After thirty days of organizing articles, my (SORT and Succeed) Step 5 reward is a trip to France, and you get to come along. Last summer I took a day trip to Tours, France, in the famed Loire Valley. I hope you enjoy this short trip, 10 minutes in Tours, France.
10 Minutes in Tours, France
Tours is a mid-sized town that’s easy to reach by national rail service from Paris. Oddly, I couldn’t find much information on the city of Tours before our trip, so I had fairly low expectations. It’s pronounced “tour,” with a little whisper in the back of your throat for the R, like Tour de France. You don’t really pronounce the S.
Tours is part of the Centre-Val de Loire region, formerly known as Touraine, about an hour south of Paris. Here’s a great video that shows the vibe of Tours during festivals and busy summer weekends. It was just a regular summer day when we visited, but still beautiful. A brief history of Tours is on Wikipedia. More tourist information about Tours is here.
What to Do in Tours, France
Tours has at least three areas that you can easily walk to from the main train stations. That’s right, it’s a bit confusing for tourists, as there are two main train stations. One is the Gare de Tours, and the other one is Saint-Pierre-de-Corps. You can read more about the regional train stations here. The SNCF trains are the regional system. The TGV is technically the longer-haul passenger system, but sometimes the trains and schedules overlap, so you can buy whatever ticket fits your itinerary.
The old city was packed with tourists enjoying lunch. You could just imagine the market days in the Middle Ages, but today it was all checkerboard table cloths in the main square called Place Plumereau. I didn’t get a great shot of the Place. This is one of the quaint streets shooting off from it. That crisp blue sky gets me every time.
Tours ia dazzlingly clean and open. We stopped in several interesting independent shops looking at souveniers, soaps and jewelry. We just missed the modern market day that morning a couple of streets over, with typical French stalls selling staples like scarves and fresh produce.
If you go, be sure to take a photo at “Monster Square.” You can’t help but pose with this giant sculpture in Tour’s ancient market street.
Leaving the old city area, we entered the main shopping district on a wide avenue traversed by a tram. The Rue Nationale area is one of the many reasons Tours is nicknamed Little Paris, Le Petit Paris. All of the big name stores are here, including Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, HEMA, and MonoPrix. You’ll also find the clothing boutiques, tourist shops, and accessories shops with the latest fashions. This is France, after all.
This avenue is also spacious and sparkling clean, bordered on the north/west and by the river Loire and on the south/east by the Marie (town hall) and the train station, with the river Cher just to the east.
On the banks of the river Loire, you’ll be treated to a giant ferris wheel (la Grande Roue) and a carousel. It is France, after all. If you are traveling with kids, it’s a must-do.
If you make your way down to the river bank on the weekend evenings, you’ll enjoy the Guinguette de Tours sur Loire. It’s a festival picnic area with music and dancing. We didn’t stay long enough, but it’s on my list for next time.
I wish we had time to stop at the Marie, or city hall, which is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
If you have a car or need to hop a bus, there is a shopping center just down the road on the edge of town with a modern supermarket and a nearby IKEA. And a Claire’s and a Sephora, if you are missing a bit of the States. It goes without saying that there are chateaux (castles) nearby. My friend likes to make sure we see one or two every time we visit, and you should, too.
How to Get Around Tours, France
I don’t drive when I’m in France, so I look for places like Tours where you can spend a few days and easily get around. The tram and bus use a single ticketing system in town.
Here is a map of the Tours tram line (image below), which runs right through the middle of the shopping avenue. With the train running through downtown, travel is no problem.
This latest visit, I noticed so many bikers along the paths along the Loire. It seems like the bike paths hugging the Loire have become more accessible, and it seemed like even casual bikers could get along pretty well. Taking a couple of days to leisurely travel the countryside by bike is on my list for future trips, too. Google maps it at just over 13 hours by bike, but that can vary with your pace and route, of course. You can easily find plenty of tour companies to set up a supported bike tour for you, but now that you know you can go from Paris to Tours, you might decide to DIY a bike trip. Be sure to avoid the famous Paris-Tours bike race held in October.
Back to those wonderful French trains, it’s easy to make your reservations and buy tickets in English (much easier than trying to interpret French schedules) using the website https://TheTrainline.com. I made several reservations while in the UK and in France, and it was easy and inexpensive. It was about $47 (US) for two from Paris to Tours. We transferred once through the town of Orleans which, again, couldn’t have been easier. I think we waited 10 minutes on the platform for our train.
Tours is a very central location. You can hop a TGV in the other direction and be in the western town of Bordeaux in just two and a half hours. I love that they have bike storage on the train. So civilized!
I don’t like writing about my trips, because then they really feel over. But I’m trying hard to turn over a new leaf. I hope you enjoyed this 10 minute trip to Tours, France, and I hope you’ll get a chance to experience it for yourself someday.
And that, my friend, is a wrap on GO Month 2024. You can read all the articles here anytime, or search for what you need at the top of the site. I’ll see you again in about a week.