Orléans: One of the great Paris day-tripsBy Bryan Pirolli on May 13, 2015
- Orléans is typically a stopover on the way to the region’s many castles.
- A morning can be well spent wandering the small streets trod by Joan of Arc in the 1400s.
- Located on the Loire River, the city is close to some of the region’s many famous chateaux.
The glitz of the Eiffel Tower, the immensity of the Louvre, the crowds of Versailles – if Paris’ diversity becomes too much, an hour’s train ride is all it takes to retreat to the town of Orléans, saved from an English siege in 1429 by Joan of Arc before she was burned and more recently known as the birthplace of Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard.
Located in the UNESCO listed Loire Valley, it’s overlooked by most tourists, making it the perfect escape.
Need to know
Orléans is typically a stopover on the way to the region’s many castles, like the Château de Chambord, or to the wine producers along the Loire River. But the city has plenty of its own to offer.
This quiet reprieve from Paris features pedestrian streets lined with medieval buildings, modern art and fine dining experiences.
Trains leave at least once an hour from the Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris. Arriving in Orléans, all major sites are walkable. You can stop off at the patisserie Les Musardises for energy-giving pastries on your way to the city center.
A morning can be well spent wandering the small streets trod by Joan of Arc in the 1400s.
The house where the young maiden spent time during the siege still stands. Though bombed by Nazis during World War II, it was pieced back together in the 1960s.
It will be impossible to miss the imposing Sainte-Croix Cathedral. Dating back to the 1200s, this impressive gothic structure features windows that tell Joan of Arc’s story.
Just across the street is the Hôtel Groslot a former royal inn for the likes of Catherine de Medici. It still sports wallpaper nailed to the wall from when her son, King Henri III, frequented the mansion in the late 1500s. A municipal building today, travelers can visit to peek at the gorgeous room where locals get married.
Lunchtime à la française
The Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Lièvre Gourmand is a table worth reserving. A cocktail and several amuse bouche in the lounge set you up nicely before heading to the main room, with tables overlooking the Loire River.
Diners can choose three to five of the daily dishes with dessert, or can try a little of everything with their “grignotage” tasting menu.
Chef Tristan Robreau took over from the former owner William Page in 2014, maintaining the restaurant’s Michelin star in 2015. He mixes traditional French dishes with inspirations from Asia and beyond, changing his creations weekly and incorporating tastes from the sea, land, and sky.
“It allows you to keep things interesting for our regular clients,” he says.
His cuisine is playful, with scallop tempura, soft shell crab and crispy beef tongue often making appearances on the menu.
The wine selection is as eclectic as his dishes. “We can have an Anjou or something from Cassis or Toulon or look internationally and have a Chardonnay from Australia of South Africa,” he says. “We don’t restrict ourselves to our terroir.”
Wine is available by the glass, bottle, or you can choose four selected pairings with your dishes. A meal here can easily last three hours.
Located on the Loire River, the city is close to some of the region’s many famous chateaux.
One of the closest is the 12th century Château de Meung-sur-Loire, an 11-minute train ride, followed by a short walk from the station. Taxis are also available to and from the Orléans city center.
Joan of Arc conquered the castle, which the English had turned into a fortress. Opening hours vary depending on the month.
If history is a low priority, the FRAC Center offers contemporary art and architecture, while the Beaux Arts museum offers classic art including the second-largest collection of pastels in France after the Louvre.
The wine bar “ver di vin” should also delay your trip back to Paris by a glass or two.
Former sommelier at Guy Savoy in Paris, Sabine Brochard, selects and serves local wines Tuesday to Saturday from 6 p.m. onwards.
The last train back to Paris is generally just after 10 p.m., so there’s no rush.
FRAC Center; 88 rue du Colombier; closed Monday and Tuesday
Joan of Arc House; 3 Place de Gaulle; closed Mondays
Hôtel Groslot; 1 Place de l’Etape; closed Sunday
Musée des Beaux-Arts; 1 rue Fernand Rabier; closed Monday
Sainte-Croix Cathedral; Place Sainte-Croix
Book train tickets on and print them at the station’s automated kiosk: Gare d’Austerlitz; 85 Quai d’Austerlitz;
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