Grant McWilliams

Day 4

We boarded our TGV to Tours. This was a really smooth track . I took a video with my digital camera with a bottle of water in the picture to show how little the water shimmered. This is how trains are supposed to be. We got to Tours and walked out of the train station and knew immediately this wasn’t one of those pretty French hill towns or Paris either. This is a modern city with wide boulevards like Paris but they’re dirty unlike Paris. We walked to our hotel and checked in. There is a difference between French hotels and American ones. With French hotels you walk in the door and they had you the key. You pay when you’re ready to leave. This save our butts a few times in the coming week. Our hotel cost $130 a night again and really wasn’t that nice. The beds were old spring beds and you could feel the springs on your back. We did get free breakfast though which wasn’t bad. It was usual European breakfast with cheese, meat, bread, butter and cereal. They did have croissants with nutella though because after all this was still France. Overall the hotel wasn’t bad but it just doesn’t hold the value that hotels in the U.S. do. Imagine what $130 gets you in the U.S. With a little searching…
After we arrived at Tours we dropped our bags in the hotel and headed back to the train station. My kids thought I was joking because we’d spent half the day traveling and off we go again. Our destination was Chinon. I didn’t know what to expect from Chinon and almost cut it out of the itinerary but now I’m glad I didn’t as it’s a beautiful little town. It takes about 40 minutes on the train to get there and you won’t see it on the way to anywhere else because it’s in the middle of nowhere. The train was actually two special engines back to back that had seats for passengers in the middle. Apparently not many people go to Chinon. One of the reasons we headed for Chinon was because this was where Joan of Arc convinced the Dauphin to take his crown and fight for France. The castle where this took place is still there and one tower is the Joan of Arc museum. We arrived at the train station which is on the other end of town from the Chateaux which is fine because it’s a small town. Chinon is a town stuck between a river (Vienne) and a large hill. The Chateaux sits on the hill overlooking the river with a beautiful vineyard behind it. The land around Chinon is really pretty with rolling hills and and lots of trees. The river just seems to meander through the majestic hillside and vineyards. The town is a 14th century town that today probably doesn’t look that much different than when Joan of Arc rode through or Richard the Lionhart drew his last breath. I was immediately drawn to this area and think it would be about ideal to sit and ponder life in. The town is only 9000 people large so you won’t spend a lot of time doing other things but a vineyard here surrounding a modest Chateaux would be nice. In order to get to the castle you need to to climb through many cobblestone streets and small alleyways until you reach the top of the hill. Behind the hill as I’ve mentioned is a very pretty vineyard. It made me think about taking up grapes. The castle itself is in ruins but is still interesting to tour. The Joan of Arc museum didn’t have as much stuff as the one in Roeun but was still fun. I guess if you come in the spring Chinon actually has a Joan of Arc parade. Back on the train to Tours we go to find food. We wandered around Tours trying to find something of interest and finally gave up and grabbed some Lebonese food which normally is very good but this wasn’t. They put ketchup on our kebabs! We found other places that did that too which I don’t get. It would be like putting ketchup on a gyro in the states. The next morning we checked out of our hotel and had the hotel keep our bags. Our train to Paris didn’t leave until 5:00pm so we had time to do more exploring. We wanted to go to Chenonceau or Chombard but the train schedules didn’t work out for us. I used the machine to see ANY surrounding city with a Chateau for us to see and Blois came up. Blois (pronounced blo-ah and not blah) turned out to be another really pretty town. Blois is much larger (50,000) than Chinon but also perched on the side of a hill overlooking a river (Cher). The river itself isn’t that interesting but the town is. The Chateau was really quite large and was used by several Kings as a summer home. It was built over the course of 400 years and you can see the difference by looking at it. It has 4 distinct styles used in various sections. It has been mostly restored but because they spent so many years building it the restorers don’t know exactly how to put it back. Do you make it look like it did when it was started or do you restore it to when it was finished? At the end of our tour through the chateau we went to the gift shop and attempted to buy some junk we don’t need. They denied my card and I didn’t have my backup. I had enough cash on me to get food but it worried me that my card was bad again. We didn’t have Internet in Tours so contacting my bank would be a problem. Also we were leaving for Paris at 5 which was an hour earlier than the bank opened so obviously contacting them wasn’t possible. I had reservations in Paris for a hotel but if they asked for money up front we were out of luck. Jade and I ran back to the hotel in Tours and grabbed the bags and in record time got back to the station and waited for the train. The French train system advertises free WIFI in the stations so I attempted to get on the Internet with my laptop to find out that you can book tickets for free but if you want to go anywhere else on the Internet you had to have a contract with an ISP listed. Since I don’t live in France I don’t so contacting the bank was not possible. We got on the train and found our reserved seats. Twenty minutes later another family got on with tickets for our seats. The lady spoke english and went off to find the conductor to see why they double booked the seats. She returned later with the conductor who said it was impossible to double book seat and compared the. It appears the ticket lady made my tickets for the following day so we had to give up our seats and stand between the cars with nowhere to sit. Later the conductor came through gathering tickets. The fine for boarding the train on the wrong day is 15 euros per person which is $78. I explained to him the lady got the dates right on the other ones but this ticket was wrong. He let us go without paying. In reality he would have had to work pretty hard to get the money anyway because my bank cards didn’t work! He also couldn’t throw us off the train because there was no other stops between where we were and Paris.