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Tours of France

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Tours is the capital of Touraine, the Tours area known for its Vouvray wine and chateaux, such as the renaissance pleasure houses of Villandry, Langeais, Azay Le Rideau and Chenonceau, and the medieval fortresses of Chinon and Loches. Tours itself is a hub of activity with 30,000 students, impressive parks, 18th century boulevards and cafés lining the streets, a bit like Paris for the provinces.

In 1870 and 1940, the French government was based here. Furthermore, there is no accent in the Tours area, so it is a great place to learn French. Tours is also a good place to stay if you have no car as trains and buses run to most of the local sights of interest, including chateaux and wine caves.

Consider these pages for busses, trains and airport information.

The 18th century centre of town is traffic filled place Jean Jaurès, from which the four main streets of bd Heurteloup, bd Béranger, av de Grammont and rue Nationale lead off into other quarters. The gare SNCF is to the east of place Jean Jaurès, 300m down bd Heurteloup. There are two old centres of town on either side of rue Nationale: place Plumereau to the west (tourist heaven), and the place de la Cathédrale St Gratien to the east (much quieter). The Loire borders the northern edge of the town, above which is the industrial zone. The extremely helpful tourist office is opposite the station on the corner of bd Heurteloup and rue Bernard Palissy (02 47 70 37 37).

Cathédrale St Gratien shows signs of architecture from the 13th to 16th centuries. The west towers are Flamboyant Gothic and the more severe east end is 13th century High Gothic. At 18 place Francois Sicard, south of the cathedral, the Musée des Beaux Arts is housed in the archbishop's palace (free entry). Whilst no particular painting stands out from the crowd of works from the 14th century onwards, it is a very pleasant gallery to walk around, particularly the 17th and 18th century galleries, which have been decorated in the appropriate style. There is a Boulanger portrait of Balzac that literary types might want to see. North of the cathedral is the ruined royal Chateau de Tours, with its remaining towers of little architectural note.