ORLEANS, FRANCE

ORLEANS, FRANCE
It is easy to get to Orleans from Paris. There are several direct trains daily, going from Gare D’Austerlitz; the trip takes a bit more than an hour, and the roundtrip price is 18-20 euros. It is easy to do it in one day. You may walk around for 2-3 hours, have lunch and go back. If you wish to visit all the museums, you need a full day. Once you emerge from the train station, you see many beautiful buildings and very clear street signs, which list all the main attractions, and conveniently point you to the nearest public toilets. Orleans is famous as the home of Joan of Arc, whose 600th anniversary was celebrated last year. You can see Jeanne D’Arc monument in the central square, as well as cafes, restaurants, memorable places, signs and medallions in the ancient pavement, all dedicated to the Maid of Orleans. I was always fascinated by her story. Born circa 1412, she was of peasant origin. As a very young girl, she claimed to have heard divine voices which persuaded her to head the army which was to free her land from the English invaders during the Hundred-Year-War, and eventually to help crown King Charles VII. She did all that, but the Burgundians then sold her to the English, who promptly declared her a heretic and burned her in 1431. Now she is revered as a saint. A newly restored house in the city center declares that it was her birthplace.
Saint Crois cathedral is easily seen from anywhere in town. It was begun in the thirteenth century, destroyed during the following centuries, restored in the seventeenth century. It is huge and very beautiful. When seen from a side street, it reminds one irresistibly of Notre-Dame de Paris. Once you manage to get nearer, you can see that it is vast, and it combines various architectural styles with its multiple towers, stain-glass windows, and vast inside space. Standing inside, you can imagine how the whole town population could find refuge in this building.
Though carefully preserved in its original state, the small town possesses all the modern conveniences and attractions. There is a nice long shopping street with all the familiar brand names on it, and many boutiques and souvenir shops are tucked into side streets. In the many brasseries all around town, you may find some tasty pastries and sweets which are special for this region. Walking along the winding streets, you will find yourself near the Loire River and enjoy the magnificent views, with the old lovely buildings and beautiful bridges spanning the river. Orleans is definitely worth a visit.
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