“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
- John Hope Franklin

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Last of the Châteaux

A sculpted downspout at Blois 
On Saturday we visited the last two châteaux on our itinerary, Chambord & Blois. These ones were a little farther away from Tours, so we took a coach bus instead of the train. Chambord is the largest of the Loire Valley châteaux and was our first stop. 

Built between 1519-1547, Chambord served as the royal hunting lodge of King Francois Ier, who only ever spent 10 days of his life in this massive castle large enough to house 1000 people! Chambord is famous for its massive open double-helix staircase in the center of its four interior towers. When designed by Francois Ier, he wanted it to resemble the skyline of Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) with its many towers casting quite an imposing shadow upon the royal lawns. Although mostly empty inside, a few room are furnished with period furniture and are still quite an impressive complement to the astounding architecture.

A view up the double-helix staircase
City skyline-esque shadow cast by the chateau
Another spiral staircase in the interior courtyard

Francois Ier's bed
Have you ever wondered why royal beds always look so small? Well, during the Renaissance, royals would sleep nearly sitting up. At that time it was thought that sleeping laying down would cause one to choke on his tongue or to suffocate after having eaten a large meal. Thus the shorter bed, which was also easier to warm up during winter months than a larger one. Another interesting fact: one of the greatest honors foreign dignitaries could receive would be an invitation to sleep next to the king in his bed. Imagine the scandals that would arise if heads of state today began adopting this custom!
Enjoying the view from the roof of Chambord

Cupola at the top of the double staircase, as seen from the roof

The salamander, symbol of King Francois I, who spits flames (ignites wars of worthy causes) and also spits water (extinguishes conflict and promotes peace throughout the kingdom)
After a quick picnic lunch on the château's grounds, we hopped back on the bus and headed to Blois to check out the château there as well.

Chateau de Blois
Blois is a sort of hodge-podge château in that it is comprised of multiple buildings in separate styles from the 13th through 17th centuries all stuck together. In the panorama below, you can see a few of the styles, in chronological order: the oldest part (slightly to the right of center) consists of an early Gothic hall, the brick & stone part to the right is from the Flamboyant Gothic era, characterized by its many windows and skyward-reaching towers, the section in the center with another spiral staircase is from the Renaissance, and the section at left is from the Renaissance-revival era, showcasing three orders of Greek columns.

Blois, from its inner courtyard
The porcupine, symbol of King Louis XII. During the Middle Ages it was thought that porcupines could launch their quills far distances to ward off enemies, thus Louis XII was asserting his power over the region & warning invaders of his power.
The "Salle des Etats Généraux," (13th c.) is one of the oldest seignoral rooms still preserved in France, and also the largest secular Gothic room surviving in Europe.   
After having a guided tour of Blois, we stopped for a quick refreshment at a local café before taking the bus back to Tours. Following such a long day of walking around & sight-seeing, I was very glad to be able to sit down and relax for the evening! 


  1. Great pics, Rach. You look very happy....and thirsty :-)

  2. WOW Rach! Too bad all of this touring is part of your schooling. Poor you! Keep the posts coming-I'm enjoying the history lessons very much. Are you trying to hit all of the Cafes in Tours before you leave? If so hurry up-you only have a little over three more days there. Love you tons, XOXOXOX