Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  ,
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blois is only 60km from Tours and still in the heart of Chateau country. As we didn't have the means to visit the various chateaux of the area we headed to the Chateau of Chateaux, the Royal Chateau of Blois. This place gives a crash course in Chateau architecture and history. It was built in four stages. It was a medieval fortress in the 13th century (Gothic), then Louis XII built a wing around 1500 (Flamboyant), Francois I got into it with his wing 20 years later (Renaissance) and Gaston d'Orleans finished it off 100 years later (Classical). A fascinating view from inside the courtyard looking around at "what was in" at each stage of construction.
The interior didn't disappoint either. The Gothic wing houses  the "Hall of the Estates General", a gorgeous structure where you can imagine grand galas taking place. The Flamboyant wing is home to the fine arts museum, the Classical wing with a remarkable foyer holds seasonal exibitions, and finally, the Renaissance wing shows off more fine art as well as the royal apartments. In the King's bedroom Henri III had his rival, the Duke of Guise assassinated in 1588.  Each evening they put on a sound a light show in the courtyard that tells of some of the rich history that the Chateau has seen over the last 1000 years. We were lucky enough to go on "English" night so we could obviously understand the commentary in full.  See the pictures for some shots of all the above.
Blois is also home to the Museum of Magic. It is in tribute to the Grand Master of magic. Not Harry Houdini (Erich Weis), but Blois native Robert Houdin, the father of modern magic and Houdini's inspiration.  The Museum of Magic is certainly enchanting. The building itself is gorgeous and at the top of each hour it acts as a type of cuckoo-clock. Instead of a bird appearing, massive golden dragons pop out of the windows with a roar (see picture). Inside they have a hall of illusions, a corridor of mystery, as well as tribute halls to both the master Robert Houdin and Harry Houdini. On the top floor, they even have a Hallucinoscope. Here you wear a special visor and it looks like you are walking through an underwater world even though you are simply walking through an empty room (all the action is on the ceiling and your view is reflected up). At the end of the museum tour, they have a half-hour magic show performed by two magicians and is quite entertaining. The whole experience was a nice surprise considering where we were and what we expected from Blois.
Off to Orleans! 
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