Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The journey south

After our day in the Loire Valley, it was time to make the long journey south. The drive was about 250 miles or 400 km. We didn't want to spend the whole time just driving, so we chose a route that would take us through Poitiers and Bordeaux. In addition, we also planned a quick stop in old town Tour to see the cathedral there.
We got up and had our breakfast at McDonald's again. Nathan commented that he had to come France to really start eating at McDonald's as he never eats there in the US. We mixed things up a bit and went the the McCafe part of the restaurant (it's a seperate part in France) and order some pastries.

Look familiar?

With breakfast out of the way, we headed down to the south part of Tours to see the cathedral. A short side note: by this time we were getting pretty good at navigating in France. We could generally get where we were going with a minimum of wrong turns, and had developed a strategy on the round abouts that if there was any question, take a test trip around to reconnoiter the situation before turning.

We got down to the old part of Tours and parked, then had a bit of a walk around. We found a number of interesting sights, including the picturesque narrow streets of the old town, a 600 year old cathedral and perhaps the widest cedar tree I've ever seen. We couldn't get a photo of the tree as there was nowhere to get a photo that did it justice but take my word for it, this thing was enormous.

Here are a few photos of what we saw in old Tours:

The public garden in front of the
Musee de Beaux Arts

More of the gardens with the cathedral
in the background

A view of the cathedral

Yet another twisty street. Ho hum...

Me trying out a nifty vending machine
on the street!

We could not get a huge number of photos in the Tours cathedral because a service was going on. I guess that shouldn't be surprising since it was Sunday morning. Oh well, maybe next time!

After a little while in Tours, we got on the highway for Poitiers.  This was the shortest of the three legs of our journey, but still pretty long. Poitiers was actually a very nice city, with an old town up on top of a huge hill and millions of twisty streets and super old buildings. However, we didn't get out of the car there and didn't take an pictures. Sorry, Poitiers!

The next leg of the journey was from Poitiers to Bordeaux. This was a bit longer leg, but still not bad. We drove through the wine country of France, and were surrounded by huge vineyards in all directions. We had decided that we wanted to see the cathedral at Bordeaux as it was a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, we had read in a guidebook that there was a huge bell tower right next to the cathedral that you could climb up in. We decided to do both.

We arrived in Bordeaux and followed the signs to the cathedral, the Cathedrale St-Andre. We found a parking space nearby (thanks for the free parking, Sunday!) and made our way to the cathedral. When we got there, we were blown away. It was huge (although not as huge as Chartres) and also super light and inviting inside. It was clear that the folks in Bordeaux had really put a lot of work into maintaining and restoring the building and it was without question the nicest cathedral we have seen so far.

Next, we went over to the bell tower (Tour Pey-Berland). Apparently, the bells were put in a seperate tower in order to keep the vibrations from the bells from damaging the cathedral. It was maybe 100 yards away from the cathedral, but apparently that was enough. It is interesting that in 1440 when the tower was begun, they already knew that the sound waves from the bell could damage the masonry of a building.

Anyway, you get to the top of the tower by climbing 232 steps in a super tiny spiral staircase. It was really tight in there (they only allow 19 people in at once!), but with a little squeezing by people coming down, we made up to the top and it was certainly worth it. You could see all of Bordeaux and look down on the cathedral nearby. It was very cool, and we took a ton of photos.

Here are several photos from our time in Bordeaux:

The Bordeaux Cathedral from the
top of the bell tower

Another view of from the bell tower

Nathan posing with our favorite gargoyle

Me and my new friend!

A view from the bottom of the bell tower

After Bordeaux, it was time to get the rest of the way to Toulouse. We had a bit of trouble finding the highway after we left the center of the city. We kept seeing signs that showed a ring and said "Rocade", and since the map showed a highway that went all the way around the city, I guessed that "Rocade" must mean "Ring" or something, and we made our way toward the Rocade. Sure enough, whether my guess was right, once we got on the Rocade, we found a sign pointing us toward Toulouse. Hooray!
The rest of the journey was rather uneventful, so I'll just end with a few random notes:
  • France's farm land just seems nicer than the farm land in the US. I've been all over the midwest in the US and seen a lot of farms, but none of them looked anywhere as nice as the ones we have been seeing in France
  • The autoroutes in France are awesome, although the are a bit expensive. The speed limit is 130 km/h which is 81 mph, and they have really nice service station/restaurants all along the route. Total is my favorite!
  • You see a lot of nuclear power stations in France.
  • The Opel Corsa could use a 6th gear. When you are cruising at 130 km/h, the little engine in the Corse is really working hard!
  • Gasoline is freaking expensive.
After arriving in Toulouse, we followed our directions as best we could to the hotel (the B&B Hotel Basso Cambo). We eventually arrived (we are good at long range navigation, but getting around cities is a bit tougher) at the hotel about 8:30 at night, and there was litterally no one there. The way the hotel works is that you use a touch screen computer to get your room key code, and then use use a keypad on the door to get in. The whole hotel seems to be unstaffed at night. Here it is:

Woohoo! Home for a night!

And that was it for Day 3!

No comments:

Post a Comment