Wednesday, November 30, 2016

France: 24 hours in Tours, Loire Valley

       Tours (with a silent s) is a vibrant, bustling city in the province of Touraine in Loire Valley, located in the centre-west of France. Standing on the lower reaches of the River Loire, the city had long been an important crossing point of the Loire since the Gallic time. Since the city is ideally located rather near to most Loire Valley chateaux, for example, Villandry (19 km), Amboise (35 km), Chenonceau chateau (40 km)… it makes a great base for travelers wanting to explore the exceptional Loire chateaux. That's not all... The city of Tours itself has a lot to offer. As first-time visitors, we've heard so much about its first-rate cultural heritage. We knew that we were going in for a treat. 
tours, loire valley, france
       For our weekend retreat, we had done 2 day trips visiting 3 chateaus: Chateau Chenonceau in Chenonceaux as well as the Royal Chateau d’Amboise and Clos Luce (Leonardo da Vinci's house) in Amboise. All of them are well accessible by SNCF rail. In Tours, we stayed in the highly value for money Hotel Mirabeau (My review here). But of course, there are many more great accommodations to choose from. 
       Getting around in tours is easy. Apart from the fact that it is a walkable city just like most cities in Europe, its excellent modern tramway transport system allows a more reliving access to various sites of interest, especially for senior visitors and children. 

        A visit to the Tourist Office was the first thing we did since we did not have the day all planned out. We picked up a map and allowed ourselves to get lost in the street of Tours. 

       Coming out from the train station, we passed by Galeries Lafayette walking down Rue Nationale and Printemps on Boulevard Heurteloup, which offer many opportunities for shopping. 
Lafayette, France

       We hit the historic center, Place Plumereau at lunch time to check out its beautifully preserved half-timbered townhouses framing the square. There are cafes, bars and restaurants abundant and it is said to be the best square in France to take the aperitif, according to the French version of lonely planet. If we’ve had more time (and money), we would definitely take a seat at one of the many open-air tables, order a glass of Vouvray while people watching

half timbered houses, France

       Rue Colbert is a charming street we found while we were on our way to the cathedral. Rue du Commerce is equally interesting will all those small boutiques lining the sides. The 'Hotel Gouin' is a good example of Hotel Particulier which located nearby. Allow yourself to get lost and discover Tour's unique houses along the way, with their walls painted white, topped with blue slate
       Renowned as the "Land of good food and living", Tours is not short of fresh local ingredients collected from all territory of Touraine. It is home to more than 30 street markets, which would definitely satisfy visitors of different interests and taste, offering a selection of local goats’ cheeses, excellent local wines, fresh berries and vegetables and so much more. If you happen to visit Tours on the first or third Fridays of the month, head to place de la Resistance to experience the liveliest market of the city, Marche Gourmand

       For tea, We stopped by a funky Creperie on Rue de Châteauneuf, 'Mamie Bigoude’. At first, we were attracted by the creative interior design on the first floor. Little did we know, the 2nd-floor houses more themed dining space. Not only the crepe served were delicious, this is a fun cafe for the children and the children-at-heart.  

Mamie Bigoude

       After tea, we wandered around the area and found the Basilica of St-Martin, on rue Descartes. It is a Roman Cathedral dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, erected in neo-Byzantine style to replace the original basilica demolished during the French Revolution.
Basilica of St-Martin, tours

       Dinner was good at Chez Gerard. Although we've read some negative reviews about this place, we generally think that the food served was satisfactory (my main dish was pretty tasteless but it was fine after seasoning it with table salt) and service was good. On top of all, the dinner set we had was very reasonably priced. I would say that it is NOT for the gourmet tongues, but it is suitable for budget travelers looking for an affordable dinner place.  
Chez Gerard

       For those who are fascinated by French architecture, the Cathedral of Tours will definitely impress you with its 15th-century Flamboyant Gothic facade, topped with Renaissance pinnacles dominating the city skyline. The Cathedrale was built and dedicated to Saint Gatien, its canonized first bishop. 
Cathedral of Saint Gatien

       Even if you are not a fan of Museums, you should spend some time wandering in the garden of Musée des Beaux-Arts and find the legendary cedar tree planted by Napoleon himself. Other than that, you will find Fritz stuffed in the garden, the circus elephant killed in its escape from the Barnum and Bailey circus back in 1902. 

       Visitors to Tours should never miss a leisure stroll by the River taking in its scenic setting, and to see all the famous bridges spanning across the Loire. Among them, is Pont Wilson which was destroyed and rebuilt.  

       We ended our evening with a spectacular laser light show at the Cathedral of Tours. We were so impressed by the grandeur of the cathedral when illuminated, that we stayed for the second show before boarding our night bus leaving for Paris. 
Cathedral of Tours

Thank You for Reading!
Miss Happy Feet visited Tours as a guest of the Tourism Board of Touraine and the Tourism Board of Loire Valley, however, my opinion is as always, my own.

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