Saturday, May 30, 2009


MONDAY, MAY 25, 2009 – 137/8– BLOIS, FRANCE

I think Dick slept well last night, but again we did not have A/C and my asthma caught up with me so I did not get much rest. We decide to move on and head north hoping it will be cooler or we can find a hotel that is turning on the A/C according to temperature and not the date!

We are out of the hotelby 9:30AM. There is a golden arches across the road from the hotel so we elect to have two egg McMuffins for €7.40 instead of the cold ham, cheese and bread the hotel is offering for €16. We also stop at a patisserie for a baguette stuffed with chicken, egg, lettuce and tomato for a picnic later.

We are finally on the road at 10:30AM. We try for a picture of the huge sand dune the area is known for, but it is in a park and is quite a hike from the parking lot so we just drive back toward towBulleted Listn for a fast stop at one of the neighborhood beaches.

The tide is going out with a vengeance and apparently when it is in there is little or no beach. From the looks of the many houses, both vintage and new, that appear to be just weekend or summer homes, this place must be a mad house in season.

By 11:00AM we are heading out t A10 toward Paris nearly 600KM away. We originally thought we would drive from Carcassonne to near Waterloo in one day. The GPS said it would be an 8-hour drive, which was fine since we did not think we would stop in the center of France. Well, that plan went out the window several days ago in Salon. Our new plan is to drive to the Loire Valley and check out at least one chateau today.

South of Bordeaux the traffic is heavy and slow with almost bumper-to-bumper trucks in the right lane. The countryside is not very pretty until we reach the north side of Bordeaux. At that point, the land becomes more rolling and is dotted with large old farmsteads and little villages. It is a mix of vineyards and grain fields. Soon after Poitiers, we officially enter the Loire area. There are more large chateau like homes now. At Tours, we turn off the motorway and follow the Loire River. We go through one wonderful little village after another.The valley is beautiful. We are heading for Blois for the night. We have decided to visit the Chateau de Blois. On the way, we stop for pictures of the Chateau Ambloise, built by Charles VIII in the mid-1400s. In 1560, some 1,300 Protestants, who had plotted against the king, were hung from the battlements. According to the story, the French royalty had the grace to abandon it after that.

Next we photo Chateau de Chaumont.When Henri II died in 1559, his widow, Catherine de Medicis evicted his powerful and charismatic mistress, Diane de Poitiers, from Chenonceau and banished her to this lesser chateau. It is a massive, rather bleak castle in a strategic location favored by the counts of Blois since the 10th century.

We get to Blois about 4:00PM and try first at the Holiday Inn, but they are full and send us up the road to the Novotel. This one is not as expensive as the one last night and the desk clerk assures us the AC will be turned on at 6:00PM! It is nearly 90F outside and the humidity is high. Oh, well it is just the French.

We head on back into down town, park in the Chateau’s underground parking and walk to the Chateau.Once again, we see it was good to be king! It is an interesting, beautiful place built on a high point overlooking the river. There are four architectural periods represented in the Chateau.

The oldest section is the Gothic Hall of Estates General built by Thibault VI before 1220 as part of the Medieval Fortress ( the back part of the Fortress ,left, and the Louis VIIth wing right, are pictured) and favored by the Counts of Blois from the 10th century onward. It is the largest Gothic Hall in France from the 13th century and is built with two naves covered by a wooden barrel vault and separated by a row of columns with capitals.

The Louis XII wing, built between 1499 and 1503, is in the Flamboyant style. The brick and stonework are typical of the period. The royal apartments now house a fine arts museum. Just fifteen years later, Francois I begins a new wing built in the new Renaissance style. The outside spiral staircase is a perfect example of the mix of Italian and French influences. Catherine de’ Medici used these quarters also and died here in 1589.

Francois Mansart did the last addition for Daston d’Orleans, Louis XII’s brother in 1635. It is a masterpiece of French Classical architecture with the massive grand entry staircase and allegorical sculpture. All these wings combine to form an enclosed courtyard and that is actually very pleasing to view. There is also a pretty, little chapel at the end of the Francois wing that was built by Louis XII.

The chateau has some bloody history also. On December 23, 1588, The Duke of Guise was assassinated in the Kings’ bedchamber on orders of the king. The Duke was plotting against the king. We spend about an hour touring the whole Chateau. The Royal apartments of King Francois I are most interesting. They are decorated and semi-furnished with period items. The tour includes the 13th century reception room in the Medieval Fortress, the kings hall, the hall of the guards, the queen’s chambers and the king’s chambers including the private chapleand council room in the Francois I wing. There are some exquisite pieces of furniture on display in these rooms. Then we visit the Louis VII wing, which houses art from the 10th to the 16th centuries, the nice little Saint Calais Chapel with its beautiful stained glass windows and finally the grand entry of the Gaston d’Orleans wing. This wing is used for special events. Finally, we walk around the interior grounds and see the Tour de Foix tower, part of the 13th century fortifications, and the fabulous panorama of the city, the Loire valley and the church of Saint Nicolas.It is after 6:00PM, we are hot and soaking wet so we go back to the car. On the way back to the hotel, we stop for the classic picture of the Chateau and the old bridge Pont de Blois. After a quick grocery stop, we have cocktails in the room and head out for dinner. We are having a hard time finding places to eat except for the bar type places around the tourist areas. Tonight is no exception. We finally stop at a chain restaurant near the hotel. It is new looking and there were some locals eating there, and the staff only speaks French so ordering is interesting again. Dick gets the order across in a mixture of bad French, and butchered Spanish, but the food is good; steak cooked over a wood fire in the restaurant, with salad and baked potatoes! What more can we ask!

Back at the hotel, the room is somewhat cooler and the A/C is on, sort of. We work on the blog and die! As we are going to bed, a thunderstorm is developing. What we do not know is that the outside temperature drops into the low 60s during the night after the storm passes through. The hotel AC cuts off if the outside temperature gets below 68F! We spend a miserable night not knowing that we only have to open the window to let in cool air! Sometimes, we are just a little slow!

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