On the move again and heading along the Loire, passing the castles of Amboise and Chaumont. We then stopped into Orleans before reaching Paris.
Orleans is an interesting and important town on the Loire River, and the main city in both the Loiret department and also the Centre (Loire valley) region. Situated south of Paris and east of Le Mans, it is a large town with more than 300 000 inhabitants.
Despite its central location in France a significant part of the historical centre of Orleans avoided damage during the Second World War, and the town has an extensive historic centre with many fine buildings to admire.
Because Orléans does not form part of the ‘major sights’ of the Loire Valley to the west or of Burgundy to the east it is perhaps less visited than it would otherwise be: that is unfortunate because it is a very attractive city with lots to see and so
including an extensive historic centre and many buildings of interest and several important musesums and garden.
The city is stunning, and has a historical background to match up to its amount of awesome. Known for a famous battle, won by hero Joan of Arc, We loved being able to walk the streets and just simply marinate in the culture and beauty.
It is quite easy to get your bearings in the centre of Orleans. The principal region of interest to visitors is around the cathedral and along Rue Jeanne d’Arc, the region of the town between here and the Loire river and the Pont Georges V bridge about 500 metres to the south, and also north of Rue Jeanne d’Arc to the Place du Martroi, Rue d’Escures and the Hotel Groslot.
We started exploring in Place du Martroi, which is a large open square surrounded by numerous imposing buildings and a very pleasant introduction to the city. In the centre of the square there is a large 19th century statue of Joan of Arc. The streets near here contain many of the larger shops such as FNAC which are found in most important French cities.
From here we followed Rue d’ Escures towards the east. One of the most splendid houses in Orleans, and open to the public, is the Hotel Groslot in Place de l’Etape, a very ornate and distinguished 19th century red brick building with a fine interior of the period.
We turned south towards the cathedral along the Place de l’Etape where we reached the Orléans Tourist Office and the open area in front of the cathedral. Be sure to visit the tourist office because there are many other interesting sites of note including several churches and other historically important buildings that you are lilely to overlook without a guide map. We didn’t have that much time to really explore.
The Cathedral Sainte-Croix is the most important historic monument in the city, a 17th centre gothic style cathedral with very old origins that has a great deal of impressive stonework ornamentation, in particular the façade which also features three large round windows and two square towers. The stained glass windows inside the cathedral were added in the year 2000. Near the cathedral you can also see a part of the walls that surrounded the original roman town.
After exploring the cathedral, we walked straight along the Rue Jeanne d’Arc, the broad avenue to the front of the cathedral created at the beginning of the 19th century, at least as far as Place Charles de Gaulle. This is not the most beautiful square in the town but it is here that you can see the historic ‘house of Joan of Arc’.
The Place de la Republique is another pleasant square along this road.
We kept turning to look behind us as we walked west along Rue Jeanne d’Arc because the view of the cathedral from here is very beautiful.