Orléans, fine eating and a boat ride on the Loire

One of the cities you most certainly can’t skip when seeing the Loire Valley castles is Orléans, where the historical figure of Joan of Arc shines bright, but where wine and food have also become two of the city’s big attractions.

Boat ride on the Loire River

A visit to Orléans must include a ride on a traditional barge on the Loire River. My tour, complete with Spanish-speaking guide, left the Chatelet Quay and taught me a lot about sailing this river, which is now on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Every two years in September the Loire Festival is held, gathering more than 200 riverboats, including guests from other European countries.

Au Bord de la Loire
14 Quai du Chatelet, Orléans

Le Bateau Lavoir restaurant

As soon as I reached the Châtelet Quay on the banks of the Loire, I took a shine to the idea of eating on one of the restaurant boats moored across from the Place de la Loire. And I did, at Le Bateau Lavoir, where I enjoyed a pleasant meal on the deck of a typical riverboat that regularly doubles as an event venue.

Le Bâteau Lavoir (External link)
1 Place du Châtelet, Orléans

Stroll through the historic centre and Rue de Bourgogne

During the mandatory walk through the historic section of Orléans, I saw plenty of 15th- and 16th-century houses with half-timbered fronts. More than 300 of them are listed. The main artery, Rue de Bourgogne, is known as ‘the street of restaurants’ and is lined with eateries for all two kilometres of its length. Curiously, there are lots of restaurants offering Oriental cuisine.

Le Jardin du Pavillon restaurant

In Orléans there are also hidden nooks that are worth your while to discover, like the coquettish Jardin Jacques-Boucher, which you’ll find next to the centrally located Place Général de Gaulle, behind the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc. One good way to enjoy this area of town, which still preserves the remains of the 17th-century Church of Saint Paul, is what I did on my visit: Eat at one of the outdoor tables at Le Jardin du Pavillon, a restaurant specialising in meat, from beef tenderloin to ribs to fillets.

Le Jardin du Pavillon (External link)
5 place Général de Gaulle, Orléans

Parc Floral de la Source

In Orléans, across from the university’s central offices, you’ll find the Parc Floral de la Source. You can roam the park’s 35 hectares, a real oasis of peace and tranquillity whose big draw are its various flower-filled gardens and water features. Of all its varied, colourful spots, what stood out the most to me was the butterfly house, where great, exotic butterflies flit around you in a tropical garden atmosphere, with a temperature of nearly 30 °C and lots of humidity.

Parc Floral de la Source (External link)
Avenue du Parc Floral, Orléans

Le 128 restaurant

On the route between Orléans city centre and the Parc Floral, I got the chance to discover a highly interesting restaurant, Le 128. At first I was surprised, because it was really crowded with diners on a Tuesday night, which was surely a sign that its food was worth stopping for. And so it was. I had a combination of Italian and traditional food, homemade from fresh products. A highly recommendable delight.

Le 128 (External link)
128 Avenue du Loiret, Olivet

La Balade Magique evening walk

One good way to kick off (or round out) a visit to the city of Orléans is to sign up for the evening walk organised by the tourist office in the summertime and known as ‘La Balade Magique’. It will allow you to discover the more significant corners of the old town under artful illumination. I got to know some interesting, off-the-wall historical facts about Orléans while viewing the main monuments, like the cathedral and city hall, lit up very attractively.