In Europe, easter used to be celebrated for the whole week after the ressurection of Jesus Christ. Nowadays only the monday remains as a holiday in most of the European country, including France. This confused me at the beginning because in Indonesia our holiday is the Good Friday – the day Jesus died.
For easter this year, we visited one of our best friends, Afifa. We did our study together in Grenoble and now she lives in Orléans. Orléans is the capital of the Loiret department and located in the Centre-Val de la Loire region. It is located in the southwest of Paris and about 575km north west from Grenoble. You probably are familiar with the city of New Orleans in the United States which is indeed named after the Duke of Orléans.
Orléans is not the easiest city to reach from Grenoble. Although it has more or less the same distance with Paris–Grenoble, going there by train is another story. Since the train network in France is centered in Paris, we had no choice but to pass through Paris.
For us, the most convinient schedule was to take a night train that left Grenoble at 9.30pm before changed in Chambery at almost midnight. From Chambery the night train had several sleeping wagons and took about 6 hours to arrive in Paris – 3 hours by high speed train from Grenoble to Paris. One wagon has several “rooms” with 6 couches inside. This was a general sleeping train model in Europe. The train company provided us with a pillow, a blanket, a water bottle and a sleeping kit – which is super useful. I personally don’t have any sleeping problem and can sleep anywhere, anytime. I guess it is a blessing. We arrived saturday at around 6am in Paris – gare d’Austerlitz. We took our coffee, croissants, and pain au chocolat before continued with another regional train that brought us to Orléans. We arrived in Orléans at around 8am. It was grey and rainy.
Orléans, Ancient capital and Jeanne d’Arc.
Orléans’ weather is more humid than Grenoble. Afifa picked us at the train station before taking us to her place. We rested a little bit before heading to the city. It was raining a bit but we could see the sun peeked behind the clouds. She told us that we were lucky. It had been raining a lot before we came. It’s probably normal because we are moving from winter to spring.
Speaking about Orléans is speaking about the history of France. In the middle age, Orléans is one of the richest cities in France together with Rouen and Paris. With its strategic location in the center of France, Orleans could have been the capital of the country. Around the 6th century, Orléans was the capital of France, interchanging with several other cities. Its location with the Loire river running through the city make Orléans one of the suitable candidate for the position. However it was lost to Paris due to multiple reasons.
Of course its history would be too long to be written here, and I’m not the best source either. However, we cannot avoid talking about the hundred years war or la guerre de Cent ans. These conflicts happened in the middle ages period from 1337 to 1453 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France. It was of course the classic battle of power and gold.
In 1428 Orléans was occupied by England, and if it wasn’t for Jeanne d’Arc, then perhaps the city would have different history. The story of Jeanne d’Arc is fascinating. Born in the era where female soldier was uncommon, Jeanne d’Arc always heard voices inside her head to put on armor and fight. She was able to convince the King of Orléans in 1429, led an army and freed the city of Orléans. Unfortunately, born in the era where witchery was still a thing, Jeanne was convicted a witch by the royal priests. She was sold to England in 1430 and was burnt to death. The story of Jeanne d’arc marked the beginning of the end of the hundred years war.
Her importance in Orléans is displayed by a standing statue of her at the heart of Place Martroi, the center of the city. The city center is about 10 minutes walking form the train station. The house where she lived is also maintained as a patrimony. Around the city center we can also found the Cathedrale that is dedicated to Sainte Croix. This gothic catholic church is served until now.
Another important building is the Hotel Groslot, built in the renaissance from 1530 to 1545. This was part of another important conflict in France, the religion war between the Catholic and the Protestant. Several key persons had stayed in this hotel such as the Queen mother, Catherine de Médicis and his son, King Charles IX. The politic decision of the Queen mother to wed her daughter to a protestant prince was the source of the conflict that resulted in the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre where Protestants were killed. In 1738 the hotel was bought by the municipality.
From here we walked to the Loire river side. Alot of people were outside although it was quite chilly.
Chateaux de la Loire
Visiting this region would not be complete without visiting Les Châteaux de la Loire. Before coming to Orléans we booked a car but sadly the rental service didn’t give us any. It was a long story. Since Philippe was the only one who has driving license, we booked the car on his name. Worst part was the rental company only accept a bank card with the same name with the driver, which apparently Philippe’s card didn’t work. Our excitement was turned off.
We could go to Blois – where one of the castle is – by train but we didn’t know how to go to the other castle. With some luck, we found this shuttle bus that actually run around the castles that we wanted to visit. Initally this bus only ran starting from the 1st April, but somehow, maybe because it was easter, they started early. The thing is with some road work happening, there was not much train that passed to Blois. We didn’t have any choice but to wake up at 5am in the morning. First, it was because the train was at 7am, and second because it was the day of the daylight saving – one hour sleep less.
Chateaux de la Loire are the castles that are part of UNESCO world heritage sites. During the medieval time, many Kings and Dukes built their castle around the Loire valley. The castles that we wanted visited were Blois, Chambord, and Cheverny. They are the closest from Orléans.
Arriving at Blois we roamed around the city because it was too early and the castle was not yet open. We then started by taking the shuttle bus from the bus station just in front off the train station. The shuttle bus cost us 6€ for the whole day and you can hop on and hop off everytime you want.
First stop was Chambord. The entrance fee was 11€, but if you took the shuttle bus they gave you discount of 0.5€; better than nothing. The castle of Chambord was built by the King François I in 1519. Five powers were playing a game of throne at the time: France, Italie, England, Ottoman, and the Charles Quint. For this castle, the young King wanted to keep a mediaval fortress with an Italian renaissance touch with four big towers on the side making a rectangular fortress.
The dungeon is located at the north center of the fort with a splendid double stairs that serve the three floors of the castle. This castle is inside the national domain of Chambord of 5440 hectares with parcs, hunting place, and some walking paths. We didn’t have too much time to visit the area and needed to hop on the bus. Since we arrived early, there was not too much people and by the time we were finished, people started to come.
We continued our visit to the second castle which is also my favorite, le Château de Cheverny. The entrance fee was 10.5€ for the casle and the garden, and 15€ if you visisted also the secrets of Marlinspike hall. Of course I took the later. The same discount was applied here with the shuttle bus. The Cheverny castle was opened for public in 1922. This castle is owned by the Hurault family and the descendents are still living there until now. On the outside of the castle we can visit the jardin des apprentis or the apprentice garden that link the castle with the orangerie.
We also visited the vegetable garden. Due to the weather that was still quite cold, we couldn’t see a lott of stuff here. But, we visited the chenils or the doghouse with a lot of french tricolour hounds. They were cute but smell.
The best part was the secrets of Marlinspike Hall or the Tintin museum. If you were a fan of this comic character, you should come here! Indeed, Château de Cheverny is the inspiration for the Marlinspike hall – Château de Moulinsart – which is Captain Haddock’s country house. Inside the museum, we experienced the room of Tintin, Professor Calculus’ laboratory, the fight with pirates from the red sea sharks, and more. Don’t forget the twin Thomson and Thompson, and of course Bianca Castafiore!
The domain of Cheverny is also famous for their grapes and therefore their wine products. Finished with Cheverny we continued our visit to the Château de Beauregard. It was not in our plan, but we decided to go anyway. This castle was the hunting lodge of King François I. Now, the main attraction of the castle is the portrait gallery that collect 327 portraits of the important people of French history. The entrance fee was quite expensive in our opinion with 12.5€ for the castle and the parc. The castle itself is not as immense as the other castle the we visited so far. However, it keeps a very interesting detail on the history. Take a guided visit to discover all the important persons displayed in the gallery and their role during the history.
Finally we headed back to Blois and visited the castle. The entrance fee was 10€. The royal castle of Blois is interesting since it represents four different architectural styles: the gothic medieval castle constructed by the Count of Blois in the 10th century; the François I wing that represents the Renaissance; the Flamboyant Louis XII wing constructed with stone bricks; and finally the Gaston d’Orléans wing with its classicisme.
We couldn’t visit the castle for too long since it was already quite late. Fortuntely we could experience the music performance inside the castle where the group played with the instrument used during the medieval era.
Finished with the castles we took our train back to Orléans.
Last day in Orléans we decided to visit the Parc Floral. It was raining quite hard but we didn’t want to stay at home. So we went to the tram station and took the tram. Since it was holiday there was less tram running. We arrived at the entrance, wet and cold. The cashier recommended us to go directly to the butterfly house to warm ourselves. The entrance fee to this flower garden was 6€. We headed directly to the butterfly house. It was amazing, we could see different color of butterflies flying around us and lot of tropical plants and orchids were there as well. We spent about 1 hour inside.
By the time we finished, the rain had stopped. We went outside. We couldn’t see a lot of flowers because either they hadn’t bloomed yet or they were washed by the rain. The Loiret river run through this garden that hosts a lot of animals. We could see all of them and it was amazing.
It was finally time to leave Orléans. We were grateful for Afifa’s hospitality and were sad not to be able to eat her food again for a while. I am writing this and dreaming of her rice pudding.
- A lot of wikipedia page
- A lot of castle flyers
- Afifa’s story