When people ask what my favorite city in France is, they’re always a bit surprised. Not just because the town comes out sounding something like “Blah” if you trip up the pronunciation. Most people have not heard of Blois. It’s a city of about 50,000 people only an hour or so away from Paris. Visiting Blois is not difficult and it has a surprising amount to offer.
But how did you arrive at the decision to visit Blois, Fleur? You may ask. Well, every Airbnb I had cancelled on me. I must have gone through about 5 of them. Now I know that I don’t have to cancel my stay, they’re supposed to do it for me (top tip). When I finally wound up with a place to stay it wasn’t really what I wanted (See: An…Interesting Week in Paris), and it was only available for 5 days and I needed it for 7. There was literally nothing available in Paris in my price range. Birdie and I got out a map, closed our eyes, and pointed for a spot between Orléans and Paris.
And just like that, I found a tiny, super cheap Airbnb and was ready to go.
Tips on Getting There
Tickets can be bought directly at the Paris station you’re leaving from but I recommend booking ahead as it will be much cheaper. I think I wound up spending about 10euros to get to Blois but it could have been a bit less if I’d booked further out.
I highly, highly recommend you have a SIM card that functions before you get here. Without one, I barely got by in Paris, whereas in Blois I didn’t get by at all. I was at the mercy of two *very* nice French men who happened to have worked in Wichita, Kansas (where I currently reside) of all places. They helped me get a cab, which you cannot get unless you call the service! Without a SIM, if I hadn’t had my lucky star to help out I probably would have been stuck. I would have walked but as I discussed in my Week in Paris post, I brought waaaaay too much luggage with me.
The 3 (Three) sim is the brand I recommend as it’s really cheap and data can be used outside of France. I also heard pretty good things about Orange. The nice thing about 3 is they had little self-service machines so you don’t have to talk to anyone!
As it was I was an hour late to my Airbnb and blamed it on the trains. This is the perfect excuse, apparently, as it cleared up everything. I stayed in this Airbnb. If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb, I’d appreciate if you used this link – it will get you $40 and I get a kickback as well 😀 This Airbnb was absolutely lovely although I misunderstood when Mickael handed me a bowl of ice cubes. I assumed that was for any water I might drink. 2 hours later I understood, as I laid on the bed covered in ice cubes as the French heat descended. For the first time in my life I took cold showers.
It’s located just across the river from the shopping and historical area, and I really liked this aspect. I was in a breezy, cozy apartment with just the right amenities. Honestly, this is probably my favorite Airbnb experience yet, and you certainly can’t beat the price!
Blois was just amazingly pretty. It also has a lot of history, there is a castle where Louis XII was born and Joan of Arc made Blois her base of operations for the liberation of Orléans. I didn’t go into the castle but I wandered around outside of it. When I was there there were also cute horse-drawn covered wagon that was taking people on a tour around Orléans for a reasonable price (I remember 8 euros but I could be wrong). Sitting alongside the Loire was how I spent a lot of my time, feeling as though I were truly vacationing.
Visiting Blois was just fun. The entire town is very French but also very quirky! There’s a shop just for umbrellas!
I think Blois really takes exception to the idea that “once you’ve seen one European city you’ve seen them all.” It’s quiet, it’s relaxing, but it also has a surprising amount to offer on the fun side. Spontanious macarons from a local bakery, ammmmazing yogurt at the grocery store in delightful clay pots…feeling like a French person as I lean on my window….
Blois is absolutely worth a stop, even if it’s just for a day trip. It was just fun to wander around. In terms of where to go for a quiet, longer vacation, I’d choose here. The rest of France that I saw I didn’t particularly feel like living in. I liked it, but it didn’t feel like it could ever be home to me. Here in Blois, it absolutely did.