Thursday, 15 February 2018

Come stroll with me...

Michelin Maps
... and find out more about the fascinating city of Tours

I'm beginning my second journey through the city of Tours here in Place de la Résistance.  A small square with nothing to mark it out, other than the name, as having any significance.  But the city of Tours was occupied from 1940 until liberation on September 1st, 1944.  By then the city had been bombed by both the occupying forces to begin with and then the allied forces in an attempt to route the occupiers.  Many of the old streets were unrecognisable and the rail link to Bordeaux in the south and Angers and Le Mans in the north was broken.

To the southwest of the city was the Ripault Ammunitions factory - see the map.  The D17 runs right beside it and as you travel along you can see the remnants of what was once there.  I can also tell you that, thanks to Robert Gildea's book, Marianne in Chains - my review is here - on October 18th, 1943, the factory was blown apart, killing 72 people and injuring many more.  But I have come to this particular square to acknowledge something else.  In 1948, Tours and St-Pierre-des-Corps, a suburb of the city to the north that runs along the Loire, were awarded the Croix de Guerre in remembrance of the sacrifices made by local people who actively resisted the occupiers.  And if you want to know more then I can recommend the aforementioned book.

Tour Charlemagne
From here I'm taking the rue de Maréchal and then cutting across to rue des Halles to take a step further back in history and visit the Tour Charlemagne.  The tower is the remaining vestige of an ancient basilica, dedicated to St Martin that once stood here.  Charlemagne, then emperor, was residing in Tours, and it was here that his fourth wife, Luitgarde d'Alémanie, died in the year 800.  It is said that Charlemagne had her body entombed in the original church. However, the exact location of the tomb has never been substantiated.  But it's a nice story and I love a good tale!

From here it's an easy walk through Place du Grand Marché to the quais and the river Loire.  The Loire is a fleuve and not a rivière because it flows into the sea.  It is one of the principle rivers of France and, at a length of over a 1000K's - that’s more than 600 miles to us on this side of the channel - it is France's longest river.  In addition, it drains more than a fifth of the land area of the whole of France.  Along with other major rivers such as the Lot, Tarn and the Allier, the Loire rises in the Cévennes in south central France close to Mont Jerbier du Jonc.  A natural spring at that point, it flows virtually due north until it 
River Loire at Tours
reaches Orléans where it meanders westwards to empty into the Bay of Biscay at Sainte-Nazaire.  Here in Tours it is wide and slow but it gives its name to 6 different départements on its journey from source to estuary. Earliest man has lived along the banks of this river from about 90,000 years ago and its waters are swollen by some of the most important rivières in the country, such as the Allier, the Cher, Indre, Nièvre, to name just a few of its tributaries.  So, as a bit of water, I kind of think it quite rightly deserves some attention, don't you?

Next month I'll be in Villefranche and a little later in the year I will be starting a new series of posts, Jottings from the Journals.  Watch this space…

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