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In Tours I forgot to try local Touraine spécialités (fouaces, poires tapées)

Place Plumereau
Isn't the best part of a trip in the delightful detours? In France, it’s just as well to experience the pleasures of the unexpected. She's from Dublin. He’s from Brussels. They met up in Paris and decided on an overnight trip to Tours. They fully intended to sample the strangest region’s gastronomical delights like fouaces (brioche breads filled with beans and rillettes), and poires tapées (dried pears). And yet…! They got distracted by architecture, contemporary art, and even boating, somehow managing to leave without tasting the most typical local staples…

When we arrived in town we were immediately ready for lunch. Casse Cailloux was a recommended address, and not too far from the train station. It was a good call: the contemporary French cuisine was on point here. We had gamey deer terrine flecked with butternut squash to start, followed by a hay-grilled lamb on the bone with new potatoes, local chèvre (goat cheese) before blueberry sablé for dessert with a glass of bubbly Vouvray. Délicieux.

Casse Cailloux - 26 Rue Jehan Fouquet

Walked off lunch and headed to Hôtel Goüin (named after the wealthy family who purchased it in 1738). The stunning mansion was built in the 15th century—the sub-basement still contains Gallo-Roman remains! True vintage. Is it bad to say that it looked like something from EuroDisney? It should be the other way around, but…

Hôtel Gouin - 25 Rue du Commerce

We checked out the CCCOD (Centre de la Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré), a contemporary art center and exhibition space, located at Place Francis I in the historic center of Tours. Its sleek design is courtesy of Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus, a Portuguese architecture agency. Since the venue has no permanent collection, it’s more of a place of contemporary artistic experimentation, with three or four rotating exhibitions a year (they’ve featured Kader Attia, Daniel Buren, Claude Lévêque, François Morellet, and ORLAN).

Centre pour la Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré (CCCOD) (External link) - Jardin François 1er

We decided to explore the central Place Plumereau, in Old Tours. The square is very pretty, surrounded by 15th-century half-timbered houses, all listed as historic monuments. Every apéritif should be surrounded by heritage, really, so we popped into a café. We chatted with some locals, who told us where we were sitting was dubbed “Place Plume”. Also, locals here are apparently called “Tourangeaux”. Who can even pronounce that?!

Dinner-time at QG. This neo-bistro cuisine was all about fresh, seasonal products from local suppliers. We had chicken liver terrine with plum compote and house-made pickles, black sausage tatin, stuffed rabbit—and enjoyed with a bottle of Touraine red, naturally.

Restaurant QG - 19 Place du Grand Marché

We decided to spend our day river-side. We strolled across the Pont Wilson, an 18th-century bridge that straddles the Loire. It was named after American president Woodrow Wilson, to honor the country’s involvement in WWI; Tours provided an important American military base. (…Found out afterwards the bridge has collapsed several times in the past, which is not an especially reassuring fact. But it seams strong enough these days!)

La Guinguette in Tours
La Guinguette in Tours

We stopped by La Guinguette on the riverbanks at the foot of Pont Wilson, which has a low-key relaxed vibe, and had a bite. The cultural programming there is pretty eclectic: workshops, cinema, DJ sets. Unlike most things in France, La Guinguette is open every day of the week from May to September (11am to midnight), which is quite nice!

Guinguette de Tours sur Loire - 1 Quai de la Loire

Anchored at Place Anatole France along the Loire, we decided to go for a spin in the traditional flat-bottom wooden boats (they seat up to 12 or 30 people). Who doesn't love a river outing?

Boat tours on the Loire (External link) - booking at the tourist office 78-82 rue de Bernard Palissy

Overall, we loved the mix of history, waterside fun, and modern cuisine. We know we should’ve tried the "fouaces" and the "poire tapées", but honestly we didn't even miss it.