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Published: April 13th 2018
Yesterday we laid low, and licked our wounds, following the châteaux marathon of the day before. We did, however, make a grocery run using Dee's carry-on bag (with wheels) to help haul the goods back from the store, which is about 1/4-mile from the villa. Meanwhile, I took some pants, shirts and a suit jacket to a nearby dry cleaning establishment (called "PRESSERS" here).
Today, we received and accepted a very gracious invitation from our villa's owner (Sophie) to take us on Saturday to visit the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, which is located 15 miles southwest of Tours.
This morning we decided to visit a local garden park, the Jardin des Prébendes d'Oé, before taking the bus into the downtown area. This garden shows up on the city map as a green rectangle, bordered on the north and south by the rue Roger Salengro and rue Boisdenier, respectively, a little over 1/2-mile to the east of our villa. It took us about 20 minutes to reach it on foot, and shortly after entering the 12-acre property we realized we'd stumbled upon another little piece of paradise for which the French are famous.
Wherever we've traveled in France over the years,
whether in Paris or in the region of Provence, Dee and I have never ceased to be amazed by the number of magnificent green spaces that seemingly appear out of thin air.
French parks and gardens, both large and small, are usually filled with manicured grass, blooming flowerbeds, trees, and plants the likes of which we rarely (if ever) experience in the states. The Jardin des Prébendes d'Oé, nestled in a quiet, unassuming neighborhood in Tours, turned out to be yet another example. Often referred to as an "English Garden", it was actually created in the French landscape style of the 19th-century.
Originally, the property that became the garden generated revenue (or prebends
) payable to the Provost Oé, canon of St. Martin. It was built in 1872 on the site of a swampy area drained by the brook called "the archbishop", by a renowned European landscape architect of that time, Eugène Bühler. Today, the Jardin des Prébendes d'Oé is one of only six gardens in the Tours region to be classified as a "Remarkable Garden", a distinction awarded by the Ministry of Culture.
In addition to the many beds of gorgeous, blooming flowers, the garden boasts an
amazing variety of trees: plane trees, chestnut trees, common or silver limes, poplars of Holland fastigiés, hackberries, ash trees, hazel trees byzance, sophoras, plum ornamental, Soulange magnolias, ginkgos, Virginia tulip trees, Siberian elm, etc., including seven giant sequoias (150 years old and over 100 feet tall) that are classified among the most beautiful trees of France.
As we strolled along several of the winding paths within the garden, we passed a small lake with ducks, a gazebo, a bandstand, a small wooden bridge, and a playground area for children. The garden also has several busts and statues representing historical figures from Tours and surrounding areas, including the 16th-century poet, Pierre de Ronsard, to whom the sculpture and fountain inside the main entrance are dedicated.
After leaving this paradise of peace and tranquility, we walked to the bus stop, where we caught a "runaway" #5 bus that, for reasons unknown, deviated from the regular rote, finally depositing us near the river, at the Place Anatole France. It worked out O.K., however, as we found ourselves within a short walking distance of our destination, Le Laurenty, the little restaurant on rue Colbert where we'd enjoyed lunch the day after our
arrival in Tours.
We had another wonderful experience here today, along with about 30 other people, as the place packed-out shortly after we sat down and ordered white fish with rice, pork with pureed potatoes, and a delicious bisque made with scallops and mushrooms. The dessert we shared--pears in some sort of pastry, with a dollop of ice cream and chocolate sauce--was also quite good.
After lunch, we walked via the rue des Halles to reach the other large cathedral in Tours, the Basilica of St. Martin. This is a Roman Catholic basilica dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, over whose tomb it rests. It was built between 1886 and 1942 to replace an earlier basilica, dating back to the Middle Ages, that was thoroughly demolished during the French Revolution. The present structure stands on part of the site of the original basilica, and was dedicated in 1925.
The basilica houses the tomb of St. Martin, which was discovered during excavation work in 1860. After the radical Paris Commune of 1871, there was a resurgence of conservative Catholic sentiment, and the church decided to build a basilica to honor St. Martin. Victor Laloux, the architect selected for
Tomb of St. Martin
In the crypt, Basilica St. Martin.
the new basilica, created a style termed neo-Byzantine, a mix of Romanesque and Byzantine styles.
In AD 371, Saint Martin of Tours (316 or 336–397AD) became the Bishop of Tours, and his shrine became a famous stopover-point in France for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Born in what is now Hungary, he spent much of his childhood in Italy, and his adult life in France. Apparently, after a stint in the Roman army, he became a monk and hermit before he embraced Christianity.
If St. Martin were among us today, he would likely approve of the basilica in Tours that bears his name, and surrounds his tomb. The interior space, with its massive marble columns, is quite impressive, as is the dome above the altar. I descended a short flight of stairs to visit his tomb, which rests in a cavernous underground vault that reminded me of a dungeon--a pretty eerie resting place, if you ask me.
After leaving the church, we walked along the main shopping boulevard to reach Galeries Lafayette, a large French department store, where Dee wanted to do some shopping. She also discovered the equivalent of one of
Storefront display on rue des Halles, near Basilica St. Martin. The sign reads "I like to be petted, but my coat doesn't like small sticky hands."
our "Dollar Stores" on the same street. After shopping, we caught the bus home, which thankfully arrived after making all the scheduled stops!
Dee's comments: Today is Day #60, and this body is starting to feel the effects of our adventure; every bone is hurting! It was hard to get going this morning, but I put on my big girl panties, and out we went. Not too far from our villa, we discovered a beautiful park, where I could have stayed all day to watch the people, and especially the children (love to watch them play and hear them speak French!).
From the park, we walked to the bus stop to catch a ride into town. Over the years, we have ridden many buses (mostly in Paris), and it seems like we always encounter a ride where we're ordered by the driver to "Get off", in a foreign language we can't understand. This is usually because of some sort of traffic blockage. Today the bus deviated from its normal route, and then made no stops! Mitch soon launched into a tirade, yelling quite loudly, "Stop the fucking bus!" He soon cheered-up, as the bus finally stopped for passengers
Jardin des Prébendes d'Oé
to get off, and it was not very far from the restaurant where we wanted to have lunch!
After another great meal at Le Laurenty, it was off to St. Martin's basilica, where I did not have the "chutzpah" to descend into the crypt (too creepy). Then to the Lafayette department store in my quest to find a fragrance I've been wanting, and I found it--first time I've ever paid full price for a fragrance (either they were free, or at a discount where I worked). This made Yentil's pocketbook wince a little :-(, but boy, do I smell good now. :-).
Then back to the villa, after a bus ride with no surprises, and Happy Hour--Yay! Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
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