I seem to have found a rhythm here in Tours. The days are filled with what you might expect: French class, bread and cheese, and the occasional kîr after classes. My friends (American and otherwise) and I have even found our own French version of Central Perk, a coffee shop where we discuss conjugations, crêpes, and coffee as well as read our French versions of Harry Potter, Sex and the City, and Elle magazine. I myself have returned to J.K. Rowling’s first book only to learn that Hogwarts is called Poudlard in France. Only time will tell if I can adjust to this dramatic shift.
But what happens at nighttime? What goes down after I have finished my homework and eaten dinner with my adopted French family, Les Chaigne? Despite a relatively small size of approximately 130,000 inhabitants, Tours boasts a dynamic nightlife. Every night during the week, including Sunday, numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs open themselves up to French and foreign customers alike.
The hub of activity for l’Institut hovers around La Guinguette, a bar and music venue lying under the stars and seated directly next to the Loire. Lit with luminescent colored blubs that hang from ancient trees, the rainbow glow sets an idyllic stage for an evening filled with good friends and fine wine. There’s even a man with a goat. And behind the mélange of French, Russian, English, Japanese, German, and Spanish spoken among us, a French band plays a music that can only be described as new age banjo; it’s exceptionally catchy. I’m not lying. No, seriously, it is. You’ll have to take my word for it.
As the moon rises, the students part their separate ways depending on their mood for the evening. One night, the salsa club may entice you to swing your hips, and the next, a bar called B52 may dare you to try one of their specialties that you drink while it’s on fire. Or perhaps you would prefer to simply sit by the Loire and watch the water, vibrating with moonbeams, float on by. If you do, just remember that La Guinguette loves to overcharge you.