Summer holidays in France: Royal Château of Blois

So what do you do when you rent a house in the middle of the French countryside, and have an entire week to kill? Explore the surrounding area of course. My previous post mentioned a few of the walks in the local area we did. This post will deal mostly with the day trips slightly further afield by car.

The royal palace in Blois.

Our first trip was a 50 km drive south, to the town of Blois. The trip itself is very uneventful. Fields, followed by driving through villages, followed by fields, followed by ignoring the GPS when it wants to bring us onto a motorway, followed by more fields. After a while, we arrived in Blois. My parents decided to shell out for entry to the château, which was well worth it.

Rule number one of castle building: find a steep hill...

The picture at the top of this post shows the view from the central courtyard. The château consists of four sides, each from a different historical era. All the interiors, save for a single room, were recreated in the 19th century, to “reflect what it might have looked like”. I’m not sure how I feel about this type of historical reconstruction. At least they are honest about it here (cf my posts from last year about Osaka’s concrete reconstruction castle and Nara’s oldest surviving wooden building in the world, …but which has been rebuilt several times…)

Looking across the courtyard.

At least the exterior and structure have survived relatively well, and only the gargoyles and royal insignia needed to be added back. The reason for this simultaneous destruction and preservation is of course the French revolution. Basically, the palace was in use as a barracks at the time of the revolution, so it was not demolished as a symbol of royal power. But the interior of a palace is not well suited for housing an army, so that had suffered heavily. When France then decided to have a king/emperor again, they also started canvassing for “national monuments”, a pioneering thought at the time. The royal palace was declared such a monument, and then an architect was hired to redecorate it and let it reopen as a museum.

Pretending to be a king by sitting in a throne that is pretending to be old.

So a museum it remains to this day. The brochure that you get at the ticket counter suggests a route, which leads through a mediaeval hall, through all the redecorated state rooms across three floors, and ends up in the courtyard again. When you’re done with that, there is additionally an art gallery, a mediocre chapel, and a stunning view  over Blois and the Loire.

As i remember, this is the only room where the original decor has survived. Presumably an army commander thought the wood panelling was pretty snazzy.
Blois cathedral and the Loire river.

What else is there to do in Blois then? Well, I don’t know. Because after we finished at the château, we went for lunch at an out-of-town shopping centre, at this curious French cafeteria-cum-all-you-can-eat restaurant called Flunch. You order your meat at the counter, but vegetables etc are laid out in a buffet. Interesting concept, quite cheap, but food is also comparatively uninspiring.

Next post: Amboise.

Author: jpamills


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