Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Are you ready for some magic?

2003 – Right across the courtyard of Blois castle stands the house of the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (December 7, 1805 - June13, 1871). Although he is widely considered as the father of modern style magic, he’s not to be confounded with the famous escape artist known as Harry Houdini (March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926, born Erich Weisz). In fact, the latter borrowed Houdin’s name, adding an ‘i’ to it to give it an artistic twist.

We decided to visit the house in 2003. In spite of our careful planning, the Maison de la Magie was ‘exceptionally’ closed for the day. So after visiting the Château, we found ourselves aimlessly standing around in the square between the castle and Houdin’s house. We were discussing where to go next, when the bell of a nearby church tower struck the first stroke of eleven o’clock. All of a sudden we heard a rambling noise behind the closed shutters of Houdin’s house. Four of the shutters opened automatically giving way to enormous clawing paws.

Apart from us there were a dozen of other people in the square. We all stood there staring at the strange spectacle. Over each paw an enormous growling head of a dragon appeared. One of the dragons seemed to have a ‘technical’ problem and only showed the tip of his snout, while the others wildly waved their heads up and down making fierce roaring noises.

The show lasted for about five minutes, after which the dragons one by one retreated into the house, with the shutters automatically closing as soon as they were inside. The noise ebbed away and in the silence that followed we heard a child sobbing. The dragons had clearly frightened it.

Afterwards we learned that these mechanical beasts made their appearance several times a day on the stroke of the hour.

Before leaving the square we took some pictures of the statue of the great Houdin himself (see magnifying glass). I think he looks a bit like the French singer/songwriter Claude François, who wrote ‘Comme d’Habitude’, the song that became an international hit as ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra. Don’t you agree?



Thib said...

The most impressive "dragons show" is at 12.00, as there is a dragon at each window.

A few years ago, we were there with my brother, his wife and their 3 or 4 years old son. The poor boy was terrified! So his mother took him away. But he kept crying until his father and I joined them a few minutes later: he was afraid we were fighting the dragons...

ladybird said...

Thib: Thanks for joining my blog and posting a comment.

I suppose all the dragons come out at noon because it's feeding time ;))!

Jean said...

How absolutely bizarre. It could only happen in France. Great fun.

ladybird said...

Jean: It was great fun ... except for the smaller kids, as it scared the hell out of them.