ToursPosted: June 21, 2011
After a full day and a half of travel and sightseeing, I sleep like a rock and get a full night’s rest. My alarm goes off and I spring out of bed. I’m still packed so I check out, grab the next black bus and I’m heading back to Charles de Gaulle airport to meet up with the Grand Prix Tour group.
We’re meeting in the nebulous area in Terminal 2C near the information desk. When I received my tour package from GPT, they included a day-glow orange ID tag for my luggage. I wonder around for a bit, and then I notice that familiar tag. I immediately meet Clayton from Atlanta and Lauren and David from Tucson. Lauren is holding the GPT sign while our tour guide, Trevor, stepped away. I dub her “Madame President” due to her friendly nature and ability to wrangle up the stragglers. Her husband quickly asks for a recount, but that rebellion is shot down by a quick elbow to the ribs.
Trevor soon rejoins us, scratches my name off the check-in list and soon afterwards, he’s leading the group down to the parking lot where our chariot awaits. A massive Mercedes-Benz tour bus – that’s manual transmission no less.
We exit CDG and we’re on the southeast loop around Paris – and it’s a parking lot. It may have taken us 2 hours in traffic just to get out of Paris proper. And this was around noon – not rush hour!
Once we’re in the countryside, we pull off for a quick lunch break. L’arche – a French Stucky’s with several lunch options to choose from as well as a gift shop to grab some road trip grub.
45 minutes later, we’re back on the A10 and cruising through the French countryside. Undulating and pastoral, it’s beautiful and calming.
A short while later, we come upon a wind farm. I’ve never seen so many modern windmills.
As we near Tours, I catch my first glimpse that the race is ever-so close.
Finally we’re in Tours and crossing the Loire river. Down the Huerteloup and Beragner Boulevards and we’re at our hotel – Hotel de L’ Univers. It’s 4 o’clock. The bar opens at 6 and dinner is at 7. I’ve got time to check out this jewel hidden in the French countryside.
First up: Saint Gatien’s Cathedral. About a half mile away, it’s easy to spot the twin towers. Built in various stages starting as early as 1170, St. Gatien’s Cathedral was completed in 1547. Featuring major aspects of Gothic architecture, the later stages of construction have hints of Renaissance influence. It’s a sight to see – and this time captured with the proper wide-angle lens.
Upon entering the front doors, I’m greeted by an inviting organ concert being attended by locals and tourists alike. Looking down the nave, the stain glass emits a warm glow.
The church is surrounded with beautiful stained glass windows.
And as you exit, the rose window.
Tours is a wonderful hidden gem in the French countryside. It sits in the region considered as the home of the French language and the town itself, according to many, speaks the most proper French.
Looking towards the Wilson Bridge over the Loire River.
This is the Tours train station.
This is a wonderful tree-lined walkway nestled in between the Huerteloup and Beragner Boulevards.
It’s now about 5:30 and I need to head back to the hotel so I can shower and meet some of the gang down in the bar before dinner. Walking near the city hall, I hear this glorious roar and I turn just in time to capture this Bugatti fly by.
After a quick shower, I’m down in the bar chatting with Clayton from Atlanta and a few others from our tour group. It’s time for dinner, but Trevor, our tour guide gives us a quick word about what’s in store for us tomorrow.
My fellow dinner table guests include Robert and Susan from Connecticut, James and Kris from Atlanta, Lauren and her husband David from Tucson and Paul from Brisbane, Australia. After dinner, we return to the bar for drinks and conversation. After a while, I excuse myself – I want to walk around Tours a little more.
Just a few hours ago, Tours was a busy metropolis buzzing with scores of pedestrians and cars. Tours, is now, a quiet, sleepy village. A few are sitting alone at various sidewalk cafes while others enjoy the company of friends as they laugh and carry on. It’s a wonderfully pleasant moment to reflect on the past 48 hours and take into consideration the journey that lies ahead. Turning the corner to return to the hotel, I see the city hall lit up magnificently.
Tomorrow is Le Mans. I have a long day ahead of me.