conde.

When he was 8 years old, Prince Henri Duc d'Aumale inherited Chantilly from his uncle and godfather, the last Prince de Conde Louis Henri de Bourbon (father of the Duc d'Enghien).  The Duc d'Aumale was the son of the King of the French, Louis-Philippe.  By the time of his passing he had no heirs left as his two sons had already passed away, and he bequeathed all of Chantilly as a museum to the Institute de France, which administers many of the museums and chateaux of France open to the public.

During his time at the Chateau of Chantilly the Duc d'Aumale caused a beautiful chapel to be built on the location where a chapel once stood before it was destroyed in the French Revolution: 

Resting place of the hearts of the Princes de Conde

Arms of the House of Conde

Grounds of the Chateau:

Leaving the Chateau:

Across the road from the Chateau de Chantilly is the Musee Vivant du Cheval, the Living Museum of the Horse.  It was once the horse stables built by the Monsieur le Duc, great-grandson of the Grande Conde.  It was also used as army barracks during and after the French Revolution.

This was the kids' favorite part of the day because they liked to seeing the horses in their stables, and then in the exhibition arena where a demonstration of horse riding techniques was given. Immediately after this part, in the same place, there was a short program from the current show, "Un Prince Russe."  It was great.

Alongside the Living Museum of the Horse is the Chantilly Racecourse, which is known for the beauty of its flat course and the importance of the equine training center.

This was a fun day with my family.  We all got a little bit of a history lesson, experienced some culture and then a lttle exercise walking around the grounds.  Best of all for me is that now we have a lot of really sweet pictures of the kids with the Chateau and its grounds provided a beautiful backdrop for them.