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Tours Tour-3: Low Ire in the Loire Valley

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 8:00 am    Post subject: Tours Tour-3: Low Ire in the Loire Valley Reply with quote

Tours Tour-3: Low Ire in the Loire Valley

88.1 Introduction

I find it sadly ironic that the ghastly events in Paris
unfolded some time after I posted the second part of my April
2014 France trip descriptions. We pray for lasting one piece.

86. Tours Tour-I: bonjour! No French Leave for France
87. Tours Tour-2: An Evening in Paris. And More.
88. Tours Tour-3: Low Ire in the Loire Valley (this part)
89. Tours Tour-4: One, Tours, Three, Four merci, au revoir

Welcome to the third installment of a trip report featuring my
April 2014 trip to scenic town of Tours, in the Loire valley, France.
The first part was
86. Tours Tour-I: bonjour! No French Leave for France
This featured the extensive planning for the trip, with its
associated constraints, and some interesting spotting at Delhi's
IGIA T3, and the Air India Dream)liner journey to CDG airport, Paris.
The second part
87. Tours Tour-2: An Evening in Paris. And More.
started from my landing up in CDG airport, Paris, and my bus ride
to the Gare Montparnasse station, the tense roaming around the
city, searching for directions,and familiar sights, and finally,
landing up at my nest for the night. The next day had some
sightseeing at breakneck speed, starting from the Eiffel Tower
(which looked like a giant standing with its legs slightly
spread, and hands folded across its chest, staring down at me
like the Giant would have looked at Jack, beside the beanstalk),
the Arc D'Triumph, the Louvre, the search for the Bastille, and
my first TGV ride, and landing up at my pre-booked hotel in Tours.

88.2 Loire and Lorraine

I often confuse between the two names.
So much so, that when I was to plan my trip to Tours (and that
was way back in December), I started writing this part of the trip report.
I had confused between the Loire and the Lorraine.
I had titled this part of the report as
`Low Rain in Lorraine'
as the time I was to visit the place (April 2014) was not
supposed to be very cold, but may have occassional showers.
I had set out for the place, armed with an umbrella.
Ironically, it rained just as I climbed the train to leave Tours,
in the Loire Valley.
Let me get back to the title of this part of the trip report.
The bad pun on the incorrect pronunciation of the term `Lorraine'
had to be replaced...with something worse, if not equally bad.
Tours is the name of a well-known town in the Loire valley.
So, the bad pun on the name of the river became `Low Ire'.
It is a town of peaceful people, who speak softly.
Hence, the pun.

I also sent an email to my co-workers telling them that I had
reached the place safe and sound.
In peace, and in one piece.
I was supposed to take our work to the place and display it as a
size A0 poster.
Now, what were the options for this?
One was to print it on a plastic sheet, and fold it, much like a Banarasi saree.
Not only would the folds be similar, so would the weight.
I shot down the idea immediately.
The baggage weight restrictions were in place on all airlines.
Air India (generally among the more generous airlines) was no exception, here.
What was the other option?
Print it in paper, and curl it, and take a case which could be
slung around the shoulder, much like a bazooka.
I shot down the bazooka option as well, since I would have to
carry it in as cabin baggage, and the weight of the case would
add to that of my other carry-ons. Smelling carrion, my hawk-like
colleagues suggested that I take it simply wrap it in newspaper,
and take care that it did not get damaged in transit.
It had survived the ride in a couple of crowded Paris Metro trains as well.
I was in a naughty mood, and caught the sight of
an opportunity to pun on the title of a recent (2013) Hindi potboiler movie.
I wrote that the poster was in reasonable shape,
else it would have been a case of
`phaTA poster, nikalA Zero'
The name of the Hindi potboiler movie was
`phaTA poster, nikalA Hero'
literally, this means, `the poster tears, and out comes the hero'.
The implication is that the hero emerges from the poster.
In this case, my version transliterates as `the poster tears, and
the outcome is (a big) zero', the implication being the tearing
of the poster would leave us in a pitiable state, a state of tears,
to continue the runny pun.
This was a conference on document image analysis, and I also met
the `table-and-chair' person. This gentleman's area of research
included detecting tables from document images, and was the chair
for the conference.
The lady who had designed the poster for us played a dark trick on me,
which I realised as soon as I had put it up.
It highlighted some of our work on automatic extraction of newspaper
articles from document images. She had printed it as a newspaper
i.e., in a landscape format, instead of the prescribed poster
format. I picturised her laughing out at my discomfort: we often
play these practical jokes among ourselves, and I was at the
receiving end of it, this time.

I had woken up in the morning well in time.
I got some hot water, and I had a hot breakfast of cup noodles,
and some biscuits. I set out to explore a bit of the city, from there.
The conference was to be held in the impressive Vinci-Congress Centre.

88.3 All roads lead to...Roam. Touring Tours.

Tours is a quaint place, which has seen quite a bit of history.
This region (the Loire valley) has been associated with many a
famous person, including Balzac, Descartes, and...Leonardo da Vinci.
The Amboise castle/chateau is a well-known point of interest for visitors.
We were lucky to have an organised group visit to the place.
The Loire valley is also known for its fine wines. I was able to
sample two specific wines in reasonable quantity during the
course of my short stay, Chinon, an excellent red wine,
and Vouvray, a nice sparkling white.

It was quite overcast when I set out on my walk around the place.
The first important monument in view was the theatre building:

There was an Italian Vespa scooter parked there!

The reader may notice the large padlock on the front wheel.
It is interesting that the scooter industry in India was seeded
by the Vespa 150. Bajaj went on to become one of the largest
producers of two-wheelers in the world, and Bajaj's recent models
often competed with offerings from the Italian giant company itself.

The tram line (with Bombardier coaches) runs through a large part
of the Tours City.

The city boulevards are extremely beautiful, and well-maintained,
complete with green spaces, with multi-coloured flowers in full bloom.

The Tours City House is a prominent piece of architecture,
designed by an architect born in the city itself, Victor Laloux.
Clos Luce was the abode of the multi-faced genius Leonardo da
Vinci, for a while.

The Welcome Reception of the conference I had come here to attend,
would be held here.

Much like Paris, and many places in the country, many popular
restaurants feature a large outdoor seating arrangement.

I headed towards on the the bridges over the Loire river.
This was an interesting sight: trees cropped from the top.

One of the historical monuments of the region is the
Eglise Saint-Julien (Abbey of St. Julien).

There is a tribute to the friendship between the US and France,
in this monument on the banks of the Loire river.

The Chateau de Tours often houses exhibitions.

I did not have much time on my hands to venture inside, but the
structure looks quite impressive from the outside!
Here is another view of the structure, from the other side.

Is this reverse colonisation?
In my short walk in the neighbourhood around, I was able to
locate an Indian restaurant, Coffee India:

It was interesting to see a variant of the Citroen 2CV.

The Citroen 2CV was supposed to be produced in India by the
Escorts group as a competitor to the Maruti 800, and was
exhibited with much fanfare in an Auto Expo in Delhi, possibly
around 1984 or so. This did not see the light of day, obviously.
The Citroen 2CV was a simple car which had been mass-produced in
France, since the Second World War.

St. Gatien's Cathedral is also sometimes called the Tours Cathedral.

I managed to spend quite a bit of time inside this highly
impressive structure, with many a beautiful stained glass window.
On a completely different note, two of the vehicles in
front of the cathedral are common on Indian roads right now,
the Renault Duster, and the Hyundai i10.

On the way back, there was another `Pakistani-Indian' restaurant,
Palais du Raja, run by a Punjabi lady.

On reaching my hotel room, I was able to catch a glimpse of the
spires of the Tours Cathedral from my window. The room had a great view!

This scene looked even more awesome at night!

I met a friend from Hyderabad the next day, who had come for the
same conference. We walked to the University, all along the tram line.

The weather was better, and the surroundings, pristine!

The Tours Railway station is an impressive piece of architecture.

My friend was staying at a hotel closer to the Tours Railway station.
There was a McDonald's restaurant close-by, where I had waited for him.

He pointed out that it was no coincidence that the incongruous
sculpture in front of the restaurant had some physical similarity to
my unflattering large belly. Later, he was to photograph me
standing in front of another restaurant, named...`Hippopotamus'.

88.4 Amboise Chateau
This is one of the first views that strikes a visitor, on
climbing up to the basic level of the structure.

Quite a bit of the once-imposing structure has been lost to the
ravages of time, but what remains, has been beautifully preserved.

The rules of France Charles VII is said to have died in 1498
point after hitting his head on a door, somewhere close to this point.

He was a tennis fan, and was going to watch a game of tennis,
in the form it was played, at that point in time.

From one of the balconies, this awesome view of the Loire river
enchants the viewer, even though the scene is back-lit, not quite
the best conditions for taking pictures.


A lot of the personal effects of the rulers are preserved at the
Amboise Chateau, including a complete armoured suit.

Uneasy lies the head, which wears the crown.

And uneasy sits the chair, underneath.

A hearth for some warmth, with the coat of arms over the fireplace.

Here is a wicker crib for a royal baby!

The coat of arms, in more detail.

Stained glass windows!

Another seat of power.

The royal bed. The occupants were not really very tall people.

A secret chest of that time, revealing secret chambers neatly
disguised with the main part of the structure.

A chair beside the bed.

Some more regal furniture:

An interesting aspect of the Amboise chateau is the presence of a
Muslim cemetery on its grounds. In the restored environs, there
is a room with a picture of the Algerian leader Emir Abdel Kader, who
had been imprisoned in the Amboise Chateau along with his followers.

He was a much respected gentleman even among his French captors,
and was treated with great respect during his period here,
before Napoleon III finally ordered his release.
The Amboise is the final resting place of many of his followers, and
some of his family members as well. He was much respected as a
ruler for his knowledge, and his liberal views on religion, and politics.

The meandering road to the top leads to some interesting sights.

This trapdoor looks down into the spiral ramp used by horsemen to reach the top.

It was the later King Francis I who invited Leonardo da Vinci to
come over to Amboise.

Leonardo spent the last three years of his life here, and is said
to be buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, pictured here in the failing light.

This picture comes a bit later in the sequence,
but is shown here for continuity in the topic.

The bright sunny weather that day was welcome!

The gardens were fascinating themselves.
Here is one of the gates of the Chateau, now closed.

The landscaping, on the undulating land, is a treat for the senses.

An interesting sight in the sky!

This part possibly leads to the stables.

A walk around the periphery reveals some great sights around, below.

From the main balcony, beside the grounds:

88.5 Setting out from Tours

The conference came to an end on 10 Apr, 2014 (Thu).
I had woken up well in time on 11 Apr, 2014 (Fri).
The check out time was 11:00 am. I set out for the impressive Tours Centre
railway station at 10:30 am, with one bag on my back, and the
strolley, being rolled along. My itinerary for this leg of the
journey, was as follows.

Set out 11 Apr (Fri) for St Pierre des Corps from Tours Centre at 11:47 am
8264 Shuttle 2nd Class unreserved [PNR: QXBWVI]
to reach St Pierre des Corps 11 Apr (Fri) at 11:52 am

Set out 11 Apr (Fri) for CDG airport from St Pierre des Corps at 12:01 pm
5264 TGV 2nd Class Coach 8, Seat 66 [PNR: QXBWVI]
to reach CDG airport 11 Apr (Fri) at 01:32 pm

I was a bit worried about the 9 minute gap between the Shuttle,
and the TGV, which would take me to CDG airport. 9 minutes?
What if the Shuttle were late, and/or the two platforms were
spaced widely apart at the other station at Tours, St. Pierre des Corps?
I had chosen to stay close to the other station in Tours, the
Tours Centre. This was closer to the conference venue.
Had I erred in my choice of the accommodation, just to save time on my
commute to and from the conference, every day?
This was the ticket that had caused me some concern at the Paris
Montparnasse station, as I have mentioned in part 2,
87. Tours Tour-2: An Evening in Paris. And More.
The Tours Centre station was relatively empty, leading to some
concern in my mind. Much to my relief, the required train pulled
into the platform, well in time. I jumped aboard, and was amazed
to see this as a mere `Shuttle' train. I was also careful to
choose a seat close to an exit, since I had a mere 9 minutes to
make the all-important connection to the TGV, to get me to the
CDG airport on time.

I started with the washroom. Spacious, and neat and clean.

From the washroom, looking into the cabin.

Wow, this is a second class unreserved shuttle car.

Aren't these coaches fabulous?

Some parts had some raised seating.

We were now about to start.

It had rained a bit outside. The train started on the dot, and
much to my relief, we reached St. Pierre des Corps on the dot.
I got down with my bags, onto a crowded platform, and hunted
around for signage leading to the platform from which I would
board the TGV to CDG airport. I was much relieved to find that it
was the same platform, indeed. The TGV arrived on the dot as
well, and I clambered on, with my luggaage.

88.6 The TGV again, and Memories from my Sep'05 transit through CDG

This time, the TGV was relatively full, with very few empty seats.
Much to my surprise, I noticed a man sitting on the seat allotted to me.
I showed him my ticket politely, and he showed me his.
They had identical seat and coach numbers. I was shocked.
Had I made a mistake, somewhere?
There was an empty window seat in the same coach, and I
hesitantly made my way there.
What if other people got on at other stops, and the train got full?
What if I had no place to sit for the entire journey?
The ticket checker did not come up to me, or ask any question.
I kept mum, as well.
As we neared CDG airport in terms of the designated arrival time,
I relaxed a bit, and turned to my phone. My memories of my last
transit through Paris CDG airport, this time, on the way back,
coming back to India.

As I had written in Part 2
87. Tours Tour-2: An Evening in Paris. And More.
I had taken scans of some pictures from my last transit through CDG.
And that was almost a decade back, nine years, to be precise.
I was planning to spend six months in the US, and had initially
planned the following itinerary:
30 Mar 2005 (Wed) AI 111
BOM-DEL[03:40am-05:30am] DEL-LHR[06:45am-11:30am] LHR-JFK[01:15 pm-02:40 pm]
29 Sep 2005 (Thu) AI 112 (30 Sep LHR-DEL, 01 Oct BOM)
JFK-LHR[07:10pm-07:55am] LHR-DEL[09:45am-10:35pm] DEL-BOM[11:45pm-01:40am]
Our official travel agent had different ideas however, and
planned out the following for me, which I am thankful for, for it
allowed me a chance to travel on perhaps Air India's only huge
grosser at that time, the `Gujju Express', both ways:
30 Mar 2005 (Wed) AI 191
AMD-BOM[03:10am-04:15am] BOM-CDG[07:20am-01:00pm] CDG-EWR[02:30pm-03:25pm]
29 Sep 2005 (Thu) AI 144 (30 Sep CDG-BOM, 01 Oct AMD)
EWR-CDG[09:05pm-10:00am] CDG-BOM[11:30am-11:30pm] BOM-AMD[01:00am-02:05am]
I was based at Mumbai at that time. A chock-a-block B744 (with both
passengers and cargo) simply had to be seen, to be believed.
I have described some memories of the AI 191 experience, as I was
going from India into Paris and onwards, in Part 2, above.
Here, I will describe memories of the return trip, as I was
coming in to Paris from the West, and going to India.

My first memory after going air-side at Newark, is the incredible
sight of an Air India B744 in the old colours, coming in to our gate.

The number of people at the gate told me that this would be
another full flight. And the reaction from some Caucasian people was incredible.
I discovered that I was not the only one who was amazed by the view.
``Look at!''
These words will remain forever engraved in my memory.
I had my Minolta Maxxum 50 Analog SLR with a 28-100mm lens.
After I had taken this click without the flash, so as not to have
a horrid reflection from the glass, which was already reflecting
the lighting inside the terminal building. I looked back to see
many Caucasian people, with flash cameras in their hands,
clicking pictures of VT-EVA `Agra', which would later become the
first Air India B744 to be refurbished with the new interiors and PTVs.
Design trends have pointed to simplicity, and I missed the Hawa Mahal
window design in the otherwise uniquely impressive Air India
new Flying Swan livery.

As we descend gradually, I clicked a picture of the engines.

I could recollect my awe at the grace of this aircraft. I was
sitting in the forward economy section, from where I could have a
grand view of both the engines on this side, and the winglet.

We are coming in to CDG airport now, in some murky weather.

...and we get closer, and closer. A Delta B77E comes into view.
One in the new colours.

A Lufthansa A321 at a gate:

An Alitalia A321 as well. This one is taxing, as we taxi out for take-off.

A small A319, with an even more interesting registration number.
This tells us that this bird is possibly a regular at this airport.
The registration is seen...D-AILY.

During the long taxi, here is a shorter visitor, a CR2, D-ACLW:

...and the last one, before we took off. A Delta B763 in the old colours!

I apologise for the quality of this picture (or rather, the lack of it),
since I missed capturing the front part completely, in my
excitement and hurry to click a picture.

As I woke up from my reverie, I got down from the TGV train
station, and entered the huge connected airport. With this, the
third part of this trip report comes to an end, and we enter the
concluding part. From the following parts:

86. Tours Tour-I: bonjour! No French Leave for France
87. Tours Tour-2: An Evening in Paris. And More.
88. Tours Tour-3: Low Ire in the Loire Valley
(this article itself)

We now go over to Part 4,
89. Tours Tour-4: One, Tours, Three, Four merci, au revoir
Please stay tuned!
Links to my 88 trip reports:
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice to see McDonald restaurant (US origin ) in Loire valley. I am still not used to continental foods. When in Europe depend on fish/chip or good old McDonald.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
Nice to see McDonald restaurant (US origin ) in Loire valley. I am still not used to continental foods. When in Europe depend on fish/chip or good old McDonald.
Ha ha, Sir: yes, US multinational brands have just about conquered the world, especially with respect to fast food. One big boon of this expansion is the more-or-less standardised fare on offer: pun intended. Both the food (with region-specific improvisation, of course), and the cost. US fast food chain are often the most cost-effective eats around in many foreign lands (also often suitable for those with some particular dietary restrictions), when in most cases, the aim is to fill one's belly, without bothering too much about the healthy quotient. In this case, I guess the rhino's dimensions give a telling example of how healthy this fast food is Razz
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ahh, exactly the kind of France I have in mind...the France I want to visit! Admittedly, the Paris trip for me was way too rushed!

Lovely photographs, all around Sir, a delight to the eyes!

A rhino named Hippopotamus Smile

Great shots from the train!

And as you promised in your reply - return trip pictures! The Boeing 747 is a classy plane and I just cannot wait for my 747 flights anymore! Very Happy Very Happy

Looking forward to the rest of your TRs!

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Sir, for the kind words, and the detailed read!
jbalonso777 wrote:
A rhino named Hippopotamus Smile
Oops: I guess I did not make it clear. The McDonald's outlet had this odd white rhino in front of it, but there was another restaurant beside the boulevard at the city centre, named `Hippopotamus'. Both terms are equally applicable for my girth, unfortunately.
jbalonso777 wrote:
The Boeing 747 is a classy plane and I just cannot wait for my 747 flights anymore!
I envy you: you have travelled in the refurbished AI B744. I have never got that lucky. In 2005, none was refurbished. On my last AI B744 trip (circa 2007), I was not lucky enough to get a ride on `Agra' VT-EVA, the only refurbished B744 in the fleet back then, with the PTVs and all the frills.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice TR Sir. A fine blend of non aviation with past aviation

The pics look nice specially the TGV ones and offcourse the sight seeing once. . look forward to the next and the rest !
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
blend of non aviation with past aviation
Nice summary, Sir Smile
ameya wrote:
The pics look nice specially the TGV ones
Oops, I guess I did not make myself that clear. the pictures of the train interiors this time are that of the Shuttle train, and this is their Second Class. I found it rather amazing. I had the 9 minute connection to the TGV from St. Pierre des Corps, and that 5264 TGV took me directly to CDG airport. The experience was almost exactly the same as the inbound, except for the loads, and the same-seat-on-the-ticket shock. Actually, I did not end up taking any pictures inside the TGV this time. The look and feel was exactly the same.
Thanks once again, Sir!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

- great pics from Tours. I love the atmosphere the flags create on the balcony.
- comfy looking shuttle train big windows and uncluttered cabin. I'm sure when it's packed it won't look so inviting tho Laughing
- Thanks for a great 3 part writeup!
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stealthpilot wrote:
I love the atmosphere the flags create on the balcony.
Thank you, stealthpilot: yes, the flags fluttering on the balcony made quite a sight. In fact, a few months after that, as The Wife and I were driving towards Connaught Place, we chanced upon our first sight of the huge Indian Tricolour fluttering there. We were transfixed. So much so that I ended up taking a left turn when I should not have, and was fined by the Police.
Thank you for the kind words: I will try to post the concluding part, in the next few days.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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