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Great memories from Tours stay

PLACE PLUMEREAU: Place Plumereau (also called Place Plum) is a public square located in the central district of Old Tours. The place dates back to the 15th century and is named after the late Councillor of Tours, Charles Plumereau, who donated 3000 francs to the city.
JOAN OF ARC: A statue of Joan of Arc, who paid a famous visit to Chateau Chinon to reassure the future King Charles VII of his legitimacy, in a parking area in Chinon.
CASTLE WALLs: The walls of Chateau Chinon showing the ravages of time.
TOURS’ ‘COUNCIL’ BUILDING: Hotel De Ville Tours. In France the Hotel De Ville is the building housing the city’s local administration.
HOTEL GOUIN: Left, this 15th-century mansion in Tours hosts a museum, exhibits and a basement with Gallo-Roman remains.
THOROUGHFARE: A wide open thoroughfare with tram rails in modern Tours.
A VERY OLD CHURCH: Basilique Saint-Julien — this church located in Old Tours is a former Benedictine abbey and its origin dates back to the 6th century.
GARE DE Tours: Tours Railway Station (Gare De Tours) was completed in 1898 and refurbished in 2013. It is still in use but only serves non-electrified trains.Pictures by Phil and Sue Newdick
BIG FIVE: An unexpected rhinoceros, outside the local McDonald’s.
OLD CHINON: View of old Chinon from The Chateau Chinon, showing the Vienne River and the medieval layout of the township.
HOW TO CATAPULT: Interactive display at Chateau Chinon of an ancient catapult.
Over lunch in Tours, a stranger steers Phil and Sue Newdick in the right direction — a day trip to Chinon.

The plan for a continuous train journey on this trip (Europe, 2018) had to be modified — we could not find a convenient train service to Tours where we had decided to visit next.

Tours is 215km east of Nantes on the banks of the Loire River. We used a bus service we had used previously in Europe that suited our needs, Flixbus. Their service had always been good and this journey was no exception. We caught a local bus and although we were dropped off at what seemed a pretty substantial bus station at the address we had been given, there was no sign of the Flixbus or even a counter; the bus station was deserted. Not even a soul we could ask if we were at the right place.

We did notice that there were a couple of buses and some activity on the side of the road a couple of hundred metres from where we had disembarked; we checked it out and sure enough that was where we were to board our bus. We still don’t understand why — even with a modern bus station available, the national buses operate from unmarked stops.

We had a comfortable trip to Tours and we were dropped at a similar stop there to the one we had boarded at in Nantes. We were informed that the bus to Bordeaux, which we had booked, would depart from the same spot.

The apartment we had chosen in Tours was only a five-minute walk from the stop. As we had been making our bookings and travel plans as needed on a destination-to-destination basis online, we were amazed at how well we were able to fumble our way through places where most people can’t understand even a single word we say.

We were warmly welcomed at our Tours apartment by a very pleasant woman who made us feel as if we were part of the family. It is not surprising how this sort of welcome influences our opinion of the places we visit.

The city of Tours is not large and as our apartment was handy to the centre, we were able to explore most of it quite comfortably on foot. The town has a medieval style and feel to it. It is generally very well kept, in spite of the ravages of time and wars. We were there for four days, a bit longer than we needed to complete our exploration.

Stopping for lunch at a local café, the helpful young lady who served us enquired who we were and where we were from. On learning we were a couple of Kiwis making our way around Europe, she insisted we join her for lunch as her break was due. We discussed what we had seen and she suggested we take the train for a day trip to Chinon.

So the next day, off to Chinon we went. Chinon is the site of the restored 11th century Fortress Royale. It was in Chinon in 1427, during the Hundred Years War, that the court of King Charles VII was first established. It was here that Joan of Arc came to see the future monarch in order to assure him of his legitimacy and to convince him to be crowned in Reims.

The day proved to be another highlight on this unforgettable journey, made all the more special because of the spontaneity and helpfulness of a complete stranger, who for no obvious reason took the time to steer us in the right direction.

The following day we took the short walk with our bags, and some great memories, back to the now familiar bus stop — this time to catch a bus from a different company, to get to Bordeaux. The bus was a little late. We were concerned it had gone without us and there was no indication where the bus was. Even the drivers of buses from the same company, if they understood our concerns, couldn’t help.

We needn’t have worried. Our bus turned up 10 minutes late and we were on our way to Bordeaux. Apart from the delay which followed us all the way to Bordeaux, the bus was comfortable and the service was excellent. It is great when a plan comes together.