This past weekend, I decided to get out of the house and take a trip over to the Loire Valley, located just south of Paris in the Centre region of France. In particular, I was interested in visiting the châteaux de la Loire, a cluster of chateaux situated along the Loire river. I’d been meaning to visit them for a while (high on my bucket list of things to see in France), so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to do so before I left the country!
Now, many of the organized tours I looked into from Paris (closest biggest city to where I live) were hella expensive, with prices upwards of 100 euros. Not only that, but also they would take you to two, maybe three châteaux tops, which for that sum of money doesn’t seem worth it.
After much researching, I stumbled across a local shuttle service that cost 6 euros for a round-trip circuit of four chateaux (Blois, Chambord, Cheverny, and Beauregard). It was sort of a hop-on, hop-off kind of service and even though it didn’t go to all of the most famous ones (including Chenonceau, which I wanted to visit), at least it had a pretty good selection, particularly the iconic Chambord.
With that said, I booked my train tickets over to Blois, where the shuttle would start in, and on Saturday afternoon took the train over to Paris, staying the night at a Couchsurfer’s place (it’d been over a year since I last Couchsurfed, but it was completely fine) before waking up super early the next morning to take the metro over to gare d’Austerlitz, where I took the direct train at 7h30 to Blois, arriving there around 9h05.
I found the shuttle service, paid the driver, and was soon off to the château de Blois, the first chateau on the circuit for the day. It was literally a two-minute drive from the train station, but in any case I got off and walked up to the chateau. Admission was a bit pricey at 8 euros (already including the reduction with my education pass), but the château de Blois turned out to be a pleasant surprise, with its four different styles of architecture circling the court, multi-colored tiled rooms with portraits of royal figures like King Louis XIII and Gaston d’Orléans, his brother and whom the château de Blois was given to him as a gift (imagine receiving an entire chateau for your birthday!).
Outside of the chateau, there’s also a terrace which had stunning views of the town, along with the Loire river and valley. It happened to be a *very warm* day, with sunny weather that made everything look amazing. I actually ended up enjoying what the château de Blois had to offer, both inside and out!
I finished my visit of the château de Blois around 11h00 so I went outside where there was a square near the Maison de la Magie (a “magic house” which houses a magic-themed museum and gives art performances). Decided to have a lunch break with the food I’d brought before heading back to the shuttle stop at 11h30 to take it to the next chateau: the château de Chambord.
Arrived at Chambord a bit past noon, heading over to the entrance where I got in for free with my education pass (yay!). The château de Chambord is considered the most beautiful chateau in the Loire Valley, and after having seen photos of it online, I couldn’t agree with it more. I was really looking forward to it, but ended up being underwhelmed by the barren interior: aside from a few decent 18th-century state apartment rooms, much of the chateau is bare, albeit with a few paintings and tapestries. I suppose it’s supposed to be more of a hall than an actual, opulent chateau, but all the same, the inside didn’t impress me at all.
One thing that was fairly impressive, however, was the double-helix staircase in the center of the chateau; it was a winding climb up to the top of the building, which gave pretty nice views of the gardens below (with motifs of the iconic fleur de lys on the lawn, which was pretty awesome). After touring the inside, I took a stroll outside of the chateau, eventually crossing the small bridge of the moat to take a photo of the place in its entirety. Although the chateau wasn’t facing the sun at that time of day (so that it came out a bit dark on my camera), it was still a beautiful sight.
I wandered the small touristy square which had a few cafes, souvenir stores, and a tourist office where I bought a médaille (gold tourist coin- I collect them) and then headed to the shuttle stop where I took it once again at 14h05 to the next chateau on the circuit.
That said, I’ll be posting the second part of my visit to the châteaux de la Loire in the upcoming post. Until then!
— The Finicky Cynic
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