Last week I escaped London for a magical adventure: an evening at the Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley, one of France’s most iconic fairytale castles. My hosts were the maison of Van Cleef & Arpels, who were celebrating their new high jewellery collection, Peau d’Âne raconté par Van Cleef & Arpels.
The film of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale Peau d’Âne is as much a part of a French childhood as The Sound of Music is of an English upbringing. Written and directed by Jacques Demy in 1970 and scored by Michel Legrand, the film stars Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, Jacques Perrin, Delphine Seyrig, and Micheline Presle in a technicolour world of huge ballgowns, fairy godmothers, enchantments and musical interludes.
In 2012, the Demy family announced their intention to digitally restore the film, and Van Cleef & Arpels, who have been crafting beautiful fairy clips since the 1940s, and introducing collections that depict enchanting journeys and imaginary creatures, came on board to support the project.
Moving forward, inspired by the story of Peau d’Âne, the Maison decided to pay its own homage to Charles Perrault’s story. The princess’s childhood at the castle, her flight into the forest and her marriage to the prince, form the heart of Peau d’Âne raconté par Van Cleef & Arpels.
My first introduction to the world of Peau d’Âne was this ravishing papercut invitation (it’s a quick animation so you may need to click through if viewing this on a mobile device.)
We left Paris at 3pm in a fleet of black cars, two to each. (I was travelling with Annabel Davidson of Vanity Fair.) We wheeled past the Arc de Triomphe, and off towards the Loire, with the film of Peau d’Âne playing on an iPad.
I was wearing a floor length navy vintage gown, with scarlet and gold Marc Jacobs platforms – vital to ensure I didn’t trip over my hem, and a Corto Moltedo evening bag, on loan for the evening.
Half way, we stopped off at an Aire, where tents had been pitched in a woodland glade, for restoratives coupes, coffee and canapes.
Arriving at the chateau, we crossed the courtyard to the main entrance; fortunately for those in heels, there was a small army of ravishing young men in black tie, whose sole job was to offer an arm to wobbling guests.
Inside the chateau, we were greeted with a Medieval wonderland.
And, yes, the owls were alive.
The interior of the chateau is anchored by the Leonardo di Vinci Double Helix spiral staircase. Ravishing to behold, a little tricky to traverse in high heels.
Finally at the top, we were rewarded with views over the valley and of the chateau’s extraordinary turrets and ramparts.
My beautiful Corto Moltedo bag.
Annabel and I took up position overlooking the courtyard, to watch the guests arrive:
And Hannah Teare in divine Sophia Kah, with Damien and Annabel.
Photos taken, and view admired, we then descended the Double Helix, traversed the grounds, and ended up facing the evening’s espace ephemere:
There was a little detour to admire some of the jewels from the collection. In the fairy tale of Peau d’Ane, the princess asks her father for a dress the colour of the weather – the Robe du Couleur du Temps. This eponymous piece – a necklace and detachable motifs, consists of 12 pear-shaped aquamarines -129.87 carats, sapphires, tourmalines and diamonds
I also rather fell for the Lagon Precieux – Turquoise and chrysoprase beads, black opals and diamonds.
Once outside on the terrace, we took up position and waited…
Can you spot the elephant?
And then the masque began to the suitable rousing Marche des Mousquetaires by Lully.
(if you are reading this on the LLG Daily Email, then you will need to click through to see the video – it’s just 2mins long)
The models for the evening, dressed in bespoke Gaspard Yurkievich designs, and wearing pieces from the Peau d’Âne collection were delivered in Marie Antoinette’s coach, and by sedan chair.
Yes, this is a unicorn.
Inside the tent eight tables, under delicate gold traceries awaited us.
Hannah and I, framed by the table decorations. (Thank you Ghislaine for the lovely photo!)
In between courses, the girls walked the room in their Gaspard Yurkievich designs, wearing pieces from the Peau d’Âne collection.
Each course was presented with full pomp and ceremony, heralded by dancers from the masque, with a centrepiece carried in by chefs, and the food itself paraded in by waiters in white tie.
The first course was Supreme de Volaille de Bresse au Foie Gras cuisine en chaud-froid.
Crème de petit pois, girolles, accompanied by a Mearsault 2011 Domaine Decelle-Ville.
I had the chicken-free version:
The second was Dos de bar sauvage peche a la ligne, viennoise de truffe. Legumes et pourpier des jardins, with which we drank a Pauillac Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2000 1er Grand Cru Classe in magnum, which was one of the most spectacular glasses of red I have drunk in years. Actually, make that EVER.
Highly perfumed fraises Gariguettes, raspberries and cherries under individual domes accompanied a Vacherin glace vanilla cerise-giboulee de Bigarreaux so delicious I don’t think I could ever hope to replicate it. With the vacherin, we drank a Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose.
Then, after much feasting and a truly epic firework display above the chateau,
we said goodbye to the unicorns, and headed back to Paris, nestled in the back of our cars in blankets and pillow piped in Van Cleef & Arpels pale turquoise.