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La Guinguette

I must admit there were a few contenders for favourite spot here in Tours. Even the beach with the speedo-wearing, flute-playing sculptor had its charms. But first place goes to: La P’tite en Barque, or la guinguette as it’s known to the locals.

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La guinguette gets top spot not simply because it was where I spent most of my first few weeks in Tours but also because it’s where I met the majority of my friends. That first fortnight, when we didn’t have to worry about classes or our ever-dwindling bank balances, I could almost guarantee that at any time of day I would be able to find a friendly face there. I even started to view la guinguette like a second home. For the first time in my life I’m living completely by myself and it got lonely at first.

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The face they used to project onto the tree in the middle of la guinguette.

The face they used to project onto the tree in the middle of la guinguette.

Aside from being an ideal place to meet up with friends, la guinguette is a pretty unique place in general. I’ve never come across anywhere quite like it, although, after speaking to some of the regulars here, I have found out that there are in fact guinguettes all over France.

Guinguette literally means open air café or dance hall and this is exactly how you would describe my guinguette: an outdoor bar on the banks of the Loire with a live band playing pretty much throughout the day and accompanying pretty much any kind of dancing you can imagine. I’m talking a woman solo snake dancing amongst a mass of waltzing couples. It was pretty spectacular to watch. And as if it couldn’t get any better, there used to be fire-throwers performing under the bridge here.

Dance performance at la guinguette.

Dance performance at la guinguette.

The fire-throwers under the bridge.

The fire-throwers under the bridge.

La guinguette is also a place that I feel that the whole community benefits from where anything could happen. The day of the Tours half marathon, it marked the finish line with food stalls for all the runners. This day was a particular success in my opinion as I managed to get myself some free paella– fully securing its title as my favourite place in Tours.

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Of course this place has had its faults, this is where I was first introduced to the French phenomenon of unisex toilets, where the urinals are easily mistaken for taps by some (not me, I swear).

Sadly it’s now closed for winter and I do feel that Tours has lost the diamond in its crown. As I am only here until December, it seems my favourite place is lost to me forever. I am currently on a quest to find a new spot – I have my eye on a coffee shop, which has an outstanding playlist and puts whipped cream on EVERYTHING.

All credit to Paola Tisi and Callum Sheehan for the photos. I don’t actually know how I failed to take any of my own.

Lucy Hibbitt – Tours, France

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