Chantilly charmed the buyersAfter hard but rewarding work at the Bedouk MC&IT exhibition in Paris, Chantilly showed the enchanting face of France. Briony Key reports
Evènement France 2010 took 13 UK event organisers on a four-day trip to France for Bedouk MC&IT – and much more. Briony Key accompanied the Fam Trip group, hosted by Atout France and ITCM, from the latest Paris hot spots to the charm of Chantilly.
Following an easy flight with Air France the group soon discovered Accor’s savoir faire. Its hospitality evening, at the Novotel Tour Eiffel, was a feast of fine food and French flair, with great views of the icon of Paris. Soon everyone was mixing and in the mood for finding out more about the excellent business opportunities that were about to be showcased.
An overnight at the Hotel Pullman Rive Gauche meant that we were just a 20-minute walk or two stops on the Metro from Bedouk MC&IT
The show was hailed as a success, with international buyers building and consolidating business relationships with the 500 exhibitors, including DMCs, destinations, hotels, transport and venues. Many organisers had feared they would not be able to meet the contacts they wished to as they had had problems booking their meetings online ahead of the show, but most managed to catch up with exhibitors– with or without an appointment.
But there was no time for putting your feet up at the end of Bedouk. We were all whisked off in a bus to La Bellevilloise in Belleville to party at the Soirée France.
This trendy area - the birthplace of Edith Piaf and the French Revolution - was new to many of the group, who appreciated being shown one of the city’s latest leisure options.
A quirky venue, La Bellevilloise includes an exhibition space, club, restaurant and bar. We enjoyed cocktails looking out over the quartier, checked out the club/concert area that has launched some of the city’s top new bands and dined on regional specialties - served amidst a colourful troupe of talented performers.
We left the city’s urban appeal for the calm of Chantilly, which also has enormous potential for business events, located just 20 minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport and 35 kilometers from Paris. This horse capital hosts world-renowned polo and racing events and is home to 20 charming hotels and châteaux...and there’s plenty of incentive options.
Our first stop was Château Saint Just. Set in 17 hectares (42 acres) of historic parkland, it has recently opened a new complex, which complements the centuries-old site. The 4-star estate boasts a contemporary hotel, a large conference centre plus the historic chateau itself, which made a lovely location for a leisurely lunch, and proved to be the calm before the storm of the next exciting option on our itinerary.
The Ceram is one of the most important motor test centres in Europe and puts the Gee! into G-force! For incentive winners who like life – literally – in the fast lane, this place is perfect. It includes a road circuit, off-road circuit...oh, and a high-speed ring. I’d never experienced road speeds of 145kph before, but it seemed to put a smile on most people’s faces. Changing track completely, we checked into the hotel Dolce Chantilly, where many opted to enjoy the impressive modern MICE and leisure facilities, which include more than 2,000m (18,000 sq ft) of dedicated conference space and 23 meeting rooms, all with natural light.
This hotel is also popular with leisure guests, as it has an 18-hole, par 72 golf course, two swimming pools (indoor and outdoor) and a wellness and recreation centre. The rest of the group decided to do ‘something different’ - visit Le Potager des Princes to meet Chantilly’s champion Yves Bienaimé.
Yves and his wife Annabel’s efforts to maintain Chantilly’s history have seen them transform three hectares (7.4 acres) of derelict garden, designed by André Le Notre for the Grand Condé, back to its original splendour. It can be hired for MICE events, and has an attractive theatre that overlooks the river. Yves is also the driving force behind Chantilly’s living horse museum, which can also be hired for corporate events and gives delegates the chance to dine - quite literally - in French history. The Grand Stables has been hosting banquets since the 18thC, when princes entertained royal guests.
Horse enthusiasts can also hire the Hippodrome de Chantilly for social events, seminars and exhibitions. We had much to think about as we dined at the Château de la Tour that night, enjoying more beautifully prepared food and a site inspection of its seminar and reception rooms.
Our final day was filled with further opportunities for creating inspired MICE events. Set in 13thC surroundings, Royaumont Abbaye offered a dramatically different setting for a conference or banquet, while another top corporate choice, the Condé Museum, housed within the Château de Chantilly, proved to be a jewel of French heritage - France’s largest collection of art treasures outside the Louvre - and much more. Organisers can plan prestigious events here, which include the discovery of the museum’s unique art collections and rare ancient books and manuscripts.
Our fine dining also ended on a high note with lunch at the Château Hotel Mont Royal. Already a favourite with some of our buyers, this Tiara-group hotel has 12 rooms for special events, catering for 10-300 people, each with views of the forest. Its patio is a popular choice for private events, meetings and seminars. From here it was a mere 25-minute transfer back to Charles de Gaulle airport and the 40-minute flight home.
‘Our lunch at Château Saint Just was excellent, matched by the friendliness and professionalism of all the staff. ‘The Dolce Chantilly provided a peaceful location after our arduous time in Paris. The rooms were large and airy, with attractive grounds and good meeting facilities.
‘I was very impressed by the visit to Chantilly. The art exhibited at the Château de Chantilly was the highlight of the day for me and I appreciated the interesting comments from the guide. It would be fantastic to take a small group there to see such a priceless collection.
‘But my favourite venue was the Chåteau Mont Royal, which is a superb destination. I used the hotel before its change of owner and refurbishment and it is even better now.
‘I would certainly use these venues for a business event, especially with their easy access to the airport.’ Marilyn, agency director:
‘The exhibition in general was satisfactory, but somewhat limited in the number of exhibitors of a 5-star level. ‘The accommodation at our 4-star hotel near the exhibition was convenient but I would not use it for a corporate group. Cass, group organiser:
‘I saw the Belleville area of Paris for the first time, which is certainly another side of Paris but for very selective groups where you really know your client.
‘The Novotel Eiffel was excellent and would have been a better choice than the hotel we used close to the exhibition.
‘The Bedouk exhibition was excellent and the attendance from suppliers was good. My experience with the Toulouse CEO was very, very good and to meet up with the Macon representatives and check out their properties was good too.
‘Chantilly was a dream - a completely new experience for me and, I believe, generally not very well known. It is a destination I would hope to use for something in the future and it has the rare attribute of being so close to Charles de Gaulle for once.
‘The test track was a great incentive and a change from just regular racing. ‘It’s my personal opinion that convention bureaux are better advised to use a DMC to control the logistics, leaving the bureau staff free to relax and contribute appropriately.’ Winky, corporate group organiser
Hosts nursed us well
It was unfortunate that on the last day some of the group, including myself, picked up a stomach virus. However, our French hosts could not have done more to ensure that we were properly looked after and received the best possible care when we felt unwell.
Things can go wrong, but it a good test to see how the hosts react to minimise the problem.
We are happy to acknowledge the kind co-operation of Air France who provided the flights and Accor who hosted us in their hotels