I sometimes feel that, despite having spent a considerable amount of time exploring France since my first visit in 2001, there is still a never-ending stream of places to see and things for me to do in this relatively small country. But I'm making progress, nonetheless! This weekend, with a visit to Tours, I finally got to cross another city off my to do list. I use the word "visit" lightly since I only spent about two hours there, but it was enough time to learn a bit about the place and know that someday I would like to go back.
Located southwest of Paris along the Loire river, Tours is famous in its own right for a number of reasons. For starters, the French that is spoken there is considered to be the purest form of the language. It is believed that citizens of Tours - "Tourangeaux" and "Tourangelles" - speak without an accent and pronounce French words the way there were meant to be pronounced. Tours has a lovely old quarter, characterized by half-timbered buildings, that was in ruins and saved from destruction in the 1960s. Today, it features welcoming cafes, a lively square, and a relaxed, student vibe. Gastronomically speaking, the region surrounding Tours is famous for its delectable chèvre, which might explain the sudden appearance of a live goat in the main square.
Paris can sometimes feel intimidating. There is so much to do and see, there are so many restaurants and cafes, so many shops and so many people. The enormity of it all can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to find your niche. Tours really seemed like a place you could get to know. There are enough tourist sites thrown in to make it interesting (the Tours cathedral, Musée des Beaux-Arts, various parks and gardens, a giant cedar tree planted by Napoleon, etc.), and the cafes and bars of Vieux Tours seem much more friendly and casual than many of the establishments you'll come across in Paris. I tend to enjoy visiting mid-sized cities because of their accessibility (Bratislava is a great example outside of France), and Tours definitely fits that bill. And of course, being from Minnesota and all, I can't help but admire the Tourangeaux and Tourangelles for their excellent taste in sister cities. Minneapolis has held that title since 1991.