Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Tour of Tours

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: April 18, 2014

No time for pastries! Darcy, Mathieu, and I woke at a reasonable hour, but decided on toast and coffee for a light breakfast before we caught the train to Tours. I had been looking forward to this little day trip for quite some time. Tours is the second largest city in the Centre region of France, and has a beautiful "old town" with a maze of cobblestone streets lined with lovely buildings. The train ride was just over an hour from Orléans, and we arrived on a slightly overcast morning.  

Our first order of business was to locate a patisserie (you didn't think I'd miss my morning pastry, did you?) which had been recommended to us. It was said to have the largest pastries at the most reasonable prices. Mathieu, though he didn't know where the place was located, managed to lead us straight there. The pastries were almost comically large! Darcy and I decided to share a strawberry and cream filled delight, while Mathieu chose a religeuse, which is a double cream puff said to resemble a nun. We carried our pastries to the popular Place Plumereau, where we found a sidewalk cafe to savor a hot beverage along with our tasty treats.

                            Cafe creme and a pastry at a cafe in la Place Plumereau.                              

I like the apartment at the top right of this photo, 
with the large balcony and trailing wisteria vines.

La Place Plumereau is a bustling, beautiful square in the heart of old Tours, though it was only beginning to wake up when we were having breakfast. There you will find many bars, cafes, and restaurants. It was wonderful to sit in the picturesque place, enjoying the view with Darcyi and Mathieu. The architecture surrounding us was fabulous. Even the noise of the recycling trucks picking up the previous nights empty wine bottles did not deter us from enjoying the scene.

One of the beautiful half-timbered houses on la Place Plumereau, Tours.

We were fascinated with the houses surrounding the square, many of which were built during the 15th and 16th centuries! I have always loved the look of the half-timbered houses like the one pictured above, but found myself intrigued by the slate-clad homes as well. At first glance, it looked as if those homes were shingled (see photo below).The slate tiling helps to make the structures fire-resistant.

A slate-tiled home in old Tours.

Some of the homes on la Place Plumereau displayed intricate carvings, like the one pictured below. I'm sure the occupants must be used to the hundreds of tourists snapping photos all day.

A medieval carving on a slate-tiled home in Tours, France.

We wandered around after breakfast, taking in the sights. The cobblestone streets are lined with many shops and restaurants and we checked out a few places for souvenirs along the way. Our meandering took us to the courtyard of the Museum of Fine Arts where we gazed upon an amazing cedar of Lebanon which was planted there in 1804. The massive tree is a sight to behold. If trees could talk, what stories we would hear!

The cedar of Lebanon in the courtyard 
of the Musée des beaux-arts, Tours, France.

While in the courtyard of the museum, Darcy spotted an old "friend". She had met the tabby cat on a previous visit to Tours. At that time, he had been curled on the steps of the museum with his back to the milling tourists. She had cautiously approached him, camera in hand, and softly cooed, "It's okay old fellow, I won't hurt you. I just want to take your picture", when he turned and gave her a ferocious glare. She got a great photo, but wondered just who should be afraid of whom? The cat must have been in a mellow frame of mind when I drew near and took a photo; he looked almost bored. 

This fine fellow must the guardian of the tree.

Travel Tip: Comfortable shoes are a must for tourists, which goes without saying, but taking frequent breaks at cafes and parks is another great way to avoid foot fatigue. Plan your day to allow for these interludes. You won't feel quite so harried and exhausted at the end of the day. 

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