We went to Blois initially to see the Orange shop to discuss Internet connection which seems to be the constant frustration of our life in Italy and France. Anyway, due to the long queues at Orange, we decided to put off the project for another time.
As it was still mid-morning, we strolled off to the Blois Chateau and very pleased we did. This was the first time we had been to Blois after three previous times in the Loire.
The restoration is quite extraordinary and the story of its restoration illustrates what a massive project it was. The Revolution was great for the French people but a lot of architecture and art was destroyed in the process. Fortunately, Blois Chateau escaped too much destruction as it was used as barracks during that time however the ravages of time and neglect sent it into a sad state. I believe from the notes we read, the restoration was over a 25 year span.
Our visitor guide leaflet alerted us to the four part architectural history of the Royal Chateau, starting at its 13th century medieval fortress beginnings, to the Louis XII wing (1498-1501, then the Francois 1st (1515-1520) and finally the classical Gaston d’Orleans wing of 1635-1638.
We entered the Chateau via the Louis XII wing and into the vast square surrounded by the other three wings. Unsure of where to start, we wandered over to the fortress walls for a panoramic view of Blois below. Looking over the many slate roofs below, we could see the slow moving Loire river snaking its way to the coast. in a few days time, we will actually meet up with the Loire further down at Saumur with a two night stay.
Its amazing to us with a history of less than 300 years of European settlement in Australia, to see ourselves in the State Room of the Chateau, the largest in France which was built 1214. It has the most wonderful painted wood panels and six ornate columns supporting archways.
From here we walked into the architectural rooms where there was a collection of original sculptures and plaster castings from the buildings during the restoration process. How talented were the artists of the time? The sculptures of reclining figures, animals and grotesque gargoyles are amazing.
We then ascended the Francois 1st staircase to the next floor. The outside of the staircase is ornately sculpted and features Francois’ motif - the Salamander. The stairway takes you to the 16th century royal apartments. Some of those royals who lived here included Francois I, Lois XII, Catherine de Medici, Mary Stuart and Henry III. The last was Gaston d’Orleans before it was used as a military barrack from 1788 to 1845. When I consider this period it reminded that Australia was in its infancy at this time. The first fleet had arrived by 1788 and the gold rush had started from 1845.
|The Porcupine - the royal motif for Louis XII|
|Henry's bedroom and his motifs throughout the floor, walls and furniture.|
|Catherine de Medici|