The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Friday, September 25, 2009

Le Tour de Doug Part 1: Loire and Poitiers

Bonjour (as they say here in France...see? I’ve told you I’m fluent). My road trip has begun in earnest and in a few days I’ve already seen so much—so let’s get right to it!

After landing in Paris I immediately drove to the town of Blois in the Loire valley:

And after some much-needed rest I headed out to see two of the most famous châteaux, Chambord and Chenonceau.

Chambord is the largest castle in the Loire and was built as a hunting lodge by François I. Built in the early 1500s, it has 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases; but the most famous feature is its elaborate and fanciful roof.

It has some lovely interiors...

...but the most famous feature inside is the “double helix” grand staircase, said to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. An optical illusion, it has two sets of stairs winding around one another so that people can see each other on the stairs but will never meet:

It makes for some funky pictures when you’re at the bottom:

And at the top you can walk out upon the roof and wander among its ornamentation:

Next was Chenonceau (not to be confused with the town next to it, which is Chenonceaux...really). It is best known for the way it straddles the Cher (the river, not the singer—although I’ll bet she’s been straddled plenty of times as well):

There are some interesting stories associated with this particular château. King Henry II gave it to his beloved mistress Diane de Poitiers. Needless to say, his wife Catherine de Medici was not pleased about this, and right after he died she kicked Diane out and made herself at home. It was she who extended the castle over the water. Judging from her portrait, she was a handsome woman:

In a much later bit of history, the Cher was the border between occupied and free France during World War II, so the château was half in French territory and half in Nazi territory. Several thousand French Resistance fighters used it to sneak through during the war, and the Germans were ready to blow it up. Thankfully they didn’t.

Chenonceau also has some lovely gardens:

One other feature was what I like to call “The World’s Worst Wax Museum”. For an extra fee you can visit this small museum set up in the old stables to show what life was like at Chenonceau back in the day. The only reason I went was because my guidebook said that one of the wax scenes was of Catherine de Medici giving Diane de Poitiers the boot—and that sounded fun. Unfortunately, this scene was not actually there—and the ones that were there were terrible. Here’s a stunning depiction of ol’ François and Diane:

And I don’t even know what the hell these are about:

I spent the night in the city of Poitiers. Although I hadn’t planned on any sightseeing there it seemed lovely, so I did walk around a bit. It’s a very ancient city with a much earlier style of architecture:

The Église Notre-Dame-la-Grande is the oldest Romanesque church in Europe:

The interior is especially striking, as it is decorated in unusual colors and patterns:

Finally, the Baptistère Saint-Jean is said to be the oldest religious building in France, period—built in the 4th Century by the Merovingian kings (they were the early “Kings of the Franks” who had cool names like Dagobert!):

Next up…the ancient and gastronomical region known as Aquitaine and/or Périgord and/or Dordogne!! BUT BEFORE WE GO…A FEW PARTING SHOTS!

Sign on the roof of Chambord:

This is the logo for the children’s tours of Chambord...looks suspiciously like a copyright infringement, no?:


  • Glad you're having fun. I am enjoying the travelblog.

    By Blogger AuntJudyB, at 3:22 PM  

  • This is really interesting ( and funny!)

    By Anonymous cube, at 1:45 PM  

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