France’s medieval chateaus reopen to tourists after two months of lockdown

After two months of closure, the very first visitors are venturing back inside the historic Blois castle in central France.
After two months of closure, the very first visitors are venturing back inside the historic Blois castle in central France. © France 24 (screen grab)

FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent and Eléonore Vanel report from the Loire Valley, where many locals are eager to see tourists return.

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After two months of closure, the very first visitors are venturing back inside the historic Blois castle in central France.

As soon as they enter, they’re greeted with hand sanitiser gel, while staff wear masks and visors and masks for staff. But the biggest change has been plotting out a whole new tour of the castle.

“They now have to go all the way round and then upstairs to the royal apartments,” explains castle director Elisabeth Latremoliere. “Before they’d have gone back the other way but that would have meant people squeezing past each other and touching. We’ve got rid of all the places where there’s a U-turn for visitors.”

By reopening now, the managers of Blois chateau hope to recover some of the losses from lockdown, estimated at €1.5 million. Altogether, tourism in the Loire Valley brings in about €2.9 billion on a normal year, and the president of this French region lobbied central government to allow sites like the castles to reopen.

“It was very important economically that we allow these sites to reopen, in safe conditions of course,” says François Bonneau, President of the Centre-Val de Loire region.

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