Ahhhh vacation. Even if you live in a place as magical as Paris, day-to-day life tends to take over and distract you and stress you out. Thank goodness for vacations when you can relax, unwind, and refocus.
We get a lot of school vacations here in France. We have 2 weeks off for Christmas break in December, then a week off in February for winter break, then 2 weeks off in April for spring break. Not bad! For spring break the maestro and my parents came to France, and we all headed out of Paris almost immediately. We had a car, which was excellent, and we set out on our first excursion to the Loire Valley and the city of Blois. I’ll write another post soon about driving around France. It was lovely, with breathtaking views of the countryside dotted with tiny villages everywhere. But I’m getting off-topic. Today I want to write about Blois. The Loire Valley is full of châteaux that wealthy people built to show off their money and power (they’re a dime-a-dozen down there!) and to be near the king. It’s also known for its wine, orchards, and historic towns.
We drove to the very old and cute city of Blois last week, and the first thing we noticed were the old timbered buildings lining the tiny streets. It was Monday, so everything was closed, and the weather was somewhat miserable. It was cold and very windy all day. Originally, the plan was to rent bikes and ride them down the Loire river, stopping at the cute towns and châteaux all along the way. Once we got there and realized how cold and windy it was, though, the thought of being on a bicycle was horrible. So we went straight to the château. If you make it down to the Loire Valley sometime when the weather is good, I highly recommend the bike trails. They seemed amazing. There are also hot air balloons, horseback riding, kayaking, and canoeing. Too bad we didn’t get to try any of these (next time…). If anyone has done any of those things, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
This was the first Loire Valley château we had ever seen, and it was impressive! It was built between the XIII and XVII centuries, and it features architectural elements from 4 different periods: gothic, flamboyant, renaissance, and classicism. Unlike other châteaux in the Loire, Blois was a royal château since several kings and queens lived here, and it was the seat of royal power during the Renaissance. Many important people lived in and visited it, including Joan of Arc when she came to the château in 1429 to be blessed before going to Orléans to drive out the English. There was even an assassination ordered by the king in the château.
Wandering through the rooms was great. It’s been nicely restored and there are historical objects all around the château.
One of the most impressive rooms is the Hall of the Estates General, which was built before 1220 as a hall of justice for the counts of Blois, and it still has its original layout. It is enormous, and even more impressive because it was used by Henri III for meetings of the Estates General in 1576 and 1588 (Remember the Estates General from the history of the French Revolution? It’s when representatives from the three estates–noblesse, clergy, third estate–all came together and met with the king.).
The view of the Loire from the side outlook is incredible, and apparently there is a sound and light show at night (but we didn’t stay for that).
Blois also has a Magic Museum that does magic shows during the day, and I read that it was fantastic, but it was sold out by the time we got there. I’ll just have to come back another time when the weather is good.
This was a great first château to visit in the Loire.