“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
- John Hope Franklin

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday In Tours

View from the Jardin des Prébendes d’Oé 
One of the things that slipped my mind about France was the fact that nearly everything closes on Sunday. Unlike our secular lifestyle in the US, where most people can't even think about starting their weekend shopping without first stopping at Dunkin' Donuts, France, with its deeply religious past, really takes Sunday as a day to rest & relax. Everything except cafés, churches & a handful of tabacs (French convenience stores) closes its doors Saturday night and doesn't re-open until Monday morning. It must be nice to be guaranteed a day off every weekend to spend with your family!

Downtown Tours, devoid of life on a Sunday
From the tourist's perspective, however, this is a bit of an inconvenience. If you're looking for something to do on a Sunday, good luck! Thankfully I hadn't had much time to explore the city itself during the week as I was wrapped up in other excursions, so a few of my new-found friends & I spent the day wandering the city looking for cool sights - and boy, did we find them!

L’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Tours
The center of Tours has many impressive architectural sites, such as the town hall & le Pont Wilson, which are lovely to behold & make me jealous that Westfield has a plain old brick building as our town hall and a pair of nasty, sea-foam green bridges instead of the nice, aesthetically-pleasing structures I can find here...

Le Pont Wilson spanning the Loire River
Tours has been a popular destination for tourists since the Middle Ages, when the faithful would make pilgrimages here to see the relics of Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours and patron saint of France, which are housed in the Tours Cathedral, Saint-Gatien. His tomb lies in the crypt right below the sanctuary, and visitors can go downstairs to pay their respects below the high altar. The cathedral was begun in 1170 and not finished until 1547, and its ornate stone decorations were furnished by donations the pilgrims would make in order to behold the precious relics inside which they had traveled so far to see.

Cathédrale Saint-Gatien (Tours Cathedral), where the tomb of St. Martin is located
Original 13th-century frescoes still decorate parts of the interior!
There are numerous other churches to visit in Tours, and we wandered by the ruins of a once large church which was unfortunately almost entirely destroyed during the French Revolution. While in disarray, the cut-away view of the church affords visitors the chance to marvel at Medieval engineering technology - it is truly amazing that what many would consider early or "rudimentary" craftsmanship is still standing, even after being weakened severely by trauma from wars sustained nearly 300 years ago.

Remains of an early church destroyed during the French Revolution in the 18th-century
Follow this link for more pictures from my adventures through Tours! And to better view pictures I've posted here, click on them for close-ups.

Also, a few updates about my schedule the next two weeks. I have crash-courses in advanced written and spoken French from 9:45-12:45 Monday through Friday, with various cultural activities with our larger group scattered through random afternoons. They include a cooking class, wine & cheese tasting (I'll be the first in line at this one!!), a visit to the château Chenonceau, guided tour through the local Museum of Fine Arts, and another day trip & picnic at the châteaux Chambord and Blois...not that I'll be busy or anything! We'll find out where we're living in Paris sometime around next Wednesday & then ship back up to Paris for good on Friday, September 9th. I learned today that the classes I'll be taking at l’Université de Paris III – Sorbonne Nouvelle don't actually start until October 3th (the latest of all the Paris universities), so it looks like I'll have plenty of time to settle into life in Paris before the madness really begins!

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