Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chateaux Blois and Chambord

Our first chateau was naturally the Chateau du Blois. Our apartment was there and so we spent our first day close to home base, visiting the Chateau and the magic museum there.

{our chateau, apartment on the right side}

Chateau du Blois is famous for housing the most kings of any other chateau in the region. Seven to be exact. Seven kings and 10 queens called it home, at least for a time. It was interesting for its mix of architectural styles. In the courtyard you can see Gothic, Neo-Classical and Renaissance on each facing exterior.

{spiral staircase at Blois}
This was one of the fun lessons for the kids. We stood around pointing and looking, picking out the differences between eras. Hundreds of years lined up next to each other, a hodge-podge of royal displays of wealth and power over time.

The spiral staircase at one side of the courtyard was built during the Renaissance by Francois I, the Renaissance king, patron to Leonardo da Vinci who lived on the move and for the hunt and was basically the coolest guy of all time to rule France.

{His Royal Highness, Francois I}

His grand masterpiece, The Big Daddy, aka Chambord took an entire day for us to visit. 

{The Big Daddy}
We arrived when the doors opened at 9 am and didn't leave until the doors had closed with the big kids and me still inside them, at 5. It is just that big and cool and worthy of the time. I'd booked the big kids into a children's group tour guided by a Renaissance monk and it didn't start until 3:15.

{Chambord, river view}

It has been suggested that the double helix staircase at the center of the chateau was designed by Leonardo himself, but its true provenance remains controversial.

{double helix staircase}
You can walk up either side of its two staircases and not see the person on the opposite side. Imagine the intrigue and chateau games that took place winding around around, catching stolen glimpses of your ingenue. Oh, but it was romantic! And beautiful. The monk during the children's tour suggested it was mostly for traffic control when the Middlest raised his hand to say he thought it was built that way because it was so pretty. I prefer my son's romantic notions myself.

{Coucou, mon amour!}
The chateau was built as a hunting lodge for Francois I and as a show of his great power and wealth as the King of France. It took ages to build and in truth, he only ever spent a total of seven weeks there. True excess. 

{Chambord in the morning}
He wanted Henry VIII and Charles V to quake in their Renaissance boots at the sight of his country's je ne sais quoi. It certainly worked on our little American family. I was duly impressed and loved the outer hallways, barren and stark with their uncovered stone walls, the huge fireplaces with fires crackling, capable of warming only a few feet around them in such a vast space.

{Larsons at Chambord}

We spent the morning looking around on our own; me and P-Daddy with our audio 'geedes' in English, the kids with their kid versions, also in English, and their fun word hunt books for a dose of French. After a break for a picnic lunch at one of the tables by the parking lot we headed back in for more.


The rooftop terrace with its spires and turrets masking chimney caps was a lesson in extravagance, beauty for beauty's sake, when you just have so much that you can make the roof of your chateau look like Constantinople.

What do you think?


Some pretty impressive chimney stacks, huh?

The children's guided tour was all in French and not suitable for the Littlest so after a family hot chocolate on the grounds, he and P-Daddy headed off to kill the time by checking out the chateau grounds. I'll admit I was worried, questioning my decision to book such a late tour. Ma Fille, the Middlest, and I headed back inside to the chapel where we met the monk who was stuck in the 16th century and believed anyone with a Spanish sounding name, was a potential spy sent by Francois' nemesis, Charles V of Spain.

{Padre Tour Guide, Francois I bedchamber}
The tour ran over. We were still inside when they locked the doors. And miraculously, the Littlest was not at all cranky, had been fantastic on his long walk around the grounds and had even collected a bouquet of fallen copper and blood colored maple leaves which he proudly presented to me as a gift. If you asked the kids, I think they'd say it was their favorite day. They were completely wrapped up in the history of it all. After that, they were fully on board and kept pushing to see as many chateaux as we could. It was cool.

{Goodbye Chambord...until next time}
More to come. Five more, to be exact.


  1. Such beautiful photos, Aidan! I know it is cliché to say but I really did feel like I was right there with you!!

    And I love the photo of the Larsons together--what a gorgeous bunch you are--that one is a framer, non?


  2. Gorgeous. And I especially love the photo of you all on the balcony, too. Y'all are a bunch 'a good lookers!

  3. Fabulous pictures, I love it. I know Chambord is massive, and your pics brought it more into scale, the details!!! Now I want a tour with the monk..

  4. Awesome towers & turrets - I can just imagine the little rooms and nooks up high with windows to the world. I would put my library up there, with a fireplace, bearskin rug and comfy chaise. Oh, and personal hot cocoa chef. Because it's Chambord!

  5. Chateau Chambord is huge and amazingly beautiful as captured by your photographs. I am impressed that your kids were happy to spend the whole day at the chateau. I fear ours would have been bored after a couple of hours at that age.

  6. Kassandra,
    I'm glad you enjoyed it...there will be more and you'll be totally sick of reading about and seeing chateaux!
    The monk was a hoot. The kids loved all his jokes. He couldn't get his 16th century brain wrapped around the concept of snow skiing and that cracked them all up.
    Thanks for commenting.
    Aidan x

  7. Michel,
    We were very surprised that the kids did so well. They really cater to children visiting historic sites and museums here in France though, don't they? It makes them feel involved. We were lucky Chambord came first and made such a good impression that it made them want to see more.
    Happy Thanksgiving to your better half. (and you too!)

  8. Oh be still my heart! Children, young ones even, who enjoyed learning! I love it to pieces. Gorgeous photos and I am so glad you shared this part with us. Cannot wait for more! Also, My understanding is that the spiral staircase at Blois was what the Vanderbilt's used for inspiration of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, just for your own history lesson! haha


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