Day 4: Train trip and ToursPosted: June 14, 2012
I forced myself to go to bed early last night. I crawled into bed around 12:45 or so and found myself in a battle against sleep. I kept rolling over…1:30…2:15…3:05…I was too excited about my train trip down to Tours. Specifically, I was excited about taking the TGV. The bullet train from Paris to Bordeaux with Tours right in the middle. Eventually, I did get to sleep and woke up without my iPhone alarm going off. I stay in bed until 7:00 when I forced myself to get up, get dressed and head down to the Sejours & Affaires lobby for coffee.
It’s a beautifully crisp morning and I enjoy several cups of coffee out in the courtyard. It’s 8:00 and time to get going. Back to my room for a quick shower and luggage review and I’m out the door by 9:00. As I near the lobby, my personal driver for the past 2 days, Jean Pierre, greets me and apologizes that his Peugeot minivan is packed. I pat him on the shoulder and tell him it’s ok, I’ll be back on Monday. Monday? Qui. Good, good…I’ll see you then and take you wherever you want to go. As of now, I have a new friend in Roissy. I check out and the 3-hotel bus arrives in short order to take me to Charles de Gaulle Airport.
15 minutes later, I’m at CDG in between gates 2D and 2F, right at the TGV gate. Heading downstairs, I find one of several TGV self-serve kiosks. Input my reservation number and my last name, and it spits out my ticket. TGV 9802 bound for Bordeaux with several stops in between, including Tours. There are several flat screens around the TGV lobby, giving you the inbound and outbound train information. Around 10:05, they announce my train is about 5 minutes late and will board in the South terminal in gate 4. I make my way downstairs, and with a quick ticket validation, up comes my train and I’m on board.
I have an assigned seat in the second car with space for my luggage and a drink/meal car 2 cars down. And like that we’re off. A quick stop at Euro Disney and we’re rushing through the French countryside. We’re travelling well over 100MPH…and it’s eerily quiet. About the only noise you get is when a train passes you in the opposite direction. And when it does, it’s a little startling. But it’s over in a snap. At some point, we’re parallel to the A10 highway, and we’re passing cars going our direction like they’re standing still. I check my watch, it’s about 11:45 and we should be nearing Tours. Sure enough, a voice comes over the loudspeaker and says something to the degree that St. Pierre Des Cor is next – my stop. I grab my luggage, exit the train and see there’s my in-town commuter train waiting for me. I board the TER 60709 and 10 minutes later I’m pulling into the main train station in central Tours.
My hotel, Hotel L’Europe, is literally next door. I walk over and here I am. Room 401 up the narrowest, steepest flight of stairs I’ve ever seen. My shoulders slump and then I notice the smallest elevator known to man. Literally, enough room for me and my luggage. And the Otis says it’s built for 6. Yea right…I settle in, change clothes and decide to head out and tour Tours again.
Walking out the door, the manager calls out to me, asking me if I know where I’m going. Totally, I’ve been here before. She hands me a map. No, no…I know where I’m going. Oh really? Have you seen the “old city”? Huh? She points to the map, and says “Go here”. Ok, I’ll check it out. But before that, I’m hitting one of my highlights from last year’s trip. St. Gatien Cathedral.
It’s a beautiful cathedral with incredible stained glass windows and an impressive nave. For more pictures, see my post from last year.
Just to the right of the cathedral is the Jardin de la Préfecture – the central park. It’s dominated by a 200-year-old cedar tree.
The park was closed last year and I couldn’t get in, but this year I explored the grounds for almost an hour.
From here, I make my way towards the Loire River that bisects the city. As I near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which is shut down so that the city can install a central tram/light rail line, I see this statue built in memory of the American Expeditionary Forces who were based here in Tours.
I remember seeing this last year, I just don’t remember it being associated with the American soldiers from World War I.
Checking my map, I decide to follow my hotel manager’s advice and I head into the “old” town. Looking at the map, the streets take a sudden cramped, and less organized feel. And just like that, I’m in the middle ages.
I get near the center of the “old” town and I’m greeted with this.
Just to the right of the building I’m standing next to is Place Plumereau.
This central square is populated with tables, chairs, and parasols surrounded by several restaurants serving those sitting at their tables.
It is a wonderful mixture of old and new working in perfect harmony. While the area surrounding Sacre Coeur felt shady and cheap and, quite frankly, an insult to the historic icon just up the cobblestone street, this feels like a wonderful balance. Again, I’m at a loss for words other than: perfect.
On my map is the Saint Martin Basilica. I get my bearings and head that direction. It’s not hard to find when this tower dominates your view.
I make my way out of the “old” city and back towards the Hotel de Ville at the center of town near my hotel. I explore the immediate area surrounding my hotel and the train station before heading back to my room.
Today was supposed to be a goof off day for me. I was planning on just walking around, seeing what I saw last year. I am so thankful my hotel manager suggested visiting the “old” town. Paris is Paris, but Tours is a hidden gem in central France. I can’t express enough how wonderful and amazing this town is. Next time I come to Paris, whether it’s for the race or not, I will spend several days down here. You should do the same.
In racing news: the Audi’s dominated the first qualifying session and they’re currently running their night-time session with the Audi’s running 1,2, 3 and 5 and the new Toyota’s slotting in at 4th and 6th. And speaking of Toyota, I have my pit visit tomorrow with the Toyota team and the JMW Ferrari team. I’ll be catching up with my Tenthers group at the track and I’m really looking forward to seeing those guys. I’ll also be catching up with Trevor from Grand Prix Tours tomorrow night and I can’t wait to see him as well.
Good night from Tours.