Both times that I studied abroad, I was in Tours. First for 3 months in undergrad in 2004, then again for the first year of my Masters in 2005-2006. I fell in love with the city, and the entire area, and I like to go back and visit every once and a while. It's nice to go back and see some of my favorite things, eat in some of my favorite restaurants, grab a drink in some of my favorite bars and just enjoy the peaceful and relaxing atmosphere of this amazing city.
Tours is located in the Centre region, and is the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department. The city is cut into three sections: Tours Nord, Tours Centre and Tours Sud. Tours Nord is north of the Loire River, Tours Sud is south of the Cher River, and Tours Centre is in between the two rivers.
Tours has been an important city since Gallic times, it was known as Caesarodunum during the Roman Empire and was an important pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Under Louis XI Tours became the capital of France and in 1940 Tours was temporarily the seat of the French government. Tours has played host to a large number of French kings as well as a number of important artists and writers (Balzac for example) and a great deal of important historic figures (like Joan of Arc). It is definitely a city with a lot of history.
Unfortunately, during World War II, the city was heavily bombed and a lot of the historic buildings, as well as a large part of the city center, were destroyed. However, there are still quite a few beautiful, historic buildings to see and some quaint areas that either escaped destruction or were restored to their original beauty.
The Touraine region in which Tours is located is known for the Chateaux de la Loire, which are easily visited from Tours. It is also known for its wonderful wines; delicious reds are produced to the west of Tours and sparkling and still whites are produced to the east of Tours. Another particularity of the Touraine region is the troglodyte dwellings which are homes and wine caves carved out of the truffeau cliffs.
On Saturday we rented bikes from our hostel and biked out to the nearby towns of Vouvray and Rochecorbon to visit wine caves and taste the wonderful whites of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée de Vouvray. Both towns are near Tours and very easy to access by bike. In all, I believe we did about 25 kms round trip to visit both towns and do some wine tasting. On the way we stopped and had a picnic along the banks of the Loire. When you wine taste in the area, you get to visit the wine caves for free. The caves are dug out of the tuffeau cliffs and you can see how they store their wines as well as how they make their wines. After the visit you can taste the wines for free! My favorites are the sparkling wines that are made using the same method as champagne, but aren't called champagne since they aren't produced in the Champagne region, and are therefore much less expensive, but just as good! They also make some great sec tendre white wines that are unique to the region.
picnic on the Loire near Rochecorbon
visiting the Cave des Producteurs de Vouvray
wine tasting at the Cave des Producteurs
visiting the Chateau Gaudrelle
inside one of the wine caves
On Sunday we relaxed in Tours and then headed out to the town of Amboise to visit the Chateau d'Amboise and the Clos Lucé, which was the home of Leonardo da Vinci for the last three years of his life when he came to France at the request of Francois I. The Chateau d'Amboise is a royal chateau that sits above the Loire River and affords excellent views of the adorable town of Amboise. Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the chapel of the chateau. The Clos Lucé is an amazing place to visit, and I've been there 3 or 4 times already. Visiting the inside of the house isn't especially exciting, but in the basement you can see models of all of da Vinci's inventions that were built by IBM. The gardens, however, are the best part. The gardens are beautiful and as you wander the paths you can see large models of some of da Vinci's inventions that you can actually use such as a tank, paddleboats, and bridges.
A troglodyte house in Amboise. It has the facade of a real
house, complete with normal windows, but it
is dug out of the tuffeau cliff
visiting the gardens of the Clos Lucé
We spent the rest of our time visiting Tours. I was thrilled to introduce Jasmin to this city that I love, and to be back! We walked around and visited some of the sites, relaxed and took advantage of the summer sales to do some shopping in the uncrowded stores of Tours!
the Loire in Tours with a view of the Pont Woodrow Wilson and
the city library
the Chateau de Tours and the cathedral
Place Plumereau, the center of the historic center of Tours. This beautiful square is partially surrounded by old half-timbered buildings and is a popular hang out for the Tourangeaux. There are a lot of great bars and restaurants in this square. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture while I was there last weekend, and surprisingly the only picture I can
find on my computer is this one of the square at Christmas. In nice weather it is full of tables and chairs and people sitting out enjoying a drink and the weather. My favorite activity in Tours!
For anyone who hasn't done so, I highly recommend visiting this wonderful city and staying for a while to enjoy a region full of amazing history, wonderful gastronomy and tons of activities! I know I plan to continue going back, and I still hope to live there one day!