Monday, 18 July 2011
Distance 6 km
Duration 1 hours 20 minutes
Ascent 40 m, descent 35 m
Map 133 of the TOP 100 lime-green series
It rained again during the night, but we were in holiday spirits when we woke up, as we only had six kilometres to go on our long march across France. We did not even rise until 7:30, by which time our tent was dry, although our washing was not.
The tent, which would not be used again, was given a good shaking-out of accumulated grass and leaves, in the hope that it would get through the quarantine inspection at Sydney airport.
Before setting off we took a photograph of our feet, which had miraculously survived the whole expedition without a single blister.
Then we hurried off in search of breakfast in the bright lights of Tours.
We walked along the bank of the Cher on the GR655, the pilgrim Way of Tours, which was new to us even though we had walked most of the Way of Tours in 2005. (At that time we had foolishly decided to circumvent St-Avertin and go straight to Veigné, which had turned out to be a soul-destroying highway bash.)
Before long we came to the main bridge and crossed the Cher for the last time.
The grand north-south axis of the town, the Avenue de Grammont, was in a state of chaos, with scaffolding, trucks and noisy machinery blocking half the road. The city fathers were installing a tram-line, according to the indignant woman in the boulangerie, and the work would not be finished until the end of 2013, by which time the shopkeepers would all be ruined, she said.
Eventually we got to the great circular Place Jean Jaurès, with its fountains and flower beds, but even that was full of barricades and noise.
It was not what it had been when we stopped at the Bar de l’Univers on 2007 on our way down the Loire, but for old times’ sake we repeated the experience.
This time we could not sit outside because of the noise, but also because of the cold, so we retired to the elegant interior.
The huge Office of Tourism was just around the corner, and here we got a list of hotels. The one we chose was the Étap-hotel beside the station in the Rue Edouard Vaillant, and we stayed there for two nights (€50 per night plus €5 each for breakfast).
The first night we were on the top floor and the roof leaked, a thing that had never happened in our tiny tent, so we were moved to a bigger room lower down.
We spent the time eating, sleeping, watching the Tour on TV, and roaming about the old quarter near the Loire. The weather continued grey and damp, but we still enjoyed our explorations of this lovely old town.
On the 20th of July we took the train to Paris. The woman in the station booking office thought we were mad to ask for a train that went along the Cher via Vierzon instead of the much quicker route straight along the Loire. I don’t think she believed me when I said that we had just walked from Vierzon to Tours.
Thus the first part of the journey was spent excitedly pointing out the window with the TOP 100 maps spread out in front of us.
At Vierzon we got out and had lunch, then took an express train to Austerlitz and made our way in the midst of the Paris rush-hour to the airport. Our plane left at 11 pm.
At Hong Kong airport we waited for a couple of hours in a café on the observation deck and I admired the early morning sun low over the mountains.
Soon afterwards it retreated below the horizon and darkness closed in, but I was too bemused to find it strange.
We landed in Sydney nine hours later, where it was raining and the predicted maximum was 16ºC – exactly the same weather as at Tours when we left.
The only difference was that in Tours it was midsummer and in Sydney, the depths of winter. A three-hour bus trip down the highway brought us finally to Canberra, and the luxury of home.
The railway station is in the centre of Tours. From there you can go to almost anywhere in France. Tours also has an airport.