After one day exploring Paris and the next day exploring Versailles, we were ready to discover some other parts of France. Our next stop was the Loire Valley, home to many of the gorgeous castles featured in the Epcot movie!
The early hours of that morning found us ascending the endless escalators and weaving through the serpentine tunnels of the RER and metro system to get to Gare Montparnasse, where our train to Tours departed from.
When I'm still getting to the station to catch a train, I'm convinced I have to hurry hurry or I'll miss it. But once I get there I can relax a bit, and maybe stop
by a bakery...
PAUL is a big bakery chain in France, but it's pretty tasty! When I hear the word "Paul" associated with the Epcot France pavilion's new boulangerie, I thought it might be related to the real PAUL in France, but google has since informed me that Monsieur Paul is actually a new restaurant named after an Epcot chef. It'd be fun if they brought a French chain in though, the way they have Mitsukoshi in Japan!
AHHHHHH....look at all those trains going to so many exciting places!!!
Once we were settled in our seats, I broke out my croissant. Unfortunately I had devoured most of it before I remembered to take a picture, so this is all you get.
SORRY! What can I say, it was flaky and delicious. I couldn't resist.
Soon our train was whisking us away, through the urban clutter and outskirts of Paris and then out through flat green fields, still shaking off their morning mist:
It was just an hour or so to get to Tours, which was going to be our base in the Loire Valley. As we approached, the houses we passed began to look more like castles, and each town tucked into the hills looked tantalizing - I wanted to explore them all!
Paris is obviously a wonderful city with lots of sights to see; but if you spend your whole trip there, I think you're missing something. It's once you get out of the city that you really start to experience a new side to the country.
Like when we arrived in Tours, for instance, and found the streets COMPLETELY empty.
It was 9 AM on a Sunday morning, and the vast majority of Tours was sleeping in. Only an occasional biker with the proverbial baguette tucked under the arm might ride by, or an old man taking the dogs out for a walk. There's something kinda magical about having a city all to yourself.
We first went to our hotel where the proprieter seemed rather astonished to see us, and the room wasn't ready. This did not surprise me; the main thing was to get the heavy bags dropped off, and that accomplished, we headed back out. There had been one lone patisserie that was open which we had passed, not far from the hotel, so that was where we went first:
It may have been the only patisserie open in Tours, but I think it was also the BEST patisserie open in Tours. Also, everything cost at least a euro less than it would have in Paris.
So much beauty...one photo will simply not suffice...
My brother got one of those chocolate croissants you can see tucked in the back - it was his favorite chocolate croissant from the entire trip. I went with a tasty brioche:
We took them and ate them sitting on a bench in the shadow of the Hotel de Ville (the town hall).
Rather grand! Thus fortified by French deliciousness, we returned to the Gare to look at the train times and plan our day.
The Gare is just as grand as the Hotel de Ville! So I should've planned our day before we left, but it was one of those little holes in the trip that I just said, "Oh, we'll figure it out when we get there." Well, it turns out the trains didn't run nearly as frequently as I thought, so we had a few hours to kill before we could head out to a castle. But there was plenty to see in Tours...
Like this lovely little park...
(I got fancy with photoshop, just to exhibit how picturesque Tours is).
First we spotted the towers of the Cathedral down the street, and then we stopped inside it! Sunday mass was about to start - we had gone the previous night at Notre Dame in Paris, so we just peeked in.
It was such a local sight. Friends and neighbors were greeting each other, kids were running around, the choir was warming up; some people were even smoking. In church! Not just in church, IN A CATHEDRAL!
Took this picture right outside the cathedral. Ignore the cars: doesn't it look like a scene from another time! All that stone! Just behind that wall on the right we discovered, quite by accident, a garden right out of Jane Austen film:
Well, maybe a French Jane Austen film. But I was still entirely satisfied!
Just look at that TREE! This photo doesn't even half express the enormous size (both height and width) of the tree.
SO COOL. That building is the Musee de Beaux Artes. We didn't have time to stop in, but from the e-guidebook I had on the strawberry it sounds like it had lots of lovely paintings. I was content just wandering in their gardens! We decided it was time to stop and try our pastries:
Obviously it doesn't take much for us to decide it's time to eat sweets. lol. My brother tried the chocolate cake and mine was the one on the right.
It had passion fruit and raspberry and a little bit of cake and I don't even know what the heck that thing on the top was, but it was AMAZING.
Oh yeah. I was in heaven.