Remembering the Lively Town of Tours

In 1979, when I was twenty-one, I traveled abroad and worked as an au pair for a wealthy family in the Loire Valley. The small town of Songais where I lived was charming, but I was also drawn to the nearby larger town of Tours. Shortly after my arrival, Madame and I drove to Tours and she helped me sign up for classes at the Université François Rablelais. I had lots of questions about the city, so on the way back to the car, she paused at a tourist office and obtained a brochure detailing some of the highlights of Tours. Here is an excerpt from my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley.

“This pamphlet is written in English, and it will give you some additional information about Tours. It really is a remarkable city.”

“Thank you. I can’t wait to look at it.”

I opened the brochure, studied the photographs, and read all the information twice

a3Tours is located in the central part of France in the Loire Valley between the Atlantic Ocean and the town of Orléans with a population of about 140,000 people. It boasts some of the finest wines in the world and many people believe the “purest” French in all of France is spoken in this vivacious city. The magnificent Saint-Pierre-des-Corps train station, built in 1898 of iron, stone and glass, the 13th-century gothic Cathédrale Saint-Gatien, and the municipal botanical gardens are all huge tourist attractions. Referred to as “the Garden of France,” a person can be transported back in time by visiting its lovely parks and historic quarters, especially la Place Plumereau. Often referred to as Old Town, la Place Plumereau is known for its 15th-century medieval style houses in a square with open-air cafés, art galleries and eclectic boutiques. Tours also has a lively nightlife thanks to the large student population.

Tapping the pamphlet against my lower lip, I pondered the differences between a larger, more exciting city versus a smaller, quaint rural town. Both of them appealed to me on different levels. Songais offered me the opportunity to connect with the Dubois’s family, their relations, and townspeople on a personal level. Tours, on the other hand, presented prospects for friendships and romance while I studied French at the university.

My mouth slid into a subtle smile. I didn’t have to choose. I could have both. The possibilities were endless.”


  1. Christoph Fischer says:

    Tours looks lovely. Reminds me of some great tours of the Rhine valley I did in my youth.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Chris Freed says:

    I majored in the Crusades/medieval history era for my MA. Great stuff, Linda!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Chris. How wonderful that you had the opportunity to study history. The Medieval period has always intrigued me as well, more so after I visited the Loire Valley.

  3. Stephany says:

    What an excellent experience. I’ve never been to France but it’s on my bucket list. Beautiful picture–thanks for sharing.

  4. Linda, your blog is so beautiful. I love France & have such incredible memories of traveling there. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. Incredible story, and, yes, it does look like an enchanting place!

  6. I admire people who set out on an adventure on their own. I love to travel but I don’t like to travel alone. Unfortunately, the older I get the less friends have the time to travel with me (they are all getting married and having kids).

    Donna from Girl Who Reads

    • Hi, Donna. Thanks so much for stopping by. I don’t like to travel alone either, as a matter of fact, I’m still surprised I found the nerve to travel to France at such a young age back in 1979. Thank goodness I have my husband (and buddy) to go with me now. Hopefully, you’ll find a companion too 🙂

  7. Gretchen says:

    Hello, I recently began reading your book because I also lived in a small town in the Loire, Pontlevoy, and traveled frequently to Tours during that time. Usually, one needs to zoom in quite a bit to find Pontlevoy on a map, however I am having trouble locating Songais. I will be returning to the Loire this year to visit friends and would love to make Songais one of our stops to see the chateau you spoke of. Can you tell me more precisely where it is located?

    • Thank you for commenting on my blog, Gretchen. It was interesting to read that you’ve visited the Loire Valley and, Tours, in particular. Isn’t that a great spot?

      I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no town of Songais in the Loire Valley. As I state in my author’s notes, out of respect for the family and others, I changed the names of everyone I met in France. I also changed the name of the town I lived in as an au pair. Songais is a composite of municipalities I visited in the Loire region. I did, however, try to keep the descriptions of places and sights in Tours as accurate as possible.

      Can I ask a favor? If you haven’t done so already, will you please write a quick review at when you finish reading my memoir?

      All the best to you,

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