Grand Tours

Before we were test driving towns to possibly move to, we weren’t venturing far from Paris.  We were all about day trips, overnights and weekends, in towns one to two hours away by train.  That’s when we found Tours, a town we adored, that continues to be among the top on our list of places we would consider staying.  It merits a return trip.

If we’re just going for an overnight or two, I’ll book a shared Airbnb.  That way we’re doing less to disrupt the local housing market, and we get to meet folks.  Can you be a crazy cat lady if you don’t have any cats?  What if I told you we booked a place because of the reviews of this gal, Izzy?  The young family we stayed with was just as adorable.


Wearing the same caught-the-canary expression.


The Loire valley is second to Paris in terms of numbers of tourists.  It’s easy to get to, and people who aren’t me actually like seeing chateaux, or so I hear.   But I don’t, and I mistakenly thought that was all there was to the region so it never made our travel list. The impetus that finally got us out the door the Musée de Compagnonage, which collects the masterworks that journeymen create to prove they’ve mastered the training in their chosen trade.  (Yes, there are journeywomen now, I am using the term journeymen with the men part referring to our species, not sex.) Journeymen really does mean making journeys, as craftsmen even today spend up to 5 years going from region to region learning their craft from current masters.  The apprentices live communally and spend 6 months to a year in each location.  Our landlady’s son is a compagnon in woodworking.  She showed us a film he’d made at the museum in Tours, and we were hooked.


These are supposed to be fancy, show-off pieces demonstrating a range of techniques.  And they are magnificent.  The one we had come to see was the stunning masterpiece of the 19th century from the film.  It took the man 20 years to finish.  And then he died of cholera.  But it was in a closed off room, so perhaps next time.



It’s not just woodworking, stone carving, or metal work.  All manner of craft is represented.

IMG_20190504_095125044.jpgRope making masterwork



Hoods for falconry!


IMG_20190504_094525744.jpgA lock with manacles that tighten around the wrists of anyone trying to pick the lock.



There are contemporary pieces as well, like this shoe making marvel.



Some are just goofy and sweet, like this masterwork of bread making.


The town itself is gorgeous.  The weather wasn’t super cooperative for pictures, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.IMG_20190503_205858079.jpg



Perhaps this is our next tiny house?






There’s a cathedral.  There’s always a cathedral.





The Loire valley has a famous, and flat (!)  bike path.  You can go clear across France on it, starting in Nantes.  Hell, you can go the the Black Sea, something our friend Michel is pining to do.  This alone would be worth a longer return trip.


The Loire


Marking the heights and years of floods


It rained a ton, so no biking for us.  Museums were just the ticket.  Here at the contemporary art center, we saw a fascinating and fun installation by Alicja Kwade.  Some of the frames contain mirrors, others are empty and the objects on the floor are placed for maximum surprise as you walk around the room, watching them change from one form to another.  We’ve noticed that we see more intriguing art outside of Paris.  My theory is that Paris is such a destination that shows always have to be blockbusters and the galleries tend to  feature art of the current art world darlings.  Smaller venues can take more chances.




Not the same artist, but this exhibition fit nicely alongside the first.



At the fine arts museum, we were treated to a series of concerts by graduates of the local music school who wrote pieces inspired by, and then performed in front of various works of art.  Thankfully no one was inspired by this over the top thing.  I took a picture because it I thought it was one of the ugliest things I’ve ever had the misfortune to see, only to turn around to see a wedding party posing in front of it.



On the other hand, I’ve mentioned my great affection for sad natural history museums, proving there’s no accounting for taste.





One of the floors is a herpetarium.


Why yes, this is a display of crickets.






This smug mug is not caught-the-canary, but my supreme contentment at finding a quiet bar with plush benches where I could surreptitiously kick off my shoes and put my feet up after a long day’s tour of Tours!



Cheers everyone!






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