Today I caught the train into Tours, having a 'day off' from the bike.
From the train station you emerge into modern Tours, and it is in some ways the least 'French' place I have been, with lots and lots of modern buildings and shops. However, this suited my purposes as I was desperately in need of some new underwear! Ladies, if you think bras are expensive in NZ, double it and add some for France! I was at a loss at first to identify my size, but with the good service I have come to recognise as typically French, I was soon efficiently and kindly measured, and the perfect fit occurred first off.
Having done my little bit of shopping, (which is always a 'little bit' when you know you have to carry it all in your paniers which are just the same size as they were yesterday!) - I was almost at a loss for what to do next. I knew I wanted to go and visit the Cathedral but saw no signs for it. But then I discovered the 'Old town' in the St Martin's area and found myself absorbed for quite some time. Lots of interesting old buildings.
Martin is an important name in our family (great great grandfather, grandfather, uncle, cousin....). Recently in the Loire area I have been discovering links with this saint. I visited Candes-St-Martin, a beautiful village at the confluence of the Vienne and the Loire, where he died in about 397. I was staying in Savigny-en-Veron in the camping ground at the time and the local church there had some beautiful ceramics. One showed St Martin being carried through fields of flowers locally after his death. Then today in Tours I found there is a reasonably modern basilica that has been built around his remains which are in the crypt. I arrived there as Mass was in progress in the crypt and stayed above to listen to the beautiful singing, led by some Benedictine (?) nuns who obviously have a lot to do with the basilica. There are a few towers left that are remnants of an original church of St Martin which must have been huge.
By then it was lunchtime and Tours has plenty of places to eat. I was interested to find that without biking all morning, my appetite was quite small compared to the days I have spent 3-4 hours in the saddle! I had a delicious salad with hot potatoes and salmon. I have come to enjoy the combination of salmon and lettuce in a salad in France and am sure I will continue such salads at home.
I next found the Cathedral in Tours today which had some beautiful 12th/13th century stained glass windows. It was in a separate older area from the part where I found St Martin's Basilica and seemed in a 'sideline' sort of position in the town, whereas many Cathedrals still seem to be quite central. Or that was my impression anyhow. It had beautiful soaring arches.
Tours is right on the Loire, but you could almost miss seeing the river as the Loire passes to one side of all the main shopping and Old Town areas. Amboise, where I am presently camping, is quite a contrast in that it sits on a more hilly spot, and all roads lead down to the Loire. The Chateau in Amboise rises majestically above the Loire. And the camping ground sits on the opposite bank, though there are hedges that obstruct some of the view. Camping grounds in the Loire region quite often have these superb spots on riverbanks that give views of old towns. But I guess that is because they also tend to be on flood plains where there is not stopbank protection: the camping grounds are only open for 2, 4 or 6 of the warmer months.
OK time to go. It has warmed up here again and the air-conditioning in the internet cafe has been pleasant but I really have finished now!