Meandered along the shores of the Loire today to the town of Tours. At nearly 1/4 million population, it is a large, fairly bland town with a few exceptions; its quaint Old Town, assorted museums and the jaw-dropping Cathedral of St. Gatien. First built in 340AD, again in 573AD and finally between 1160 and 1547 it is a stunning example of Gothic excess with soaring transepts, lacy stonework, flying buttresses, gargoyles and an exceptional collection of 12th-13th century stained glass windows. In many ways superior even to Chartres.
Following a huge lunch of steamed pig's trotters and a golden beer, we wove off to see the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud on the way home. An enormous pile of stone, it was one of the largest ecclesiastical centers of Europe for centuries. Unusually, it housed hundreds of both nuns and monks and was run by an Abbess until closed in 1793 and converted to a prison by Napoleon. It was used again as a prison for French Resistance fighters by the Nazis. Unbeknownst to me (and probably nearly everyone) four Plantagenets are buried there: Henry II of England and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard the Lionhearted (whom we last met in Austria) and his wife! Apprently Eleanor retired there after Henry's death and probably wanted her son buried near her.
Weary, we followed back roads home and collapsed.
Blah main drag of Tours
Mind-blowing Cathedral of St. Gatien
Windows for a side-altar
High windows lighten the building
Another side altar
Window behind main altar
View from front door
Nuns' cloisters at Fontevraud
Richard the Lionhearted and his wife's tombs
Tombs of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II