Our First Week in Tours
It was 2019 when we returned from Portugal with plans to go to France the following Spring. But then along came Covid, and everything changed. So, this year, 2023, we decided we should pick up where we left off, and after a week in Paris, travel to the city of Tours in the Loire Valley.
This region is rightfully famous for the many famous châteaux that are part of the cultural and architectural heritage of the historic towns along the river Loire.
There are over three hundred châteaux in the Loire Valley ranging from 10th century fortified castles to grand mansions built half a millennium later. French kings began constructing huge châteaux in the region, followed by nobility who were drawn to the seat of power. The finest architects and landscape designers flocked to the region with the latest styles and techniques to create the châteaux and their surrounding gardens that exemplify Renaissance and Enlightenment ideals of design in France.
Most of our research on the area had already been done and only needed some freshening, but the stage was set. After a week in Paris, Jeannie and I met my brother Mike and his wife Kathy at the Gare Montparnasse in Paris where we would take the high-speed TGV train to Tours, about 220K (~137mi) away. After we arrived in Tours, they headed toward their flat, while we took a taxi to ours.
Giles, the property-owner met us, and after explaining the keys and entry procedure, led us up the stairs. As soon as we entered the place, it felt good. It had 2-bedrooms, with a large kitchen and living area, but all those superlatives faded away when we saw through the two double-doors past our balcony that looked over the tops of flowering trees onto the eastern facade of the Gothic Abbaye de Saint-Julien. dating from the 10th to 16th century. It would have been a wonderful apartment without the view, but …
Now to be fair, the flat is located above an auto repair garage, but the noise hasn’t been noticeable. And the view over the trees toward the Abbaye are above a car park, but it’s quiet too. Images of the apartment can be found here!
As it has been cold, sometimes very cold. Our windows not only keep the place warm but also eliminate any potential street noise. But in general, it is a quiet neighborhood with lots of shops, cafes and restaurants.
Tours is one of the smallest cities we have lived in during all our travels in France (we classify any stay of a month or more as living there). The population is about 300,000; compared to Paris with 2.1M.
The first week has been spent exploring the local area: museums, parks, restaurants, cafes, markets grocery stores, and enjoying our new home.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours or Museum of Fine Arts of Tours was a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours to keep out of the cold gales whipping about outside. Housed in a former archbishop’s palace (4th to 18th centuries), the building is listed as a Historic Monument. The Museum’s collections that are among the finest in France, with masterpieces by Mantegna, Rubens, Rembrandt, Delacroix, Degas, Monet and Rodin. At the museum entrance, a massive, two-century-old cedar tree looks down on the courtyard.
We did attend an interesting concert Friday by a four-piece French group, “Les frères Dubz” who play Neo-Greek music. The performance was a fund raiser for the support of Afghanistan women and girls. Held in the performance hall of a former church of St Denis (1188). The group’s principal members, Raphaël and Sylvain Dubert, are twins who were born after “having an intense 9-month roommate situation”. Sylvain described his brother as the one who would later become his playmate, his worst enemy and his musical partner. The music was very good, and the band’s playful repartee with the audience sounded delightful, but was mostly lost on us as it was, of course, in French. Still, the music made up for the parts we missed.
Next week the weather is forecast to improve, we will venture out to Château Royal d’Amboise. As we do not generally rent cars, it should be an easy train trip. But for now, enjoy the images, and comments on the post are always appreciated.