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Published: March 28th 2006
Alone and unwell,stuck in an expensive foreign hotel room. I can't say I was really 'living the boho dream' during my three nights in Blois.
I didn't fancy the 5 mile trek to the out-of-town youth hostel, and more importantly I needed to sleep. Such a goal was never going to be acomplished by being turfed out into the streets from 10 to 6, as is often the policy at Hosteling international.
So I checked into a cheap hotel. A little place that was recommended in my guidebook, right across from the station. Only it didn't turn out to be the little cheap hotel that was recomended in my guidebook. That was directly across the road, and in my sickness induced haze I hadn't noticed it. It was a whole ten euros cheaper aswell. I wasn't bothered though, my room had a TV.
The twin factors of having no energy and trying to get my moneys worth, kept me inside for a large part of stay in Blois. I read the 'Picture of Dorian Gray' in about two days, watched; various English and French Football matches, an awful Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton film (in both English and French), Lock
Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a poorly acted fish-out-of-water mob film with Vin Diesal and John Malkovich, Bad French Soap Operas, Red Dwarf, Extras, rolling CNN news and countless episodes of the Weakest Link (in both English an French). I also slept a lot, ate almost nothing, and vomited copiously when food was consumed (I'll spare you the details). Although I didn't exactly have a whale of a time for those three days, it was exactly what I needed.
Blois is a middle class and middle aged little city. The kind of place parents like to see their children grow up and the type of place that children hate growing up . On a monday night, at about 9:00 no less, I couldn't find one open bar or restaurant. Not one place would sell me food, not even a takeaway shop. I had to settle for a chocolate bar and a packet of tortilla chips. In the summer, It is probably packed, but in mid-March, that certainly wasn't the case.
It also, undeniably 'bewtiful, no', as my French roomate from Bordeaux put it. It is exactly as you would imagine an immaculately preserved french medieval city to be.
Cobbled streets and romantic little squares are notably conspicous. Although It's probably a very poignant background to a wasted youth, I imagine a retirement spent here is far more fulfilling. Something that the large number of video rental shops, and disaffected youths hanging around them, are a testament to. That is essentialy all there is to do in this town.
Despite having no energy and being constantly out of breath, I had managed to stagger around Blois chateau on my second day. Flat, level ground was bearable. On this I could walk for about twenty minutes before being forced to collapse, triumphant marathon runner style, onto the nearest bench. However slopes, and in particular steps, of which there were a vast number, were my nemesis. I now have great sympathy with the more elderly members of the population. I now have some small understanding of their plight. All I can say, is thank god I'm not a smoker.
By the next afternoon I was feeling much, much better. I decided, possibly foolishly after the previous afternoons debacle, to rent a bike and head of in search of Chambord, the heavyweight Chateau (It means castle/palace, but if I'm not
mistaken literally translates as Cat Water) in the area, hoping to see some of the Loire countryside on the way.
It shouldn't have been so difficult. My guidebook suggested it was about an hours ride and at first the route was clearly signposted. After about 45 minutes however, the signs just stopped, and I was left cycling along a road that became increasingly narrow and more deserted. I should have continued, there had been no indication of a turning, and the guidebook instructed me to continue along the same road. As often happens in such situations though, I had a bit of a crisis of confidence, and so retraced my steps in an attempt to find the elusive signpost that would indicate a turning. I cycled all the way back to the last singpost I had seen, about 15 minutes away, and surprise surprise, there wasn't a turning
I had left it late in the day,and all this messing about had made me even later. Fearing the Chateau would soon be shut, I was about to give up when I spotted a map of the area on a local bus stop. On this reasonably incomprehensible bus map I
thought I saw something that looked like a Chateau, though it didn't seem to be particuarly well advertised. Of course it was in a completely different direction to the one I had been pedaling, but I set off anyway with the vain hope that this might turn out to be Chambord.
By now the actual cycling aspect was becoming rather tricky. I still hadn't completely overcome my energy depleting illness and this was taking it's toll. Furthermore I was having some difficulty deciding whether to ride on the road or the path. The road was much smoother and quicker, but after being involved in some kind of triple overtaking incident that wouldn't have looked out place in a hollywood action movie I decided this wasn't a sensible option. The side path,on the other hand, was basically an elongated gravel pit. Even vigorous pedaling failed to hide the fact that I was going nowhere. With the front wheel constantly stuck in gravel my bike started to resemble one of those old-fashioned exercise bicycles.
As it turns out, the chateau I had spotted on the map was not a chateau at all,but a chateau d'eau, which is a water tower.
It took me about half an hour to realise this though, cycling back and forth in front of a water tower, wondering how the French had managed the clever trick of moving an historical castle of national fame.
Tot: 1.925s; Tpl: 0.089s; cc: 18; qc: 74; dbt: 0.038s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.5mb