The City of Tours - Loire Valley ( a must, you can catch a bus there from our local village for about Euro 4 return, so lunch and wine are very easy to do )
Tours, the principle town of the department of Indre-et-Loire in the Loire Valley, has a well preserved cultural heritage which rests easily against its modern, vibrant and dynamic image of today. It has been a seat of learning since the middle ages and carries on this fine tradition through its university today.
The city has much to offer the first time visitor and its modern tramway transport system allows for easy and inexpensive access to many of its landmarks.
You can sample the old Tours by visiting the popular Place Plumereau with its carefully restored half-timbered townhouses. The area is packed with cafes/bars and restaurants of every kind and everything from aperitif to late night coffee is catered for. It is a good place to people watch over a glass of beer, wine or a coffee. Interestingly it was recently (March 2014) named the best square in France to have an aperitif by the French version of the international travel site 'Lonely Planet'.
A stroll through the old quarter day or night offers many distractions and delights. Rue Colbert which lies midway between Place Plumereau and the cathedral is gaining a reputation as one of the most fashionable streets in the city for its young population.
There are many opportunities for shopping in Tours with modern centres such as Galeries Lafayette on Rue Nationale and Printemps on Boulevard Heurteloup but to find the more interesting shops you have to head up to the old quarter and the streets around Rue du Commerce and Rue Colbert.
You could spend weeks here and still not sample all the culinary delights the city has to offer. One of our favourites restaurants is 'Le Chien Jaune' which is conveniently situated near the tourist office and railway station - great interior
Another good value restaurant is 'La Duclos' on Rue de Bordeaux which is the pedestrian street off to the left as you leave the railway station - here you can enjoy the 'plat de jour'.
For those who wish to seek out the culture of the city there are many fine monuments and museums. The Cathedrale St-Gatien with its flamboyant Gothic facade is an imposing piece of architecture both by day and by night. Musee des Beaux-arts is a fine provincial museum in the Palais des Archeveques and is worth a visit to view its rooms, furnished to suit the dates of the paintings on display, alone. There are works by Rembrandt, Degas and Houdon to be savoured.
The new Basilique de St-Martin, on rue Descartes, is a late nineteenth-century neo-Byzantine building erected to honour the relics of St Martin, rediscovered in 1860, they are now housed in the crypt.
The 'Hotel Gouin' on Rue de Commerce is worth a look without the need to visit inside unless you are really interested in Palaeontology though it is free and is a good place to shelter from the summer sun.
A visit to the Tourist Office opposite the spectacular railway station will give you all the information you need to explore the city.
Tours benefits from a number of parks and gardens which offer a tranquil retreat. The vast Jardin des Prebendes, with its lake, is only a stones throw from the city’s historical centre and offers an ideal place to shade from the hot summer sun. There is a very grand set of gates to the park on Rue de Roger Salengro. Within the garden there are bandstands and two wooden bridges stepping over the lake.
You can also visit the gardens of the Musee des Beaux Arts, south of the cathedral. North of the city lies Sainte Radegonde garden on a former island. Further downstream, the ile Simon park. To the west, the Botanical gardens: rare plants, animals, green-houses. To the south, the Balzac park on an island in the Cher river.
Tours is truly a garden city.
Modern Tours offers many opportunities for shopping or just browsing with pedestrian areas full of small boutiques and large department stores to tempt you. In the area near the railway station you will find shops selling clothes, jewellery, leather goods plus much more.
There are also more than 30 markets held throughout the city offering everything from flowers to antiques to fresh fruit and veg.. One of the liveliest is the Marche Gourmand held on the first and third Fridays of the month in place de la Resistance(4-10pm).Typical of French towns and cities there are a number of large out-of-town shopping complexes on its perimeter.
As you stroll through the city, day or night, you can only but admire the freshness and feel of the place and understand its attraction, not only for tourists, but for the French people themselves, many who see it second only to Paris, perhaps overstating it a little-but you are indeed in a very fine city. You will leave with fond memories and a desire to return.
Although lying between the Loire and its tributary the Cher the city does not seem to feature them to any great extent although driving in and out you cannot help but notice their presence and effect on the landscape. There are some parks and leisure facilities on their banks
One of the few places where it does embrace it is at the south side of the 'Pont Wilson' bridge at the top of Rue Nationale. Here, from the 17th May until the 22nd September the bank of the river offers a wide range of diverse and varied activities under the title of 'Tours sur Loire' including a bar, restaurant, concerts, sport, entertainment and games for children , outdoor cinema and dance floor.
There is also a Ferris wheel which operates June to September and December to January just above the river bank.