The capital of the Centre region and of the Loiret department, an hour from Paris, is the city of Orléans. With the Loire river and two canals - the canal d'Orléans and the canal de Briare which boasts the longest canal-bridge in the world - Orléans is set in the exceptionally beautiful landscape of Loire Valley, a Unesco-protected site. From Chalonnes-sur-Loire to Sully-sur-Loire, this 260 km area encompasses Angers, Saumur, Chinon, Tours, Amboise, Blois, Chambord and, of course, Orléans. Take the opportunity to discover this unparalleled heritage: travel to Orléans, the symbolic home town of that most adventurous of saints, Joan of Arc.
At the half-timbered Joan of Arc House you'll learn all about the fate of this heroine who came from Orléans. In the year 1412, during the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc was born. At the age of 12, she had a calling from God to liberate France from both the English and Burgundians, and to crown the Dauphin Charles King of France in Reims. In 1429, the "maid of Orléans" freed Orléans, the then capital of France, from oppression, and Charles VII was crowned king. Captured in 1430, Joan of Arc was finally judged a heretic and was burned at the stake by the English in 1431, in Rouen. Ever since, she has been an icon of bravery and freedom in Europe, and the people of Orléans pay tribute to her between the 29th April and the 8th May during the Fêtes Johanniques in Orléans. This medieval festival is complemented by a a stunning sound and light show in front of the Gothic Cathedral Sainte Croix and also boasts the second largest military parade in France.
For insight into the cultural past of this city, a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Orléans, is an absolute must. The collection is one of the best in France, and includes bronzes by Maillol and Rodin, paintings by Velasquez and Correggio as well as a particularly noteworthy collection of pastels.
Thirsty for nature? Orléans will get down on one knee and offer it to you in a bouquet. The Parc floral de la Source has a collection of themed gardens for you to frolick in at your leisure. Here, armed with your divining rod, you will find the mysterious source of the Loiret, after which the department is named. Formerly the hunting ground and parkland of the French nobility for several centuries, the Forest of Orléans, is the largest forest in France (34500 hectares). You can gambol like spring lambs along the edge of the Loire, or cycle for miles, following the Loire by bike itinerary. The Loire châteaux are just waiting to be discovered: visit the home of the Dukes of Sully at the Château de Sully-sur-Loire (50 mn), or the Château de Chateauneuf-sur-Loire (30 minutes away) which houses the Loire Maritime Museum. The Festival of the Loire in autumn is a fun 5 day event which sees hundreds of boats and sailors gather at the port in Orléans.
From Orléans you have the whole Centre region at your fingertips, don't let it slip through your fingers...
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