07.09.2014 - 11.09.2014 26 °C
Begrudgingly torn away from our beloved sun-kissed beaches, we delved into the leafy greenery of Touraine, the French province that hosts the Loire Valley and countless other picturesque country villages; arriving finally in Tours, a major hub for exploring its French-fairytale neighbours. The Rhone river gushes through this expanse of land, and meets the calmer Cher on the outskirts of Tours.
Tours is this glorious melting-pot of old and new France, a perfect illustration of the crux between tradition and transition. The buildings are preserved in typical Touraine fashion, tall, wooden buildings that remind you of a luxury barn, flowers at the windowsill and lacy curtains behind timber shutters. In the bars, teenagers and retirees swing-dance together under Christmas lights; the locals must be taught jazz dancing in school or at home from a young age because even the most unlikely characters can Charleston with the best. But by evening, the students come out to play in the streets, and there are more dreadlocks and Doc Marten's on display than at your average concert. Of course, they all still drink good wine, even over a cheap kebab or nachos. We discovered that Tours is no longer the staunch advocate of refined French living it pretends to be when we decided to stroll along the banks of the Rhone to watch the fisherman and see if we could make it to the next town. After puzzling at random shopping carts and sleeping bags strewn across the grass by the water, we figured out we had stumbled into a gypsy encampment and scurried away with our tourist tails between our legs.
Other than its proximity to wine heaven, the people of Tours pride themselves on two points: perfect spoken French (meaning I understood nothing they said) and the best crêpes in the world (something I understand well). I tried a traditional crêpe smothered in Chantilly, apricot liqueur and fruit conserve. Worth the belly ache afterwards.
More notably, the Touraine area is swarming with Chateaux, beautiful castles that played home to royals and aristocrats in times past. We visited Chenonceaux, the castle that the palace from Beauty and the Beast was modelled on; giving Daniel a plethora of puns regarding beauties and beasts throughout the afternoon. But really, it was stunning, you can stand in the turrets and watch the river rushing underneath the marble arches of the building. The gardens are so perfectly groomed, though I got tugged away from them after Hodge learned there was a donkey farm on premises.
Tours has been so pleasant, a picture of red wine among green leaves. Throw in a gypsy sitting at the table next to you and you have a reflection of the new deep France.