Visit the Chateau Blois in Loir-et-Cher, Loire Valley
The castle at Blois positively oozes with history. Not only was it an important residence for French kings during the 16th century, but it was also the castle where Joan of Arc was blessed before setting off to defeat the English at Orléans, the turning point in the Hundred Years War.
Although the story of the castle on the site starts in the 10th century, the castle as we know see it starts with the arrival of the widow of the recently murdered Duke of Orléans at the end of the 14th century. It was in the 16th century that it became a residence for kings - King Louis XII used it as a base and significantly developed the castle and the gardens at Blois. The development continued with Francois I, although he rather lost interest in the chateau after the death of his wife. it was during this phase that the remarkable spiral staircase was added, a highly ornate structure with 'windows' open to the courtyard outside.
It continued to be a royal residence for his successors, Henry III and Henry IV, after the Wars of Religion had forced the former from Paris.
The downfall of the castle began in the 17th century, after the death of Gaston d'Orléans who had made further improvements. Work stopped, and the castle became abandoned and fell into disrepair. With the French revolution it suffered further, as part of the general movement to destroying the buildings of the nobility.
Reprived from a demolition order, the Chateau de Blois was one of France's first buildings to be classified a historic monument (1841) and has since been carefully and tastefully restored and maintained. Unfortunately many of the important statues and decorative features had already been removed or desroyed, and development of Blois around the castle in the 19th century led to the gardens being destroyed.
But the Chateau at Blois remains a fine and impressive castle, and is now a fine testament to the kings and life of the nobility of the 16th century. There are some beautifully decorated rooms within the castle, featuring the ornate and colourful decoration and furnishings of the period, and the buildings that remain, around the castle courtyard, are a fine monument to visit.
Map showing location of Chateau Blois