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Exploring a little of the Loire and Bordeaux

Tours, Saumur, Oradour-sur-Glane and Bordeaux. Lots of walking, driving and history.

sunny

Have quite a bit to catch up on. Been too busy either wandering around, enjoying a drink, or just... I don't know, doing other things than sitting in front of a bloody laptop screen. I'm on tour here, people!

Between Orleans and Tours lies the Chateau de Chambord. I really have to make sure I upload a photo eventually, because although it was on my list of things to definitely see and do on this trip, looking at photos on a screen is one thing, seeing it all in real life is another. The building itself was beautiful, but what was found inside was just the icing on the cake. Of course, one or two rooms were going through refurbishment, including what was the King's private chambers, so I didn't get to see how exquisite that may have been. I'm glad I visited before high-season, as though it was busy in April, I have no doubt it was quiet compared to the heaving masses that would visit during the summer.

Would I recommend it? Definitely. Not too expensive and wandering the chateau, and then the gardens, are definitely worth a couple of hours, and the cost of entry. Can't remember what it was, but nothing too obscene.

My drive from the chateau to Tours took me past one of the best sights so far. Purposely missing the autoroute, I travelled the D-roads and was taken along the Loire and eventually through the town of Blois. I could have stopped to take a photo, and although I did stop my car, I simply... looked, printing it into the memory bank. Absolutely magnificent. I honestly don't have the description to describe it. A clear blue sky. Sun shining. River flowing. And an ancient city quietly resting on the other side. That's a memory that I'll take back once all this is over.

Tours was probably the first city I visited where I hadn't done all that much research. Sure, I'd had a look at Wikivoyage and other online sites, but I travelled with the intention of simply wandering around. My little private Airbnb apartment was barely a ten minute walk from one of the main squares, which was absolutely heaving with students drinking when I wandered in that afternoon.

I had three nights in Tours, but only one full day there, as I intended to travel somewhere else the next day. What can I say about Tours? Not as pretty as Orléans but probably a better preserved old quarter, as I enjoyed spending time wandering the narrow streets. The cathedral was grand, as always, though I had to delay my usual wanderings as I turned up just when Sunday mass was about to start! There is also a large basilica on the other side of town, which while a newer building, did not lack for grandeur.

As for nights out, I think Tours had a lot of Irish bars. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I'm sure I hadn't seen as many in one city up until then. Probably to do with the large student population. Hopes of meeting plenty of English speakers didn't exactly come to fruition, as I did read up that a couple of pubs would be full of English or American students at least, but I didn't have too much luck. That will be a minor problem at times regarding solo travelling, given that I am generally avoiding hostels (mostly.)

My second day saw me hop on a train and head west for around 45 minutes to a smaller town called Saumur. I'll be honest, the only reason I was visiting was to see the Museé des Blindes, which is basically a tank museum. Silly old me decided to just follow the signs to the museum, which led me climbing up quite the hill, though it did lead me past a magnificent chateau that overlooks Saumur. It must have taken me well over an hour to walk to the museum, and after consulting Google maps, I realised I'd probably gone the very, very long way.

As for the museum, I'm still trying to decide if this museum, or the Tank Museum in the UK, is better. The number of German tanks the museum in Saumur has was fantastic. All four variants of Panzer, a Panther, Tiger and even a King Tiger tank! There were plenty of French tanks, as well, plus a couple of rooms dedicated to Cold War weaponry, Soviet and American tanks, before the last couple of rooms had modern era tanks, including British, American and even an Israeli tank. Thankfully each tank also had a description in English, so in addition to a million pictures, I did quite a bit of reading. For anyone interested in military history and weaponry, go!

Leaving Tours, it was time to head south to Bordeaux. But as it was a long drive, I chose to break it up into two parts, intending to stop in a little town along the way.

That little town is called Oradour-sur-Glane.

I'm not going to go into great detail about my visit, and very few photos were taken. If you want to know, just look up the town name and the events of June 10th, 1944. The old town, now ruins, has been left a reminder of atrocities, not just in France, but across Europe during WWII. The one thing I remember is the near silence. People kept quiet. There was no laughter and the new road was far enough away you didn't hear cars. The only sound was of birds chirping. I'd been intending to visit since seeing it mentioned during the documentary series 'The World at War', and I'm glad I did. It probably doesn't have the same impact as Auschwitz, which I have visited previously, but there is something more... personal, I think, about Oradour-sur-Glane. The scale isn't the same at all but... I probably can't explain what I mean, to be honest.

I can say, hand on heart, that Orléans has a challenge after my visit to Bordeaux. What an absolutely gorgeous city! I think the only let down was the fact the Garonne didn't flow blue but it was a rather ugly brown colour. Other than that, can't have too many complaints. My Airbnb hosts were fantastic. Marie knew a little English, Pat not much at all, but they could understand me at least, and we managed to make it work. They provided breakfast each morning too, which was great, where I had some good conversations with a fellow traveller. She knew me as 'the Australian', and I honestly think we never swapped names! She was of French extraction, but had been living in Germany for 25 years, so her English had a heavy German accent, which I found amusing. Anyway, we shared stories of travelling and what we would be doing next.

As for Bordeaux, in addition to all the usual attractions, there was so many English themed pubs! And it was helpful that I heard more English spoken since leaving Bayeux, though I'm always willing to practice my crap French anyway. On my second night, I did meet up with a couple of young French students, shared a couple of drinks and a chat while watching some football, and had some chats with guys behind the bar, particularly about why so many pubs had British names, such as 'The Brixton', Le Frog and Rosbif', and I must suggest visiting this pub as they brew their own stuff, and also 'The Cock and Bull'. I found Bordeaux surprisingly cheap as well, though that may have been helped by the long 'Happy Hour' most pubs had each night

And so ends France: Part 1, as I will be visiting two more times during this epic trip.

Posted by benjamin2981 05:48 Archived in France Tagged history memorial museum cathedral chateau tour drinking bordeaux tanks saumur chateau_chambord military_history oradour

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