With Spring Carnival well and truly underway in Australia and many racedays ahead, I wanted to share some images from my trip to London and Paris in June. It was my first time in Europe and it was a holiday focused on racing capturing a number of racedays in a trip just shy of three weeks.

I had been told by a number of people how different racing is in England and France and not to have too high expectations of the various racedays I was attending. I was expecting quite a different scene at the track than what I was used to in Australia and I was not disappointed! Here’s a little overview of the races I attended and how they compare to Australia.

First up I went to the Investec Epsom Derby Ladies Day. Of all the racedays I attended this was most similar to going to the races as I am used to in Australia. With most attendees making some effort in dressing for the occasion the results ranged from casual, tarty, over-the-top and quite stunning! There was an emphasis on the actual races with betting and drinking being the key objectives for many patrons. Lisa and I had purchased tickets to the Queens stand which is the equivalent of the members stand in Australia. Lisa and I met up with FOTF regular Kelli Odell and her mum Terri and had a great day out. There was a best dressed competition (which Lisa posted about here) and a number of women had obviously made a special effort to take part in it. I wasn’t prepared for the infield carnival where the gypsies hang out. We didn’t go over to the infield, but it looked like a lot of fun.

Next up was the Chestertons Polo in the Park, London. I know it’s not horse racing but it was a lucky co-incidence it was on when I was there. Meeting up with Kelli and Terri again we set out for another day of fun. We had general admission tickets which Lisa had scored for us on a discount website making for a more affordable day. We lucked out with a perfect sunny day welcoming us for a day out watching the polo and eating and drinking in the sun. I have only ever been to the polo once before in Melbourne and was pleasantly surprised how much more relaxed the Polo was in London. With many different food stalls and a mix of people and families it had a fun and chilled out atmosphere. There was a best dressed competition (which I was lucky enough to win) but the highlight of the day was getting to learn how to play polo on a mechanical horse.

Next up was a few days in Paris to fit in a day at the races at one of France Gallop’s major race days the Prix de Diane (sometimes referred to as the French Oaks). It was a decent ride on the train (45mins) out to Chantilly, but simply worth every bit of effort. As the trains were having a strike that day we raced through the train station in Paris and hopped on the train with seconds to spare. Lucky, as unknown to us at the time it was the last one for the day. Upon arrival at Chantilly you could take a bus or walk about 10 mins or so to get to the course. It was one of the most beautiful walks you would ever see to go to the races, so if you ever get to go make sure you don’t take the bus. After a lot of hassle to get our tickets and wristbands sorted we were in.

The women in France are well known for their fabulous dress sense and it was apparent at the races here. It was very different to how women dress in Australia- they were much more casual and many women wore a sun hat and sandals. Here the atmosphere was one for pretty picnics and family time. A moody French singer ( Julien Doré )performed and his voice was broadcast through all of the speakers at the course. There was an old fashioned carnival feel to the whole day and a lot of the action happened infield. We had tickets to go to the members area, but spent a large chunk of the day in general admission as it was more fun to be in the general crowd. Longines ran a most elegant lady competition and from over 300 entrants Lisa and I made the top 10. Whilst I didn’t place I was very excited for Lisa as she was runner-up in an elegant Chanel dress, shoes and her own millinery. Yay!! Kate Winslet, Longines ambassador was a special guest and presented Lisa with her prize. So many people came along and took photos and it seemed we could hardly walk a step at times without the clicking of cameras around us both. At Chantilly there was very little emphasis on betting or even on the horses it seemed. We had a couple of fun bets, but there was never a line at the counter. At the end of the day people were napping on picnic blankets. Not drunk as you may find at the end of a major raceday in Australia, but resting in the sunshine after a indulging in elaborate picnic spreads. This was hands down one of the best racedays I have attended and a must do for any fan of the social side of racing. The scenery is spectacular and the mood and feel to the day was so unlike any track I have ever been to before. If I was to go again (and I really hope to) I would make sure to pack sandals and a picnic. If picnics aren’t quite your thing it would be worth looking into some of the track side dining options as they looked very tempting too.

Next up part 2- Royal Ascot. By Angela Menz