As I prepare to leave France and move back to the US I have become even more eager to continue my travels from Paris throughout French history. I promise to complete all twenty four stops prior to my departure! We are just about half way through our travels and with this trip to Tours have entered into The Renaissance.

Recently I have been cheating a bit on these trips by traveling by car and by going with my friend Ileana. As Ileana is home in Romania this week I headed to Tours this morning alone and by train. May 1 is a holiday in France so I decided to head to Tours for the day despite the dreary, gray, rainy and unseasonably cold weather. Getting to Tours is actually a tad bit confusing and I was a bit anxious during the trip. You can leave Paris for Tours by either Gare Montparnasse or Gare Austerlitz and Tours itself is accessed by two train stations and it was not entirely clear which one I should use. The book indicates that you should get off at Saint Pierre des Corps about 4 km from the center of Tours but there is also a train station in the center of Tours so you can imagine my confusion. The book also indicates that there is a shuttle at the station in Saint Pierre des Corps that takes you into town. I decided to follow the book and got off at the first stop but as there was no shuttle (either because it does not exist anymore or because today is a holiday in France) I hopped in a cab and asked to go to the Place Plumereau. Place Plumereau was once where fashionable Renaissance era feathered hats were made and it literally translates to the place of feather picking.

The Place Plumereau is a pedestrian only area of Tours and on a sunny, Spring or Summer day would be a fantastic place to eat outside or enjoy a glass of wine. This particular area of town has wonderful fifteen and sixteen century architecture and the street names all describe the various trades that took place here during that time – Rue des Charpentiers (carpenters), Carroi de Chapeau (hat makers), and Rue Lavoisier (scientists). It is easy to get lost here as the streets and alleys are narrow and it is fantastic to just wander. I eventually made my way towards the Tour Charlemagne which dates back to the 11th century.

I decided it was time to leave the Place Plumereau and start to head towards the other side of town to visit the Cathedral of Saint Gatien. On my way I passed by the Hotel de Ville (town hall) of Tours which rivals in beauty to its bigger and also beautiful sister town hall in Paris. Making my way to the cathedral I was able to stroll down a beautiful tree lined street and passed the elusive Gare Tours. Now seeing how I could exit Tours by train I felt a bit more relaxed as I had not seen a single taxi and was not sure how to get back to the train station in Saint Pierre des Corps.

Tours, like most of France is steeped in history. Tours sits in the Loire Valley where kings of Paris lived between 1418 and 1589. It is in the Loire Valley that you will find most of France’s beautiful castles and chateaux. For a time it replaced Paris as the royal city and therefore built up a pretty impressive merchant system to provide for the king and his courtiers.

In the 1st century Tours was part of the Holy Roman Empire and known as Caesarodunum (hill of Caesar). In 732 AD the city was attacked by Muslim invaders and in 845 AD attacked by the Vikings. In the 16th century King Louis XI headquartered the French silk industry in Tours, a craft that exists in the city to this day. The city had been hit hard by the black death and the 100 Years War and the introduction of the silk industry helped Tours to survive.

I would like to return to Tours on a sunnier and warmer day as I think the city would just feel so much more alive. No matter how beautiful a city is it can get weary wandering around in the mist and drizzle. I ended up leaving Tours about an hour earlier than I had planned because I was cold and wet and wanted to go home. Hopefully I will have a chance to visit this magnificent city again on a more fortuitous occasion!

Next Stop – Blois