Arriving France, and onto Tours

Tours Travel Blog

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Road side cafe in Tours

Oh God, France! The language and the various stereotypes associated to it and all things French have become a part of people's lives, people have heard about it, talk about it and know so many things about France and French. My first exposure to the French culture was a kid growing up in Zambia, and learning French from age 4. When I was 9, I visited France with my parents. We stayed at the ISKCON guest house in Chateau d'Ermenonville, and I have the fondest memories from back then - waking up early morning in the cold, walking to the train station, the fresh fruit for breakfast and taking walks in the evening after early dinner at 730pm. Then itself, I knew that France was all about flamboyance, about big houses... err... chateaus, fountains at the corner of every other road and a love for food.

But through the years, other than my love for quiches, crepes, and the French language of course, I'd forgotten what a lovely country it is, and despite the numerous visits to the UK, had never considered visiting France.

Hotel De Ville, city landmark in Tours found in the heart of the town Place Jean Jaures
Until now. My best mate was going to France and letting me in on his preparation. I started getting sucked in by his planning, woke up one day and decided I'm going as well. I was on the evening flight direct from Dallas to Paris. Flight was ok, the AA idiots had forgotten my veg meal request but it worked out well - they ended up getting me lovely pasta from the Biz class, complete with the fancy porcelein bowl and all. So that was one filling meal!

We arrived about 30 minutes late, which is good considering that we waited for 1 hr in Dallas for transit passengers. That's the thing I hate most about this soft economy... LOL - had this happened in 2005 or something, the airline would've just left!

Anyway, Paris was a bit too sunny when we arrived. I couldn't believe, rather, had forgotten what an ugly airport CDG was. The gates were full as the plane parked on the tarmac and in 80s style we had to hop on board a bus that drove us to the main terminal.

Palais de Justice
The Immigration area was so tiny and congested, practically right next to a staircase. It was hard to figure out which queue is for the transit-staircase and which is for immigration! Surprisingly, no questions were asked at immigration, they just stamped away. Wow! That's a first for me! The baggage claim area is a complete mess, and no customs. This airport is extremely weird I must say, especially in today's times.

I kind of had a problem finding my way to the train station in the airport, it was a long walk. I found the basement entry leading to the train stations, and thank God I had soem spare euros as the ticket dispensers wouldn't accept my credit cards (American credit cards don't have that chip that's needed to buy tickets from those machines). Made my way to the Gare Montparnasse and got my tickets to both Tours as well as my Eurostar ticket to London for the following week.

La Boite a Livres, very nice student-ish kind of bookshop in Tours

I had no problems finding the train but was quite surprised at how crowded the train station seems. I boarded my train to Tours after grabbing much needed fuel in the shape of a stale muffin and a bag of crisps. The train wasn't very comfortable but manageable. My only gripe at this point was the so-called "French countryside scenery". It was dry. Terrible infact, almost as bad as the dry barren lands one sees between Dallas to Austin. And for the so-called TGV, it was hardly fast. It was perhaps the regular speed of trains I've seen in the UK.

Train arrived in Tours and the railaway station looked very fancy. I have to say, as soon as I got off the station, I got a good vibe that I'll like this town. It had a very smalltown safey feel, very bright and lively atmo to boot. My hotel was dead close to the station as well. When they wrote on the website that it's about 5 minutes walk to the station, they weren't lying!!

I checked in, I got a good room although small, took a shower and headed out for a walk around town by 3pm.

Pont Wilson, found at the end of the principal street Rue Nationale

Tours is a darling little town - tons of little side walkways, tons of pedestrians-only roads and the typical "big street" that forms the backbone of the city. I walked across the Rue Nationale stopping off at the picturesque Hotel De Ville with its colourful architecture, and the very nicely maintained garden and water pond in front of it. I continued my walk along shaded boulevards, tons of street side cafes, the wonderful smell of creperies and pattiseries, and made my way to a few book stores to look for some FLE books. The Rue nationale ends in the Pont (Bridge) Nelson, which was kind of running empty (well the River below). It was here I found out why even my train ride was looking so dull what with dried out sunflowers and all. Turns out that this area had one of its wost droughts for the last 2 weeks.

From here, I went to a fairly interesting place - Les Halles et Grand Marché.

pastries, pastries, pastries!
This is a covered market and houses a variety of fresh local meat, cheese and fruit. You could tell, especially by looking at the meat that the French sure pay a lot of attention to detail even when it comes to displaying the "raw materials" needed to cook. The place is quite amazing, if nothing else, for the extravagant display of food. I was well impressed at how patiently the shopowners "display" them.

It was getting close to sunset by this time, so I cashed in and went for a walk to the city's landmark, its church - Cathedrale St-Gatien.

Vieux Tours, or the old town
This church basically honours a 3rd century evangelist and whilst its exteriors look like most cathedrals, it's the insides that I found quite stunning. There were lots of fancy art work by the church walls, something that I've never seen in other churches so far. By the time I left the church, it was sunset. I passed by the Chateau of the town, hardly impressive before making my way back home, stopping en route in the charming Rue Colbert to pick up my dinner - mushrooms in a tangy Greek sauce with some chocolates for dessert. I really wasn't hungry, and sleep had started to catch up.

Kliffy says:
good writing skills ...Great stuff mate Loved reading and enjoying the culture from your writing :)
Posted on: Jun 18, 2010
YantiSoeparno says:
The land of good food, wine and women. --> How are the women there? ;-)
Posted on: Oct 15, 2009
Jacqinmiddenamerika says:
Hi Congrats on your featured blog!! Way to go!! :-)
Posted on: Sep 20, 2009
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Road side cafe in Tours
Road side cafe in Tours
Hotel De Ville, city landmark in T…
Hotel De Ville, city landmark in …
Palais de Justice
Palais de Justice
La Boite a Livres, very nice stude…
La Boite a Livres, very nice stud…
Pont Wilson, found at the end of t…
Pont Wilson, found at the end of …
pastries, pastries, pastries!
pastries, pastries, pastries!
Vieux Tours, or the old town
Vieux Tours, or the old town
random picture of a painting
random picture of a painting
Cheese! Taken at the food halls Le…
Cheese! Taken at the food halls L…
Lapins (rabits) on sale
Lapins (rabits) on sale
The fancy railway station with the…
The fancy railway station with th…
Cathedrale St Gatien
Cathedrale St Gatien
Paintings inside Cathedrale St Gat…
Paintings inside Cathedrale St Ga…
Side shot of Chateau du Tours
Side shot of Chateau du Tours
My first dinner in Tours - complet…
My first dinner in Tours - comple…
Tours Hotels & Accommodations review
Comfortable hotel with a moody owner
I stayed in this hotel for about 3 nights and I really don't have any complaints with this hotel at all. It's really close to the main train station o… read entire review
photo by: yasuyo