Quitting our bark, we hired horses to Blois, by the way of Chambord, a famous house of the King’s, built by Francis I in the middle of a solitary park, full of deer, inclosed with a wall. I was particularly desirous of seeing this palace, from the extravagance of the design, especially the staircase, mentioned by Palladio. It is said that 1800 workmen were constantly employed in this fabric for twelve years: if so, it is wonderful that it was not finished, it being no greater than divers gentlemen’s houses in England, both for room and circuit. The carvings are indeed very rich and full. The staircase is devised with four entries, or assents, which cross one another, so that though four persons meet, they never come in sight, but by small loopholes, till they land. It consists of 274 steps (as I remember), and is an extraordinary work, but of far greater expense than use or beauty. The chimneys of the house appear like so many towers. About the whole is a large deep moat. The country about is full of corn, and wine, with many fair noblemen’s houses.
“Hic ubi natus erat dextro Ludovicus Olympo,Sumpsit honoratâ regia sceptra manu;Felix quæ tanti fulsit Lux nuncia Regis!Gallica non alio principe digna fuit.”
Under this is a very wide pair of gates, nailed full of wolves and wild-boars’ heads.
Behind the castle the present Duke had begun a fair building, through which we walked into a large garden, esteemed for its furniture one of the fairest, especially for simples and exotic plants, in which he takes extraordinary delight ((See ante, p. 97. “His greatest delight was in his garden, where he had all sorts of simples, plants and trees that the climate could produce, which he pleased himself with studying the names and virtues of” (Reresby’s Travels,1831, p. 25). –AD)). On the right hand is a long gallery full of ancient statues and inscriptions, both of marble and brass; the length, 300 paces, divides the garden into higher and lower ground, having a very noble fountain. There is the portrait of a hart, taken in the forest by Louis XII., which has twenty-four antlers on its head. In the Collegiate Church of St. Savior, we saw many sepulchres of the Earls of Blois.