Mona Lisa welcomed us to Blois
Blois was a crossroads for our trip. Here we parked our car and took our bikes. Here begins our bike tour. But first a day in Blois, home to royalty.
When we crossed the bridge and entered the city we were greeted with this scene. Since 2013 the town of Blois has been hosting the Denis-Papin staircase (120 steps with 3 landings). This year, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance the Denis-Papin staircase (an ongoing exhibit showcasing what going on in Blois) is clothed with Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. It was quite an impressive greeting and one of the first places we came to once we checked in to our hotel and started touring the town. Now you may think, like we did, that Denis Papin was the artist who is decorating these steps, but you, like us, would be wrong. Denis Papin was actually a physicist, mathematician, and inventor, born in a village just a few miles from Blois. He is best known for his invention of the steam digester, the predecessor to the pressure cooker and the steam engine. If you look closely at the photo you can see a statue of him on the steps.
We stayed at a small, but nice hotel called Hotel de France et de Guise. A hotel that was decorated in a style that captured the royalty and splendor of Blois as a royal city. We enjoyed the decor, and more importantly the friendly, English speaking staff. They were very helpful. But what we enjoyed the most was the location, it was just 50 meters from the Royal Château de Bois. Can’t beat that! We enjoyed our stay here at this hotel.
With so many châteaux on our list, we decided not to tour this one. It does, however, have an interesting, if not gruesome, history. In 1588 King Henri III had his arch-rival, Duke Henri I de Guise, murdered by royal bodyguards in the 2nd floor King’s Apartments while he hid behind a tapestry. The next day he had the Duke’s brother, Cardinal de Guise, killed. Eight months later Henri III himself was murdered by a vengeful monk. I wonder how spooky that part of the castle is!
While walking around the château we came across the Maison de la Magie. A museum dedicated to magic and magicians, and especially to J.E. Robert-Houdin. Robert started life as a watchmaker, but later in life pursued his other great passion, illusions. With so much to see and so little time in town we didn’t go into this museum, but I bet it would have been interesting. Did you know that Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz) took his name from Robert?
You can see a video of these dragons poking there heads out of the windows here.