After our most enjoyable visit to Château de Cheverny, we headed for Orléans, a city I had been wanting to visit for a very long time and, having found an excellent motorhome aire only 5 km west at La Chapelle-St-Mesmin, we bought a 48 hour ticket and got on our bikes for a very pleasant ride along the river Loire into the city.
Our first stop was Place du Martroi, where we took some time to admire the statue of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), also known as The Maid of Orléans, as one cannot come to this city without paying his/her respects to this very brave young peasant lady who, after claiming having had a vision of Archangel Michael, had a pivotal role in turning the tables against the English towards the end of the 100-year-war with the intention of placing Charles VII on the throne, achieving great victories for the French and driving the English out of the city of Orléans and the Loire Valley in early May 1429, as well as subsequently recapturing other cities like Auxerre, Reims and Troyes. However, she was eventually captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English, who moved her to Rouen, put her on trial for heresy and witchcraft and, after hugely unfair and biased proceedings, she was sentenced to death and burnt at the stake on 30th May 1431. After her death, her remains were burnt twice more to prevent people taking relics and her ashes were thrown into the river Seine at Rouen. One can only assume that the powers that be were utterly terrified of her influence and might when they went to such measures to get rid of her body. Not bad for a 19-year-old peasant girl. I have always admired strong, brave women and they don’t come any more courageous than Jean d’Arc, who triumphed in a world ruled by men, dressed like them and fought alongside them. I really take my hat off to her. She was beatified in1909 and canonised in 1920 by Pope Benedit XV and I suspect she will forever remain a heroine of France.
From Place de Martroi, we rode down the impressive Rue Jeanne d’Arc towards Place Set-Croix and the imposing and majestic 13th century Ste-Croix Cathedral, a sight to behold! I simply loved the geometry of the road and the Cathedral itself and had to get off my bike in order to photograph the perfect symmetry of the area. Inside, we found more artistic wonders and historical mementos and, as always, it was the magnificent stained-glass windows that came up trumps, many of them depicting Joan of Arc’s life and achievements.
And it was moving to find these to plaques opposite each other in memory of the British and American soldiers who gave their lives during WW1 and WW2 fighting for our freedom.
Opposite the Cathedral is the Museum of Fine Art (Musée des Beaux-Arts), where we spent nearly 2 hours admiring the many exquisite Italian, Dutch, Flemish, French and Spanish paintings, including Velázquez, Bruegel and Coreggio. This is simply a must when visiting Orléans.
I was also taken by the façade of Hôtel Groslot, a 15th century private mansion used as town hall during the Revolution, but there were many other beautiful buildings to catch our eye, some medieval half-timbered and some of a more modern era, but all wonderful.
More beautiful surprises on our ride back to the river.
And we even found a paddle steamer! How cool is that? It did remind me of my trip down the Mississippi from New Orleans back in 1991! What a treat!
We truly loved ur visit to Orléans and will be back for a longer stay in future to explore this fine city further and in more detail. I might even get a ride on one of those paddle steamers!!!!