Bonjour from Tours
Tours sits towards the middle of France, just over 200 km south-west of Paris on the great Loire River.
The Loire Valley has traditionally been the fancy, bourgeois area of France as it is home to many of the finest châteaux, gardens, restaurants, vineyards and farmland. Tours and the Loire Valley is a landscape dominated by and dependent on the mighty Loire river.
Freshwater fish like pike, bream, shad and sander (zander) are popular, often served with beurre blanc, a sauce made from local white wine, butter, shallots and vinegar. Freshwater eel is also available and cooked and stuffed with pike and mushrooms, wrapped in bacon and simmered in a dry white wine.
Beef, pork, chicken and ducks are all farmed in the Loire, and often they are slowly simmered in white wine, with bacon, cream and butter and served with mushrooms. In fact, these cute little button mushrooms, champignons de Paris are grown in the Loire Valley.
Don’t miss the creamy goat’s cheese (chèvre) of the Loire. Look out for the holy AOC trio of Crottin de Chavignol, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre and the unpasteurised Sainte-Maure de Touraine.
All this rich food needs a strong wine to slice through the fat and complement the flavours of the meats and cheeses. The Loire Valley is home to some of the most aromatic white wines in the world such as Sancerre made from sauvignon blanc. Good producers include the domaines Thomas and Reverdy. The other unmissable Loire white is Vouvray, which is made from Chenin Blanc. Hunt down multiple vintages from from Huet and Boulay.
Cointreau, the orange-flavoured liquer, is made in nearby Angers and served as an apéritif with soda and ice.
Getting there and around
Tours is just over an hour from the centre of Paris by TGV and an hour-and-half from Charles de Gaulle airport. Direct flights to Tours are available from Stamstead in the UK. There is no regional train or tram network so the best way to get around Tours and the surrounding villages is via the local bus service. There are also several day-trip river boat charter services available, which take tourists along the mighty Loire to view the grand châteaux and dock at some of the finest for lunch and sightseeing. For the sporty traveller, bikes are available for hire to ride along the riverbank, and the more adventurous can hire canoes for a DIY river tour.
Châteaux of The Loire Valley by Robert Polidori and Jean-Marie Perouse De Montclos.