France 2019: Around Orléans

As a continuation of my previous post and gallery of the Aeroscopia Museum in Toulouse, I’d like to share a few pictures from the first stop my friend and I made when we visited France. While we flew directly to Paris, we did not spend any time there on this leg of the trip. The plan was to get our rental car at the airport and hit the road south to Marseille. We had some destinations along the way that we both agreed to make a stop at but overall we did not stick to a regular schedule, we just went with what we decided to do in the heat of the moment. Shortly after hitting the road, all that travel caught up to us though and we set our GPS to Orléans to spend the night.

This was the very first picture I took in France after we stopped in Orléans (well, I guess you could count my picture of the Eiffel Tower from the airplane window but I won’t). It’s nothing fancy, just the view from my room’s balcony at the Hotel Mercure overlooking the Loire River. It looks a bit depressing, but to be fair it was overcast all day with some rain and it was late November with fall starting to set in. The pictures on Google Maps during the summer look much better.

As we drove into the town, we noticed that there was a massive Gothic cathedral not too far from the hotel we were staying at. So we decided to take a stroll around the core of the city and went to visit it. The Orleans Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross of Orléans) is generally acknowledged to be well over 700 years old, though there have been many reconstructions over time due to damage during wars and structural issues. The site where it sits has been designated for a church as early as 375 BC and prior incarnations of the church existed on the same spot. When we eventually made it to Notre-Dame in Paris many days later, my first thought was that it seemed smaller than the Orléans Cathedral, though my friend disagreed. A quick wiki check on my phone showed that indeed I was correct. Notre-Dame sits at a daunting 226’ tall at the peak of the towers and an even 300’ at the spire prior to its partial destruction in the fire of 2019. But it is in fact overshadowed by the Orleans Cathedral which sits at a massive 289’ tall at the towers and a dizzying 374’ at the top of the spire.

Both inside and out, the cathedral is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. With such a massive building made of stone and little material with noise suppression, you could hear your own footsteps echo as you wandered throughout it.

Colossal pillars and ornate stained glass windows are at every turn and can make you feel fairly small.

Even during daytime, the lighting gives an eerie atmosphere to certain corners of the cathedral. Pictured above is the Altar of the Virgin with some seriously eerie vibes.

My photo does not do this painting justice at all. This piece was absolutely massive, if I recall it was around 20’ wide and 30’ or so tall.

What massive Gothic cathedral would be complete without a massive pipe organ? The exquisite instrument that sits above was installed in 1846 by world renowned organ builder Cavaillé-Coll.

Once we finished wandering inside the cathedral, we decided to continue walking around town a bit. I recall I took this shot simply because around this time it came back to me just how much I appreciate and love European style towns. The historic style resonates with me rather than modern strip malls, office buildings and suburban houses with white picket fences. I love the quaint little shops in the heart of the town over big box stores and massive parking lots. While France is quite modern, it can still feel like Europe hundreds of years ago due to the architecture styling alone.

Perhaps this picture captures the essence a bit better. Cobblestone roads with tram tracks running along them and the massive Gothic cathedral in the distance. I have no issues with western metropolises either though, but sometimes it’s nice to get out of the urban jungle made of glass and concrete skyscrapers.

During our stroll, we stumbled upon the Joan of Arc Center. At first we thought, due to its old style, this may have been her birth place (since neither of us are really up with our French history) but it’s not. It’s a museum that houses all sorts of cultural relics and text regarding her life and times. She was in Orléans plenty of times and visited the cathedral and was housed in a place similar to this building during the Siege of Orléans, but she was actually born in a smaller village known then as Domrémy.

As I had mentioned, it was late November when we visited and in a town square not far from the cathedral, a sort of Christmas fair and market was in the process of being set up. It would have been great to see this in the midst of December, almost something out of a fairy tale given the setting. However, we had to hit the road the next morning to make sure we make all of our stops. Spending just an evening wandering around Orleans was a great first night in France and after less than a day I was already loving it there. That’s all for now, I’ve got plenty of more pictures from this trip so more galleries will follow at a later date.

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