Day 100. Wow! That somehow went simultaneously quickly and slowly. And yes, I see the issue there.
We’re spending it in Tours, our second visit, having popped in to visit our lovely friends when they were there in 2015. And we’ve jagged an utterly perfect day too. Thankfully the heatwave that had us in its grip has released a little. UNESCO listed and a perfect central point to explore the many Loire Chateau, Tours offers a great deal to see and do.
We bus in from a couple of kilometres out, arm ourselves with a tourist map and off we set. First stop is the Musee et Jardin des Beaux-arts. With an enormous bicentennial cedar, a stuffed local elephant called Fritz and formal flowerbeds, the Musuem was once the Archbishop’s residence.
Peeking over the Musuem are the towers of Cathedral Saint-Gatien with soaring ceilings, 12th century rose windows, endless narrative stained glass, and the very sad little tomb of Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne’s two children, one of whom was a mere infant.
The ceiling height is quite extraordinary – I’m not sure the Notre Dame in Paris is quite that high.
There’s Rue Colbert, full of restaurants, shops and cafes housed in 15th and 16th century buildings,
taking us neatly to Chateau de Tours. Once home to royalty it was a defensive build, lacking in the glamour of later Chateau incarnations. It was eventually abandoned in favour of its (then) modern, fancier counterparts. It’s now another Musuem, detailing the history of Tours.
Nearby, the Avenue Andre Malraux, runs parallel to the Loire, punctuated by the occasional monument.
Pont Wilson can be seen in the distance, viewed from the 1847 built pedestrian and cycle suspension bridge, Pont de Fil.
Back on “our side” of Loire, the charming setting below reveals a dark history – this pathway was used to transport those sentenced to death at the Foire let Roi.
We see the beautiful 15th century Hotel Gouin, now used for a series of temporary exhibitions through the year.
There’s this ancient doorway, the Treasury Gate, the only remaining part of a series of 15th century buildings forming the Hotel des Tresoriers de Saint-Martin, built for the Canons of Tours.
Eventually, we make our way to Tours’ hub, Place Plumereau. Surrounded by mediaeval half timbered houses, it’s an absolute highlight, but we leave it as a later stop, breaking stride only to pick up a Speculoos icecream (a new discovery) from the gorgeous building below.
A little further on, we see the Basilique Saint-Martin, built in the 19th century as a tribute the the Saint. It also houses his tomb in the crypt.
Across the way is the ruin of Tour Charlemagne, the only remaining part of the 9th century Collegiate Church of Saint Martin.
Opposite, stands an enormous clock tower, built in the 11th century.
We pop into Les Halle, but being a Monday, most of it is closed. A couple of stalls are staunchly trading through.
By this stage, it’s late afternoon, time for a well deserved drink. We make our way back to Place Plumereau and settle. It’s a delightful spot to catch our breath. I just love the half timbered houses.
The last leg of our tour (see what I did there..😂) takes us towards our starting point.
We pass the Palais de Justice,
the opulent 19th century Hotel d’Ville (very Belle Epoque)
and Tours railway station, Gare de Tours, also a 19th century build, designed by the same architect as the Hotel d’Ville, Victor Laloux.
There’s just a short walk back to our bus stop, through an avenue of plane trees. What an absolutely fabulous day. Tours has lived up to and exceeded my fond memories of it.