The royal Château de Blois is unlike the other castles of the Loire Valley; it’s not as “pretty”, but it has a rich history. It was the residence of 7 kings and 10 queens during the Renaissance era and the kings who lived there put their mark on the château. The façade shows Classical, Renaissance, and Gothic styles of architecture, built during a four hundred year span from the 13th to 17th centuries. Of the 564 rooms in the château, only two dozen were used on a regular basis. The panoramic photo, above, flattens out the perspecitve. The Classical wing faces the Gothic one across the courtyard.
Blois first became a royal residence at the end of the 15th century under Louis XII who added the red brick and stone Gothic wing. His successor Francois I built the most distinctive wing, with the dramatic Renaissance circular staircase. Louis XIII gave the château to one of his nobles who developed the Classical wing, ornamented with Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. During the Revolution, the long-neglected, dilapidated château was totally trashed by looters. It was then turned into a military barracks. Under the last of the French kings, Louis-Philippe, the château was restored and preserved as a national monument.
Today’s phrase, un escalier en colimaçon (uhn ess-kal-e-ay ehn kol-e-mah-sohn) means a spiral staircase, like the beauty at Blois. Un colimaçon is also a synonym for a snail, more familiarly known as un escargot. Colimaçon tend to be smaller than their slimy cousins, something the massive, sprawling Château de Blois is definitely not. While you’re there, make sure you visit the terrific restaurant Au Rendez-Vous des Pêcheurs, where escargot are probably on the menu. Yum.