When I first moved to France, PB and I were discussing my choice to live in the Civray area. At the time, PB thought I was a little crazy and I mentioned that I liked Toulouse, but I would never want to move further from the CDG airport because I enjoy International travel so much. PB proposed that I might like Tours then.
Fast forward almost a year. I had a discount to use on SNCF that was about to expire and started looking at cities that I might want to visit for a weekend. Tours (the “s” is silent in French) stood out for the close proximity to Poitiers (an hour or less by train) and PB’s recommendations are generally good, so I booked the trip. Since I was in the US for my actual “one year anniversary” of moving, this was my first weekend back (Oct 13-15) and a mini-celebration for me.
Of course, I was so busy with work during the two weeks prior that I arrived in Tours with no plan on what I wanted to see or even what might be interesting to do. My first night in Tours, I wasn’t impressed. I’d stayed near the old city, but I was on the opposite side of the rail station in a very commercial area though. There were few restaurants and even fewer with outdoor seating.
By midday Saturday, I’d decided to swap my late train ticket on Sunday for an earlier one. There are some lovely older buildings that I’d found, including a route related to Saint Martin, but the city just hadn’t piqued my interest in the way that some do, either for tourism or as a potential place to live.
Admittedly, the hôtel de ville (cover photo) and palace de justice (first photo above) are beautiful, but I just wasn’t sold. I was a little puzzled as to why PB ever suggested that I’d like living here. So, I started looking around for random things that caught my eye – most French cities have some lovely details if you take the time to look more closely!
After a short break at my hotel, I set back out and headed for the Cathedral. My first view was a little, “yep, when you’ve seen a few French cathedrals, you’ve seen them all,” because my GPS took me to a strange side “entrance.”
I was wrong. As soon as I turned the corner, the buttress crossing the road intrigued me. I always enjoy seeing the way that old structures were just incorporated into the surroundings in the past.
The back was really ornate and reminded me a little of the features that I liked so much at the Le Mans cathedral. The tiered buttresses are really lovely! They also have it blocked off, so you can get a nice full view of it without obstructions. I entered through an open side door, but didn’t quite realize that. It was a nice view and there were great, old paintings; however, you have to reach the center to really appreciate how incredible this cathedral is.
First, it’s massive! The side arms of the cross-shaped church are as big as full churches that I’ve seen, but the length of the center aisle is one of the biggest that I’ve been inside of so far. At the top, there was plenty of stained glass and the back view that I’d admired was also full of colorful stained glass.
Even though the churches and cathedrals have lost some interest for me after seeing so many, I spent some time admiring the old paintings and glass before heading out. The Tours Cathedral is particularly lovely in my opinion. Seeing the entrance didn’t alter my opinion! It also has an area blocked off and benches to enjoy the view. I was using one of these benches when I noticed the right tower looks like an owl’s face. Do you see it?
I finally saw the “vieux Tours” also. It’s a charming area of old, narrow streets and buildings. You won’t find the big chains here, but an eclectic collection of small stores and restaurants.
Realistically though, I think PB suggested this place before he knew me well. Saturday night, it was like the population doubled or tripled! You could barely move through the shopping street, people had near misses with bikes and frustrated drivers trying to cross the pedestrian road and you were lucky if you could find an open table for a café.
On Sunday, I did find my favorite place in Tours and a definite selling point towards the idea of living there – a paved walking path along the Loire River. While I enjoy pretty buildings and picturesque towns, natural beauty will always win out with me. I’ll take a picnic in a pretty place over a fancy restaurant any day!
I may use Tours as a base for future château explorations as it is well-located for two of the other Loire Valley châteaux that I’d like to see, but I won’t be moving here any time soon! Ironically, when I told PB I was visiting Tours finally, he couldn’t remember why he suggested it – the difference between knowing someone for a few months vs over a year, I suppose.