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21 Dec 2012

Aga Khan-funded hotel and spa for Chantilly estate

BY Kath Hudson

photo: The Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly

The Aga Khan-funded hotel at the Chantilly estate, on the outskirts of Paris, has got off to a solid start, after its launch in September.

The estate had been falling into disrepair since 1897, when its last private owner, Henri d’Orleans, left it to the cash strapped organisation, Institut de France. Strict instructions were given that nothing should be sold, lent and no painting should be moved more than 10cm. The estate has been running at a deficit for years and the Aga Khan stepped in when there was talk of the historic horse racing course closing down.

The spiritual leader of the world’s 15m Ismaili muslims, the Aga Khan, has lived and stabled his horses nearby for years. He called in two consulting companies and, with their help, masterminded a plan to relaunch the estate.

He has donated around €40m (£27.4m, $43m) to the project, more than half the €70 (£57m, $92m) set up costs.

The new hotel, the Auberge du Jeu de Paume, which has been designed and constructed in an 18th century style, to blend into the historical surroundings.

Facilities include 68 bedrooms, 24 suites, a gourmet restaurant, a brasserie, a 6,000sq ft spa with a pool and fitness centre.

The 20,000 acre (8,000 ha) estate also comprises the Condé museum, housing the biggest collection of classical art in the country, outside of the Louvre. As well as a Renaissance chateau, parks and gardens and a Living Horse Museum.

Since the launch, hotel occupancy has run at about 50 per cent, which is in line with expectations. With its offer of the finest French hospitality, guests are mainly coming from France and northern Europe. In the next year the hotel is hoping to drive occupancy up to 60 per cent.

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