BLOIS, FRANCE

BLOIS, FRANCE
Les Chateaux de Loire, the Castles of the Loire River Valley, have always been my dream destination. but I had no wish to take an excursion and leg it around numerous halls, nor spend many days en route to yet another new palace. Having browsed various sites, I decided to follow a simple advice: take a train trip to Blois and spend a day exploring just one town. Why Blois? It is easy to get there from Paris Gare d’Austerlitz. There are several direct trains a day, it takes one about an hour and a half to get there. Alternately, it is possible to take any train which goes in the desired direction, and have a change of trains on the way, but it takes longer, one may miss the connection. If you book your ticket online in advance, a round trip costs 26 euros. Another strong consideration for Blois is, if it’s your first time traveling along the Loire River Valley, that the castle and the cathedral are right there in the center of the town, not some 20 kilometers away, as in the case with some other famous castles of the region. Blois is a small town with about 50,000 population. It was founded circa 5-6 century. Most buildings date back to the Middle Ages, and of course the construction of the major ones took more than a few centuries. You can see the Castle once you emerge from the tiny train station. Be warned: the town is situated in a hilly area, you will have to climb up and down continuously. Walk along the pretty streets, then up an old staircase, and you will find yourself near St. Louis Cathedral, so named because it was finished and dedicated largely thanks to the Sun King Louis XIV. Walk inside, place a candle in memoriam for those who are dear to your heart. Then spend some time walking around, taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful views.
The other big attraction is the castle which stands right in the center and above the town, dominating it with its huge presence. It is very impressive and really beautiful. It is also a large chunk of the French history, from Jeanne D’Arc to Louis XIV. An observation deck nearby gives one a great vantage point all around town and across the river. Down below is a pretty green park with another church in it, and a free public toilet is discreetly tucked into a park corner. The closer you are to the river, the more shops, cafes, restaurants come into view. Do not stop at the first large restaurant located in a long beautiful old building near the train station unless you are rich or wish to spend a lot of money on a meal, the prices are really steep. Go down the street, and you will find plenty of places where you can get a wonderful meal for a lot less. Souvenir shops are everywhere. You may even get lucky, as we did, and watch a spontaneous little show near the castle.
The trip back is easy, and seems to take no time at all. Yes, Blois is definitely a place to visit. You will enjoy just walking around; there are no problems finding a good tasty meal. And you will see all the places of interest in one day.
©gretag2013
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