Hugo Massire, a doctor in Contemporary Art History from the University of Tours and mayor of the city from 1959-1995, drew up a list of the 157 tallest buildings in Tours.
He noted that none exceeded the Cathedral´s height, and, as mayor, he imposed that no building could be taller than 69 m. If you like heights and want an exciting view over the city, just walk along the "Rue des Halles" to the Charlemagne Tower.
The "Tour de Charlemagne", 48 m high, rises where it is said that Charlemagne buried his fourth wife, who died during his stay in the city in the year 800. The tower was part of the old basilica of Saint Martin, and the emperor wanted his wife to rest near the remains of the Saint. The building is one of them, although its base dates from the 11th century and a bell tower were added in the 14th century. It was used as a stable during the revolution, and part of the lead roof and the walls´ iron reinforcement was looted. Water seepage began to take its toll until, in 1928, it partially collapsed and, three years later, the society "Friends of the Tower of Charlemagne" bought it for 100 francs, equivalent to 15 euros today. In the 1970s, the municipality acquired the tower and began its restoration, opening its doors to the public in 2012.
SOME RILLEITTE PLEASE!
Since the Renaissance, the city of Tours has been considered the land of humanism and "Bien-Vivre" (good living). For several years, Tours has been at the forefront of the promotion of culinary culture in the region of La Touraine, known as the garden of France, contributing to the recognition of French gastronomy as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and has been awarded the distinction of "International City of Gastronomy".
We will choose the " rillette " among the main delicacies offered by the local gastronomy; we will select the "rillette".Rillette is similar to pâté, is made from meat or fish with its fat seasoned with spices and, unlike traditional pâté, the beef is minced into strands and trim pieces. It is delicious and prized by gourmets.
Its origin dates back to the 15th century as a poor man´s pâté when he used leftover pork. Today they are made with all types of meat, preferably duck or salmon. The rillette is spread on slices of toasted, crusty bread that will delight diners at aperitif time.
Rillette de la Touraine has had the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) seal since 2013, and we highlight two types:
-Rillette fondant de Tours, which is made with the noblest meat of the pig, ham, cooked over low heat.
-Rillette with Loire fish, which is based on the abundant variety of fish from the Loire river: trout, pike, perch or mullet, seasoned with spices. This rillette perfectly complements the local white wine, both dry and sweet.
You can parcel it and take it home to surprise and enjoy with your family and friends.
If you decide to spend some time shopping in Tours, the Rue Nationale is the perfect place for this purpose. Don´t be fooled by its modern feel, although it was rebuilt in the 1960s after its destruction in World War II; the Nationale is one of the oldest streets in the city, formerly known as "Rue Royal".
At number 39 of this former Rue Royale, in the spring of 1799, the French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac, who masterfully reflected the French society of the Napoleonic era in his works, was born.
Today, the modern buildings that welcome us house well-known national and international shops, exclusive boutiques, and some bars with large terraces. If you like shoes, you are in luck, as Tours is perhaps one of the places with the highest number of shoe shops per square metre in France.
The street starts at the beautiful "Place Jean Jaurés". It runs for 700 m southwards reserved only for pedestrians and trams to the city´s oldest bridge over the river Loire, the Pont Wilson.
WHAT A PERSPECTIVE!
Of all the beautiful places in Tours, one square stands out for its beauty: Place Jean Jaurés, popularly known as Place de Palais. It is imposing in its architecture, colourful for its floral decorations and functional for its houses. It is the star of the show that gets all the acclaim.
The most striking building is the "Hotel de Ville", its Town Hall. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century by the local architect Victor Laloux, responsible for constructing the Tours railway station and the Gare d´ Orsay in Paris, now the Musée d´ Orsay. The Town Hall was declared a historical monument and symbolised republican virtues and local authority.
The total cost of the building was 2.36 million old francs, equivalent to €359,780, a quarter of which was spent on interior and exterior decoration.
On the outside, impressive atlantes support the balcony, allegories of the two rivers that flow through the city of Tours: Loire and Indre, Courage and Strength, Education and Vigilance. On either side of the clock, two caryatids represent day and night.
To the left of the Hôtel de Ville is the Palais de Justice, built-in 1843 in the neoclassical style, recreating the great temples of Ancient Greece.
The two buildings are preceded by two squares planted with flowers that give a colourful and cheerful touch to one of the most beautiful views.
"THAT WISE NATURE"
The monument we propose you visit is not man´s work but nature´s.
It is an impressive Cedar of Lebanon planted in the city in 1804. It is part of the local and national heritage. It is so valuable that it has been awarded its value and contribution to heritage, named "Remarkable Tree of France".
The tree is 31 m high and 33 m wide, has a trunk circumference of 7.50 m at one metre above the ground, and its branches cover an area of 600 m2.
Located in the Museum of Fine Arts courtyard, the garden offers visitors a varied space. On the one hand, it emphasises the whole of the building, formerly the Archbishop´s Palace, with the towers of the Cathedral in the background. On the other hand, a path leads us to discover a "French-style" garden and an "English-style" woodland.
Did you know that the WHO states that cities should have between 10 and 15 m2 of green space per inhabitant? Tours offer 100 m2, counting 50 parks and gardens totalling 381 ha
PEDALLING AFTER NATURE!
The Loire "Loire" and Cher are the two rivers that run parallel to each other through the city of Tours. While the Loire runs alongside the historic centre, its tributary, the Cher, is further away from the centre.
The Loire is the longest river in France. It rises in the southwest of France, in the Massif Central and flows 1006 km into the Gulf of Gascony in the Atlantic Ocean. On its way through the city of Orléans, it flows 260 km to the town of Angers, forming the Loire Valley, which was declared a World Heritage Site for its nature and the culture and history of its numerous castles in the World Heritage Site with its castles.
Our Tour will take us along the banks of the Loire by bike to discover its bridges and nature. At 55 Bernard Palissy, at the end of the Palais des Congrès and almost opposite the Tourist Office, we have "Tours à Velo" for bike rental, and they even rent tandems.
This is the ideal place to start our walk, as the street leads directly to the river.
We go up the street, and after only 350 m, we reach the Jardin Sicard. It was created in 1864 in the form of a parallelogram with the economic contribution of the neighbours of the neighbourhood. The water is omnipresent, gushing from a waterfall that emerges from a jumble of rocks and forms a stream to end in a fountain escorted by Virginia tulips. Three plane trees rise to the sky on one side, and the flowerbed is decorated with flowers next to a hundred-year-old shrub with an ochre-coloured trunk aged by the years. A statue from 2001 honours its illustrious citizen, Honoré de Balzac.
We advance 300 m. to reach the bank of the river Loire, next to the remains of the Royal Castle, and in front of us, we will have the Saint Symphorien footbridge that takes us to the other bank. It is a concrete and steel suspension bridge that replaced the old medieval bridge. Inaugurated on 1 September 1847 after two years of construction, it was inaugurated in the middle of the 19th century. A toll was charged for its use until the municipality acquired it in 1925.
Once across the footbridge, we turn left to discover the promenade on the north bank of the Loire: a 5 km path for pedestrians and cyclists along which you can enjoy the varied flora, birds and fishing spots, a picnic area and a river beach: a haven of nature in the heart of the city.
We cross the river again via the Wilson Bridge, located next to the footbridge. It is the oldest bridge in Tours, built between 1765 and 1778. With 15 arches and a length of 434 m, the inhabitants of Tours call it the Stone Bridge. It has been listed as a Historic Monument since 1926 and gave access to the city from the north. Today it is used by the tramway. We take its tracks in the direction of the city centre to reach the Hotel de Ville where we turn left along Boulevard Heurteloup to the Tourist Office on the corner of the street with the bicycle shop.
And the end of our walk.
SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS!
Suppose there is one place you must visit on Tour. In that case, it is the basilica dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours for its artistic and cultural value, but what do you know about Saint Martin?
Martin was born in 316 in Pannonia, now Hungary, into a pagan family. His father commanded a cavalry corps of the Roman Imperial Guard. A royal proclamation obliged all the sons of commanders to enlist in the ranks of Rome to fight against the barbarians. From the age of 10, Martin wanted to devote himself to serving God but was forced to join the classes at 15.
Appointed an Officer in Amiens in Roman times, Martin fervently practised the Christian faith. At the city gate, on a freezing day, it was there that he met a beggar to whom he gave half his coat. He could only hand half of it, as an imperial decree obliged soldiers to pay for half of their military effects. The following night, Christ appears to him dressed in this coat in a dream: "Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his coat". After this apparition, Martin asked to be baptised.
Released from his military duties, he went to Poitiers to meet the bishop of Poitiers, Hilary, who gave him a solid Christian formation and appointed him an exorcist.
In 371, the post of bishop of Tours became vacant, and the inhabitants elected Martin. Despite his refusal, he became the third bishop of the city. Still, he maintained his humble way of life: poorly dressed and solitary. Martin lived close to the poor and the oppressed, especially the enslaved people, whom he never gave up helping.
On 8 November 397, Saint Martin died at the age of 81. His cult soon spread throughout Gaul and gradually throughout Christian Europe. Soon, the ancient bishop became a symbol of charity, solidarity, respect and love for his neighbour.
His body was brought from Candes and buried in a Christian cemetery. A shrine was erected there, which became one of the main pilgrimage centres in Europe.
On 25 May 1562, the Huguenots desecrated his relics, of which only a fragment of his skull and an arm bone remained. The basilica suffered the ravages of the revolution. Finally, its state of abandonment led to the sale of the site to private individuals in 1802.
In 1887, construction began on the present-day Basilica of Saint Martin in the Roman-Byzantine style under the architect Victor Laloux. On 14 December 1860, a neighbour of Tours bought the land near the Towers of Charlemagne and the Clock where the tomb of the Saint was found under a house. The Church was consecrated in 1925, and the relics of Saint Martin of Tours rest in its crypt.
7 Rue Baleschoux.
La basílica abre todos los días a las 7h15 a 21h15 excepto los lunes que lo hace de 8h15 cerrando a las 20h15.
"STROLLING WITH JOAN OF ARC".
When we travel through the Loire region, it is inevitable to remember one of the most exciting and controversial characters in the history of France; we are referring to "la Pucelle Armée", the Lady of Orléans, Joan of Arc. The young woman who led the French armies against the English put an end to the war between the two countries during the Hundred Years´ War and allowed Charles VII to be crowned King of France.
At the age of just 16, dressed as a child and with no military knowledge, Joan of Arc appeared before Charles VII, determined to fulfil her divine mission to win the war in the name of France and God. She ended up convincing the king and the ecclesiastical court, to which she was submitted and granted an army for the fulfilment of her purpose.
Before the battle, she wrote a letter to the English informing them that if they did not leave, they would be put to death in the name of God. Her words mocked, Joan came with her little axe to end the siege of Orleans. The French victory´s determining factor was the courage, hope, and faith that Joan injected into her troops to turn the tide of the war and defeat her enemy in less than two years.
Joan gave peace to France and the throne to Charles VII, but no one objected to her capture when she was found by the Burgundians and sold to the angry English.
Thus Joan, who had made a war of nations a matter of God, was tried by a religious tribunal. She was accused of being a heretic and blasphemer and condemned to death at stake in 1431.
Did you know that Joan of Arc is the patron saint of France? Years after her death, the Church solemnly rehabilitated her case; she was beatified and then made Patron Saint of France.
The first place related to Joan of Arc leads us to "Rue Colbert". This street was the most critical communication route in the city, linking the Saint-Martin district with the Cathedral district until the Wilson Bridge was built, which shifted the traffic of people and goods and, therefore, the activity to the Rue National.
We can still find some interesting examples of medieval wood and stone buildings along this street, as fires forced the original wooden structures to be covered in stone for protection. Some of the wooden facades are decorated with exciting reliefs worth stopping to look at.
At number 41, you will find a beautiful half-timbered red brick façade with a white plaque. It reminds us that this house was built in the 16th century on the site of the former home of Colas de Moztbazon, where the armour that the "Pucelle Armée" used on the battlefield was supposedly made.
At the end of the street is the Château de Tours. This castle, located on the banks of the River Loire, was not rebuilt in the Renaissance style at the end of the many warlike others in the region. Still, it was necessary for the military field. It was the marriage scene between Marie d´ Anjou and the future King of France Charles VII in 1413 and where Joan of Arc was received before and after her victory at Orléans.
Initially built in the 11th century for the Counts of Tourraine, it was a royal residence from the 15th to the 18th centuries. A medieval cylindrical tower and part of the 18th-century classical building remain from the great fortress that once existed.
Today, the building offers a programme of exhibitions planned by the Exhibition Service of the City of Tours that deal with creativity in the fields of photography, contemporary art, sculpture, archaeology, pottery, painting, drawing and even functioned as an aquarium until the year 2000 with 1500 fish of 200 different species.
The castle receives between 50,000 and 70,000 visitors annually.
25 Avenue André Malraux
A COFFEE AT THE OLD TOWERS!
If there is one place where it is worth stopping to disconnect and observe the pace of local life, it is Place Plumereau, in the heart of the historic centre of Tours. We suggest you stop at one of its cafés and enjoy the atmosphere of this incredible place.
It´s a magnificent square, very flirtatious; I dare say it´s one of the most beautiful squares in France. But then the beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. In fact, its historic centre is one of the best-preserved in France, and the beauty of the square lies in the diversity of styles of its houses, which range from the 12th to the 18th century. There is not one that stands out more than the others; they are all imposing. There are several reasons why the city was blessed with this much heritage.
Firstly, the tomb of Saint Marin made Tours one of the leading centres of pilgrimage in France, attracting merchants and the bourgeoisie.
The second reason could be the royal decision of Charles VII, Louis XI and Charles VIII to make the city of Tours the new capital of the kingdom between the 15th and 16th centuries.
Thirdly, some medieval wooden houses were transformed into Baroque style using tufa (white volcanic stone).
The fourth reason, the lack of resources of their owners and the lack of interest of the municipality is undertaking a Haussmannian transformation, the reference style of the 19th century, allowed the preservation of the preceding kinds.
When you sit down, you may ask yourself, how do you order a coffee in France? How do I order the coffee to my liking? The first question is easy to answer; you just need to learn a simple phrase that you will probably need on more than one occasion, "Je voudrais un café s´il vous plait". To answer the second question, let´s see what the different types of coffee are called in France.
Suppose you are a coffee lover and fancy a concentrated black coffee. The "Noisette" coffee is an espresso with a few tears of milk and foam to lighten the tone and give a hazelnut-like colour, which is what the name means. If what you like is just the opposite, i.e. plenty of milk with a tear of coffee, then you should order a "Lait Tacheté". You can request a "Petit Noir" coffee or "Café Noir" if you prefer it to be longer.
The typical Parisian coffee is the "Café Crème". A perfect balance is created by mixing, in equal parts, espresso coffee and cream and is usually served in a medium-sized cup. Not to be confused with "Café au lait" or "Café du matin", the black coffee with plenty of milk served in a large cup.
All you have to do is choose your favourite coffee and enjoy the atmosphere.
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