Tours is worth the mention – less for its château and more for the medieval city’s history and location. This is the perfect place to stay if you want to visit the châteaux in the Loire because it’s in the centre of everything. We stayed in the “Château Belmont” (also called the Hotel Clarion) with a package that we got through weekenddesk.fr. I was not compensated for mentioning this, but I thought the hotel worth talking about.
It’s not really a château. It’s more of an upper-middle class residence converted into a hotel. And when you factor in the modern annex on one side
and the retirement home on the other
you are at risk of being disappointed at your “stay in a real live château.”
However, we were pretty aware of what we were getting based on the comments, and decided to go ahead anyway because of where the hotel was located, and I am so glad we did.
amazing food with entrée, plat and dessert (really exceptional food, I must say)
charming details from its former “château” days
and a spa where you can get massages or take advantage of the free steam room and pool. They are replacing the jacuzzi with a sauna because it’s had nothing but problems. We tried it and the water was tepid.
If you want a luxury hotel (and don’t mind that it’s not really a château) in the heart of the Loire Valley, this is the place to stay. We got a 3-course dinner and breakfast, each of our four nights there. I should also mention, that everyone speaks English here and children are welcome – all added benefits.
Moving along to the Tour Château. It’s less interesting than the other châteaux because it wasn’t really lived in. It was a medieval stronghold – first built in the XI century, then added on in the XIII, destroyed and not totally repaired until the XX century.
Now the Tour château is a museum – it had been an aquarium until 2000 – and when we were there it held a large Vivian Maier exhibit. Since I had just learned who she was, I was very keen to go. She’s French, you know. Her grandmother had an illegitimate child, then fled to NY and became a cook. Her mother had her out of wedlock, though she later married the Dutch father, and also came to NY where she raised Vivian. Her pictures are breathtaking.
Right next to the château is the Cathedral of Saint-Gatien.
It was built over 4 centuries – the years 1170-1547.
Here are a few pictures.
A flamboyant gothic church with renaissance accents (I read someplace).
I thought the name “Tours” came from its towers since the French word tour means “towers.”
But that’s not true. It came from the Celtic people Turones. The area was – at varying times – Gallic, Celtic, Viking and Roman. (Not in that order).
Further on from the cathedral is the Collegiate Church of St Martin, the first part built in the 5th century after Bishop Martin died in 397.
It was once the “biggest religious edifice in all of christendom,” but in the 18th century it had fallen into such disrepair, the city officials tore down the middle of it to make way for a large city street. Across the street from the church are the two towers shown above, which delimit the size it once was.
But what is most charming about Tours is not the monuments, but that it retains its medieval feel:
the houses made of wooden beams and brick
the cobblestone streets
the pedestrian streets
the grey-shingled houses
the heavy wooden doors you come across at every turn.
You even have troglodytes (pronounced tro-glo-deets) from the 2nd and 3d century. You see this everywhere in the Loire Valley- people living in homes dug out of the side of a mountain or hill – but to have such old ones and right in the city centre is pretty exciting.
And last of all – cutting right through Tours, even to the point of dividing it in two – is the Loire itself. The magical, winding, wild river Loire.
Next up: the Château of Chenonceau!