In 1974 the good people of La Ville-aux-Dames near to the city of Tours in France decided [very appropriately] to give only women’s names to their streets and roads. I loved finding La Ville-aux-Dames [the town of women] but didn’t expect the town to have taken the female theme to such amazing heights. Even on the lovely campsite, Les Acacias in La Ville-aux-Dames all the chalets are named after women; you can stay in Edith Piaf, Maria Callas and others. Taking a stroll around the local area I found not only are the roads named after women, the local schools are too; as well as Avenue Jeanne d’Arc, Square Mary Queen of Scots and Rue Colette I found École élémentaire Marie Curie. Some names were less well known to me and had me checking them out; Gabrielle d’Estrées advised Henry IV and had three children by him and I learnt that Anna de Noailles wrote three novels and poetry.
The mural in the photograph above is on one of the local schools and has images of nine French women; Marie Curie, George Sands, Colette, Lucie Aubrac [history teacher and resistance member] and Berthe Monsit [impressionist painter] and others. I was delighted to think that all the children who attend this school will know who these women are and what they achieved, adding a bit of balance to the male-dominated history my own schooling involved. Just walking around the streets was an education.
The name is testimony to the abbey for nuns that was here and it is said the name La Ville-aux-Dames comes from the old name for the area, Villa Dominarum, the Latin for ladies town. Surrounded by excellent agricultural land the local people produced milk for Tours and the inhabitants became known as ‘Caillons’ after their curd cheese. In November La Ville-aux-Dames’ Marche des Caillons, a sponsored walk, attracts over 400 people. Today the inhabitants of La Ville-aux-Dames call themselves Gynepolitains from the Greek words for women and town.
The campsite proved to be fantastic for visiting the lovely city of Tours. On the confluence of the Rivers Loire and Cher we had no expectations of this city and so its beauty and charm was a surprise. We cycled the seven kilometres in to Tours along the Loire cycle route and chaining up the bikes pottered around fairly aimlessly. We knew of no ‘must see’ sight so we were free to just wander and admire with no pressure.
Starting at the cathedral we had coffee and cake in a lovely cafe and then followed lively streets to the old city. Here there are pretty squares surrounded by 15th century timber-framed houses with amazing narrow extensions on the back for staircases; these looked very Disney-esque and heath robinson.
In the big market hall we explored the lovely stalls and bought fresh vegetables and local cheese and yogurt for our evening meal. We ate at a cheap and cheerful burger and kebab cafe in a lively square and finished up with sweet peppermint tea. Walking back to our bikes by the River Loire I fell in love with the elegant fountain [below] in the Place Anatole in front of the library.