Orléans (pics), namesake for that lovely US city at the mouth of the Mississippi River, marks the eastern end of the Loire Valley. Naturally, it is located along the banks of the Loire River and is only about 110 km southwest of Paris.
Orléans has a very lovely historical center and has (go figure) one of France’s most flamboyant Gothic cathedrals, the 13th century Cathédrale Ste-Croix. Orléans’ place in history was really set in 1429 when the young peasant girl, Joan of Arc rallied the armies of Charles VII to stage a rout of the invading English forces, a turning point in the Hundred Years War. All around town you will find plaques and monuments dedicated to her, most notably the statue in the middle of Place du Martroi.
If you had been a king or someone with noble standing in 15th century France, you would have wanted to have a nice home in the Loire Valley (pics). This part of France was very fertile and yielded some of the best grapes in the world as well as a variety of vegetables. The valley has a moderate climate, there was ample game for hunting and the Loire River was there to provide transportation for whatever could not be had locally. The result is a concentration of lovely châteaux, the vast majority of which are still privately owned while, fortunately for us, others are open to the public to gawk at.
The Loire Valley is located along the middle stretch of the Loire River in central and western France. It is a fertile area that is home to many of France’s most well known wine regions. It is also home to a staggering collection of mostly 15th and 16th century châteaux, depending upon which source you consult, there are some 300 of these beauties located here.