Blois – a road trip through French castles of the Loire valley
Where else to start our wander of the French castles of the Loire valley than in Blois! Elegant and romantic chateaux, rolling hills, flowing rivers, fine wines… Disconnection. Relaxation. Discovery!
One of the main benefits of living in Paris is that everything is so accessible. It’s easy to escape. The month of May in France is very propice to long weekends as it is filled with a few bank holidays here and there. When my friend suggested a road trip, we saw this as the perfect occasion to dive
in the valley of the kings. And off we went to explore this Unesco world heritage site.
Relax right in the heart of the french castles of the Loire valley
Our wander begins with the area around one of the historic landmark of the city: Blois royal chateau. Towering above the other bank of the city, this former home to powerful royalties is a striking mix of gothic, medieval, renaissance and classic architecture styles.
First of all, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of some really gobsmacking facts. Now hear me out: we are in 1617. The king Henry IV has died. His widow, Marie de Medicis, tries to become Queen. However, her son Louis XIII doesn’t see it that way. Now this is the “fun” part. He subsequently trows her out of Paris and she lives in exile in Blois. He is then to become the new King. Can you believe that? He certainly does rule the roost. More gruesome events do take place in between these walls. Might is right, that easy.
So, for more than 10 centuries, kings and queens have come and gone, and the undeniable history of the city sets any traveler’s imagination in motion. An awesome event takes place inside the royal chateau: the virtual reality immersion. Didn’t get to try it out this time, but will definitely do so next time.
Aren’t we in for an adventure of our senses!
Right opposite the chateau, the kid inside each and everyone of us is in for a treat! La Maison de la Magie trows sparkles in our eyes with a dragon theme live performance. Six imposing golden dragon heads suddenly pop out of windows and utter roars. The bells and the eerie music add drama to the show. I look around me; faces, young and old are gleaming. This is spellbinding.
La Maison de Magie is fully dedicated to the history of magic. It pays tribute to the one referred to as the top influential magician of his time: Jean Eugene Robert Houdin. Did anyone say Harry Potter? 😉
Pursuing our exploration, we stroll la Place du Chateau. The sweeping views across the panorama of the city are just wow! The other cornerstone of the city, the cathedral, seats majestically right opposite the castle. To me this a sheer display of power. The river Loire and the lower side of the city dance below our feet. The seemingly endless sky adds majesty to the mesmerizing panorama. Sumptuous. This first encounter with the french castles of the Loire valley is a sharp insight of culture and history.
A step back in time
Our souls are asking for more. We make our way towards the lower part of the chateau and are sharply reminded that the city of Blois is built on a hillside. Did anyone say workout? 😉 I am not quite sure whether this is typical of the french castles of the Loire valley. Taking in the large steps of “grands degrés du chateau” we make our way through the winding lanes and streets.
Exploring the streets of the old city, we can feel and see the medieval vibes still present. Picturesque old houses. Sculptures from medieval farces like the one at the Acrobats House are a true step back in time.
The undeniable beauty of the city sets any traveler’s imagination in motion
We venture further through the steep narrow staircase streets (I did say we were in for an unexpected workout ;-)) taking in the rich origins of the city. Blois was originally a fortified residence to the Count of Blois family. So, as we reach the top of escalier Dénis Papin, a impressive staircase between the commercial area and the upper part of the city, we pause to capture the view below our feet.
We wander throughout les jardins de l’évéché (the gardens located behind the cathedral). The majesty of the settings overcome us all and fills us with awe. The gothic-style Saint Louis cathedral further adds to the impression of grandeur. Having said that, it is not just a feeling. It is grandeur.
The panorama unfolding before our eyes is simply gorgeous. The historic Jacques Gabriel stone Bridge, joining the north and south banks of the city, seems to be floating over the grand Loire river. Sheer elegance. Somehow, there are areas in this town that are quite ethereal. This bridge is one of them.
Majesty and beauty
I would not describe myself as a castle-hunting person. Far from it. And neither are my mates. However, I wanted to explore and understand what makes this area so rich. Because the Loire river was a north-south strategic frontier, royalties and nobility have literally sown the area with sumptuous castles (42 of them).
I fell in love with Blois. Beautiful, full of history, picture perfect. We were so excited to start exploring the area when we left Paris. This wandering certainly opens our eyes to the majesty and beauty of the french castles of the Loire valley. And bonus point, we did manage to avoid the tourist stream. The next chapter of our adventure takes us to Chambord: a sheer show of grandeur, health and power.
xoxoM. Let’s share our inspiration