What’s Old is New Again
Orléans, the capital of the Loiret region in the heart of the Loire Valley, is just an hour away from Paris by train. Surrounded by chateaux and wineries, it's the picture of elegance and residents with savoir-faire. Back in 1429, a local peasant girl named Joan of Arc, took this gut instinct “to know what's right” and helps her country.
Thanks to "Divine guidance," Joan of Arc led the French army to several victories during the Hundred Years' War, leading to the coronation of King Charles VII. Ultimately captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English, she was tried by an ecclesiastical court and burned at the stake at the ripe age of 19. Today, this Maid of Orléans is considered a national heroine of France and is a Catholic saint.
Visitors to Orléans can find reminders of Joan everywhere, including the Gothic Cathédrale Ste-Croix, where two golden leopards protect her pedestal. One of the biggest churches in France, the Huguenots burned it in 1568. The Rebuilding began with Henry IV in 1601 and continued all the way to 1829. Want to see how the young maid lived? Although a scale reproduction (the original was destroyed by fire in 1940), the Joan of Arc Museum reconstructs her life story and dedicates an entire floor to the yearly celebration the city holds every May 8th.
The battling history of Orléans continued as World War II swept through France. The city was badly damaged, however the historic old town was largely unharmed. The central feature of Orléans old town is the spacious Place du Martroi. In the sixth century there was a cemetery here, hence the name Martroi (originally Martyretum). The 1855 equestrian statue of Joan of Arc is by Foyatier.
To gain a better appreciation for the city of Orléans, take a self guided tour. The local tourist office can set you up with a brochure entitled, "The Orléans Architectural and Historical Trail" for a nominal fee. The brochure highlights 43 sites (more than you thought there'd be?).
On the list, a visit to Hotel Groslot. This Renaissance mansion was originally built in 1550 and later embellished in the 19th century. The building served as the town hall from the French Revolution through to the 1970's. Today, marriage ceremonies are still performed here – if you're interested.
You could then take photographs over at the Parc Floral de la Source, a French garden in the La Source area of town. It's one of the most visited sights in all of the Loire Valley and has been awarded the status of Jardins remarquables" by the French Ministry of Culture.
Your tour of remarkable gardens only begins here. With your France Rail Pass you'll journey to the incredible chateaux of the Loire Valley.
There's a new Orléans – one that welcomes visitors to its historical and turbulent past. With a sweeping arc toward the future.
To learn more about preparing your trip to France, visit Atout France by clicking here if you’re a US resident or here if you’re a Canadian resident
Contributed by: Candice, Search Engine Marketing Manager, has traveled on France’s high-speed train lines – one of the most exciting experiences, EVER!