Introduction

There’s a big-city buzz on the broad boulevards and in the sparkling boutiques and elegant buildings of Orléans, 100km south of Paris. An important settlement by the time of the Roman conquest, the city sealed its place in history in 1429 when a young peasant girl by the name of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) rallied the armies of Charles VII and brought about a spectacular rout against the besieging English forces, a key turning point in the Hundred Years War. Six centuries later, the Maid of Orléans still exerts a powerful hold on the French imagination – all around town, you’ll find statues (at least seven), stained-glass windows and museum exhibits dedicated to her exploits. Other attractions in the old city include an outstanding art museum and a breathtaking cathedral.