Touring the Touraine – Day 14


The air was crisp when we awoke, which was a welcome relief particularly for David, who was able to sleep much better in cooler temperatures. We rolled out of bed and out to the terrace, shaded by a trellis covered in vines, for our breakfast. Our hosts laid out a fairly typical French breakfast of bread and croissants, yoghurt and preserves, and of course coffee. Sam, the super-friendly Spaniel who always seemed ready to roll onto his back for a belly rub, was ever-present, gazing longingly at our food. We lazily lingered over our bread before heading back into the house and readying ourselves for the day. Today, we would hit our first chateau of the Loire, the Chateau de Villandry, known for its ornate gardens. We set out on our drive; it was only about 20 minutes or so away, so we were able to amble and enjoy the drive along the river.

The Chateau de Villandry was a well-appointed manor, with a partial moat and fairly elaborate gardens. We decided to take a tour through the gardens first and soak up the warm sun a bit. The gardens were laid out like a quilt, in contained squares of geometric hedges dotted with clusterings of roses. After making our way through a good portion of it, we hiked up to the belvedere that overlooked the gardens for a better view. We headed into the chateau for a tour of the house—admiring their handsome bedrooms and hearty kitchen, for which D pined a little. We made our way up to the keep and peeked over the ramparts for an excellent top-down view of the gardens. D was fascinated with the spiral staircase, whose stairs were somewhat lopsided and a little Dali-esque. We headed out of the chateau and through a little wooded area to finish touring the gardens.

After our garden tour, we relaxed in the shade for a bit of lunch, with a sandwich and crepe. From there, we jetted back to Tours. This was probably the largest city we’d been in since Bordeaux, so it was a bit interesting finding our way into town without a detailed city map. We eventually pulled into a parkade across the street from the Tourism Office and went in to get some information. Armed with a little map of the city as well as a new guidebook on the Loire region, we headed off in the general direction of a cathedral, whose tall spires we saw poking out. D got sidetracked by an impressively large tree (206 years old) in the courtyard of the Musée des Beaux Arts. It had these massive limbs that splayed out everywhere, such that they actually needed to be propped up. Just around the corner from this massive tree was the Cathedrale St-Gatien—a ridiculously ornate cathedral that was just covered in intricate carvings. The interior was also suitably impressive, with a host of excellent stainglass windows and a majestic organ situated beneath a rose window. Once we had ogled our fill, we headed off down the street towards the old town, stopping briefly for a coffee and people-watching. D noted that Tours seemed to be filled with young people, though it wasn’t necessarily clear who were tourists and who were locals. We eventually made it to the old town, which was basically a collection of pretty half-timbered buildings surrounding a courtyard, full to the brim with restaurant tables. After checking out the local fare, we headed back to the car and managed to navigate our way out of town back to the B&B.

We ended up relaxing in the relative quiet of our B&B, watching a bit of Lord of the Rings (and subsequently falling asleep). We finally woke ourselves up enough to head back into Tours for some dinner. We parked closer to the old town, only a short walk away, and were soon perusing the menus to try and decide our choice for the evening. We ultimately settled on Italian at a fairly modern-looking restaurant on the main strip. Food was passable; though service was slow (not surprisingly since there was only one poor waiter for everybody). After lingering over dessert, we eventually made our way back home for the evening.

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