Thursday, May 22, 2014

Loire river valley - the heart of France

May 18th. Another beautiful sunny day!
The Loire river valley is wide, the river slow, the towns, villages and landscape wonderful. We will just cover a few of the highlights along the river and three of the many historic towns along the way: Saumur, Tours and Bourges.

Loire River
Peaceful and grand - The Loire River

Just upriver from Saumur are caves in the sandstone cliffs along the river.
Bridge near Tours
The Saumur castle seen from across the Loire.
Really pretty bridge crosses over the Loire into Saumur.
From the bridge you get a great overview of the city.
Much of the city's life revolves around the river front.
And the castle provides the necessary protection to allow this city to prosper in the middle ages onward.

One of the first things we saw in Tours was this huge Cedar of Lebonan out side the Fine Arts Museum. Planted in 1804, it now stands over 100 feet tall and over 100 feet in diameter.
Elegant buildings and the remains of buildings reflect a long history dating back to Roman times.

The Cathedrale St. Gatien:
Built between 1300 and the late 18th centuries, this spectacular cathedral is a great example of high or late gothic architecture. The soaring columns and tracery of interlinked archways enable large rosette and tall stained glass windows around the nave and apse which flood the cathedral with light.
Light streams in during a prayer service.

We had the opportunity to hear the organ!!!
And, yes, ramparts and towers too.
All the narrow roads lead up to the cathedral.
The Cathedral of St Etienne of Bourges, built between the late 12th and late 13th centuries, is one of the great masterpieces of Gothic art. Five entry doors on the front, reflects the interior double side aisles, a double ambulatory, and no transept. Enough architecture speak - it just looks cool and is huge.

A real palace with a colorful history. Jacques Coeur was a merchant who was appointed "finance minister" to the king in 1441, built his huge palace and gardens and in 1451 was thrown in jail by the king (reason unknown) and the palace was confiscated by the king for his own purposes. Jacques escaped from jail and went off to fight the Ottomans on behalf of the Pope. 
Fairy tale like homes and shops surround the cathedral.

As with many cities we visited fortified walls can still be seen, the foundations dating back to Roman times..
If you stood tall for 1000 years you might need a little help too.