Of Clouds and Cream at the Chateau de Chantilly

Just like some of the good things in life, the light and colors of sunset are fleeting. They don't last a long time.

[…Saint Witz, France…]

It felt like a long wait for blue hour tonight. I had my back flat on the grass with my camera and tripod lying beside me, my feet towards the the lovely Chateau . I had laid out a makeshift bed on the grass made out of my plastic camera raincoat and empty tripod bag, just enough to keep my back clean. Between me and the Chateau is a narrow traffic thoroughfare and cars would pass by making noises on the choppy stony road. The sun was creeping down slowly behind me on the east and I would watch as a group of clouds would roll past making their way to the Chateau and bring with them lovely pink tones. The clouds seem to move ever so slowly while I tried to make figures out of the shapes I see. It reminded me of this conversation between Lucy, Linus and Charlie Brown that I’m sure Snoopy fans are familiar with:

Lucy : Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?
Linus : Well, those clouds up there look to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.
Lucy : Uh huh. That’s very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?
Charlie Brown : Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie, but I changed my mind.

Once in a while I would get up from my makeshift bed, grab my camera and tripod with me and head down a few steps to the edge of the moat. Merely a few shots and the pink glow is gone, so I head back to the grass and wait again, this time for blue hour. Something always seem to happen when I’m waiting for the light. Remember those 2 pedestrians hit by a car while I was in Washington D.C.? — It was even on the morning news the next day. Well, this time around, right in front of my eyes, I witnessed a motorcycle accident on that same stony road between the Chateau and the lawn I was on. The driver was turning on a curve rather speedily, when in an instant, I heard a scary metal-scraping sound, and a loud crash. Sparks flew into the air sending the driver with it. It was a disturbing scene which sent me on my feet and gasping. Luckily, the man got up immediately, although he was obviously hurt and limping.

Other than that, I enjoyed blue hour tonight. It was the kind of blue that I liked. Only a few floodlights and street lamps lit up the Chateau, which in itself was not internally lit at all. But as twilight got deeper, the glow on the structure got warmer and brighter. Just like any other windy nights while I’m out shooting water scenes, I would say a short mindless prayer for the wind to calm down, you’ll never know when the weather gods are listening. The wind stopped every few seconds, and if I got my timing spot-on, that short window gave me a doable reflection.

Meanwhile, earlier in the afternoon, it was a lazy stroll around the gardens, sidestepping dozens of ladybugs which seem to favor the open dirt road by the woods than the grassy path. A little further away from the Chateau was a nice retreat to a blossoming garden which reminded me of Marie Antoinette’s summer cottage at Versailles, complete with a hamlet and a bubbling brook. I enjoyed my ice cream underneath a shade, while blooms from the gardens – from poppies to peonies, to daisies and daffodils – danced  around with momentary winds. Perfect summer day, if you ask me.

I learned that Chantilly is best known for its Chantilly cream, which is sweetened whipped cream usually mixed with a hint of vanilla or brandy. That’s why you’ll see folks walking around with delicious-looking pastries topped with a nice fluffy white cream. All that sweetness in the air invited a big swarm of bees; I saw a nice sized home they made out of one of the hamlets, right next to a cozy confectionary. I am not surprised that they’ve claimed this as their home; who wouldn’t want to live, at the very least, on the palace grounds? It’s certainly a hundred times better than having to be homeless, like me, and be spending sometimes more time in the car than in a hotel bed.

But don’t worry, all is good. I’m just trying to enjoy this little bit of limbo I’m in, even if it means lying on the grass in front of a castle, squatting with the bees.

Colorful blossoms are dispersed around the huge gardens of the chateau. I was enjoying my ice cream right next to this bunch.

A half-timbered cottage that's part of a hamlet. On the other side of this cottage is where a big swarm of bees have claimed their home. Nearby is a millhouse-turned-café that sells pastries with the famous Chantilly cream.

Here's a quick Yen Baet trivia for you : I hate taking pictures of flowers! Other than not having the patience for it, all that stooping and being low on the ground actually makes me light-headed.

Another one for you.


2 responses

  1. Even though you don’t like taking photos of flowers, you have a good eye for composition and DoF. Great work on the flowers. The colours are amazing. It’s certainly is a very nice way to spend your time.

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