PART 2: TOURS
Because it was still early, we managed to extricate ourselves from the city of Paris with very little fuss. Settling in for our long journey we jumped on the exceptionally well maintained A10 for roughly 2.5 hours until we reached the first stop on our itinerary, the charming city of Tours France.
First we stopped in to our hotel, Hôtel Oceania L’Univers, to inquire about an early check in and to park our car. A very accomodating front desk clerk asked if we would wait a few moments while they put the finishing touches on our room so we amused ourselves in their colorful lobby with these fine folks.
CROSS TIP: I had prearranged parking with the hotel prior to our arrival. Not every hotel will reserve parking for you, but if the hotel does offer reserved parking, it is a good idea to arrange ahead of time since parking spaces are often limited in Europe. Sometimes parking is free and sometimes you will pay a daily rate.
After stowing our suitcases and a quick shower to freshen up after our overnight flight, we soldiered out to do combat with the time change.
I chose Tours because it was a comfortable distance between Paris and Mérignac, and because of Place Plumereau. This enchanting square located in the center of the Saint-Martin district is ruled over by timbered houses dating back to medieval times and I was excited to see them.
Ensconced within the protective wings of the row of houses is a pedestrian-only square dotted with lovely cafés and restaurants. Shockingly, the houses were in such disrepair and disintegration that they were slated to be torn down in the 1950’s. It was only because of the tireless effort by Mayor Jean Royer who helped save them from demolition by establishing one of the first historical conservation areas in the region.
While the original plan was to have lunch here, we decided that it was just too crowded on this lovely spring saturday. So we ducked down a side street and settled at a café that allowed us outside seating without feeling as if we were going to be run over by cyclists or strollers.
We ordered the day’s specials and Mike also ordered his first bottle of wine in France. It was an all together pleasant way to start our first full day of sightseeing in France.
Ok, so perhaps it was also chosen because there was a sign that said, “English spoken.”
CROSS TIP: Consider using a walking app like, Google Maps: Navigate & Explore when touring a new city. Not only will it give you suggestions on what to visit, it can help you navigate your way back to your hotel.
After lunch we started walking through the old city with our ultimate destination being St Gatien, also known as, the Tours Cathedral.
Built and rebuilt (Twice having been lost to fire) over a 377 year span between 1170 and 1547, its complex style is a confluence of Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque architecture. We spent a fair amount of time sitting in the shaded square across from this giant, just gazing up at the intricate details of the facade.
Walking into the cathedral we discovered that for 3.5 € you could tour the grounds and the attached cloisters of La Psalette. It was a quiet saturday and we appeared to have the area to ourselves. It was incredibly beautiful and I spent a lot of time snapping pictures against the vivid blue sky.
There was a very bizarre art installation at the Cloisters at this time that provided an intriguing photo opportunity.
Returning to the cathedral after our tour we were happily treated to a wedding ceremony taking place. It seemed as if Meghan and Harry weren’t the only ones getting married on this day. We listened as the family and friends serenaded the adored couple as they clutched each other’s hands at the front of the church. Wanting to be respectful we did not take any flash photos, but it was a sweet treat to witness a local celebration.
Exiting the cathedral we strolled the quiet cobbled streets. The city is a known as a bustling university town with a student population of around thirty thousand, but it was very quiet during our visit since it was mid-May and classes were probably done for the semester.
SIDE NOTE: In 2005 the pilgrimage route known as the Route of Saint Martin of Tours, was certified as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe. To some, this pilgrimage is just as important as Santiago de Compostela.
Tours is the venerated ending on the Saint Martin pilgrimage that starts in Szombathely (Hungary) the place of his birth, and ends at the Basilica of St. Martin where his tomb lies. Saint Martin is one of the most famous Christian Saints. He was himself a prolific traveler who journeyed far and wide in Europe spreading Christianity and performing acts of kindness. If you have the time take the Circuit of Saint Martin, an eleven stop tour of historical places within Tours that were important to the life of Saint Martin.
We ended our afternoon on Boulevard Béranger where they have a delightful flower market. We strolled through the stalls of brightly colored flowers and jaunty chapeaus.
As the day was wearing on we agreed that we had done our part to stay ahead of the jet lag.
Later in the evening we would head out on foot to find dinner at an open air restaurant close to the hotel, where we ate pizza with fresh local ingredients and raised a toast to our upcoming adventure in Bordeaux.