Thursday, September 22, 2011

Culture vulture

This weekend was the journées du patrimoine, i.e. the festival of cultural heritage, when there are all sorts of events from guided tours to exhibitions to special openings of normally private buildings, most of it free. Last year my sister and I went to a brothel, heralding a year full of people coming to my site looking for brothels in San Diego (or worse, brothels and sisters). It's a great opportunity to be a tourist in your own town – I must admit that I am quite lazy about going and seeing the fabulous sites around here. I know plenty of people dream of just a trip to the Loire Valley, but in between apathy, laziness and saving things up to visit with out-of-towners, there's still lots I haven't seen.

I was busy on the Saturday (waiting for a delivery (new microwave!), trip to Ikea, and then I was helping someone move, fun times) but I was determined I would be up and at 'em on Sunday for a guided tour of the city. When I got to the tourist office, I was annoyed (since they didn't say anywhere that numbers were limited) to see that the tour was full, so I hot-footed it over to the town hall instead, since there was a guided tour just about to start there as well. I can report that it was built around the turn of the twentieth century by noted architect, local boy Victor Laloux, who not only has an awesome name but also helped design the Gare (now Musée) d'Orsay, which is inspired by his work on the Gare de Tours, not the other way round – take that, Paris! Is it weird to be quasi-patriotic about the achievements of Tourangeaux (people from Tours)? It also enabled me to check out the marriage hall, just in case I ever get married in Tours (ha!), which is decked out with some very bourgeois-looking frescoes.

In the afternoon, I visited the cloisters of the cathedral, which ordinarily you have to pay for. Glad I didn't, since apart from a nice staircase that looks a bit like the one in Blois château but not as good, there's really nothing of interest in there. Then I went on a guided tour of another set of cloisters, the only remains of the old basilica of St. Martin (the new one was built in the nineteenth century by our old mate Victor Laloux) and to the museum of St. Martin (also free). My favourite part of the St. Martin story (which I think I've mentioned before, but it's still fun the second time) is that the Tourangeaux tricked him into becoming their bishop by luring him out of his monastery by pretending a sick person needed him, then capturing him and making him bishop. Heh. My second favourite part of the story is that later on they nicked his body from where he died in Ghent by getting the locals drunk on (delicious, I'm sure) Loire wine and taking his body out through the window and on to a barge. Cheeky monkeys! Of course it paid off, with Tours becoming a pretty important pilgrimage site. You can still see the palm symbols going through the town on the route of St. James of Compostella.

My sister arrives today, and we'll be spending the weekend in Champagne! (The place, not in a vat or anything, although honestly you never know...) Yay!

1 comment:

  1. Make ready the vomit bubble the GG's are about to hit town.


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