Visit the half timbered houses of Tours.
Your Home Base for touring Loire Valley Chateaux
Would you like to learn the French language? It's been said that Tours, in the chateaux-rich Loire Valley, is where the purest form is spoken. As if the language weren't beautiful enough, those in Tours apparently have that certain je nais se quoi when it comes to their linguistic prowess.
Arriving into Tours is as a lovely as the gardens at Chenonceau (more on that in a bit.) Take the one-hour TGV ride from Paris to the St Pierre des Corps train station just outside of the city. A shuttle will connect you to downtown Tours. At 78 rue Barnard Palissy, right outside the station, you'll find a tourist office where you can gather information on the best of the city and beyond.
Tours isn't without its own charms. Called Le Jardin de la France thanks to several parks within the city, its also located between two rivers: The Loire to the north and the Cher to the south. You'll note the architectural style of the buildings which are common to the north of France: White with Ardoise (blue slate) roofs. You'll wonder where earth ends and sky begins.
Before leaving to discover the Loire Valley's magnificent château, visit Tours' original medieval district, le Vieux Tours and la Place Plumereau, a square with busy pubs and restaurants, whose open-air tables fill the center of the square. The Boulevard Beranger crosses the Rue Nationale at the Place Jean-Jaures and is the location of weekly markets and fairs. You'll see lots of young people, thanks in part to a quarter of the population being students. Compared to the sleepy surrounding villages, they give this city its "life."
It's unknown how many of these students come to be scholars of the city's most famous son – Balzac. A key figure in French literature, you can visit the “Chateau de Saché”, the castle where he spent most of his time writing (usually in the wee hours of the night.) His “Vicar of Tours” could be considered required reading before your visit. Don't worry, no one will test you.
For such a small geographic space, you'll find a bounty of beautiful palaces surrounded by gardens. Nobility, the famous and the infamous took advantage of the landscape in the Centre region, building castles of majestic proportions. With your France Rail Pass, you'll cover much magnificient ground.
Amboise, just 20 minutes from Tours, was home to Frances I and Leonardo DaVinci, who as a guest of the king, came to live here in December 1515. Built on a promontory overlooking the Loire River back in the 11 th century, it is the site of the first formal French garden, which is based on the principle of imposing order over nature.
Just 30 minutes away, Chenonceaux is built on the river Cher, where the unique beauty of its architecture reflects in the water. Built as a gift from Henry II to Diane of Poitiers, a French noblewoman, the châteaux is famous for its incredible gardens and art collections, including a vast ensemble of 14th century tapestries, Renaissance furnishings and paintings by Rubens, Le Tintoret and more.
These are just two examples of the posh palaces you'll find in the Loire Valley. With Tours as your base, you can easily access the majesty of these châteaux in just minutes thanks to efficient train service.
To learn more about preparing your trip to France, visit Atout France by clicking here if you’re a US resident or here if you’re a Canadian resident
Contributed by: Melanie, Marketing Project Manager, French American with Swedish and Italian origins, who comes from the Entertainment business and truly believes that traveling by train is the best entertainment experience ever!