Finding A Silver Lining – Orléans and Paris Part 1: A Brief Taste of Orléans

After the in-laws departed leaving only a delicious box of macarons in their wake it was time to explore Orléans on our own.

After the emotions of the past few days we just wanted to get stuck in, albeit at a leisurely pace.

Rental: F2 neuf proche gare et centre ville
Host: Cesar

Our first port of call was to check in to our Airbnb.  Located on a non-descript street, in a blink and you’d miss it building, through a series of doorways and up some stairs we were led to an apartment that would be our home for the next few days.  The place was modern, with a French Super Marché chic style to it.  Our bed was comfortable, the internet worked and it was quiet. 

However, there was something off about our apartment which nicely sums up why I often feel guilty about booking city centre Airbnb accommodation.   First of all the host was not the person checking us in and most damning of all this flat was clearly not somebody’s home that they were renting out from time to time like the adverts would have you beleive.  Really this place should have been someone’s home and not a holiday let but I’d imagine it was significantly less work and more profitable to rent the place by the night on Airbnb rather than on a monthly rent to a tenant. Whilst 2016 me was happy to stay there complete with a healthy referral credit bringing the nightly rate down, 2021 me was less happy with our choice.

Airbnb rant over we started off with a simple stroll into the city centre, much like the ones we’d been enjoying as best we could over the previous couple of days. Orléans is a beautiful city; clean, quiet with a modern tramway, immaculate cobbled streets and well preserved historic buildings. 

It made me think of a larger version of the city that we currently call home but a lot more French!

Our first stop of the day was lunch and like many French towns and cities there were a string of well priced Bib Gourmand restaurants to choose from.  Our first lunch was at La Parenthèse which offered up a bargain three course lunch menu for only 20 Euro.

Our first course was a simple dish of smoked salmon with pesto and a side salad. 

The salmon tasted incredibly fresh and was good training for me to get over my fear of eating seafood (which I finally conquered by the time we made it to Japan a couple of years later).

Our main was some deliciously moist pork on a base of creamy mash potatoes with a luxuriously thick and shiny sauce. 
Our dessert captured my imagination from the off, some tasty shortbread topped with chocolate, raspberries and orange, it was absolutely delicious and I’ve sampled enough chocolate desserts to know!

Our meal was definitely towards the top of my long list of lunchtime bargains.

After lunch we headed to the cathedral; always looming large no matter where you found yourself in the city and providing an excellent point for navigation. We’d already passed by a couple of times both during the day and at night and it was now time to step inside. 

It was a much needed visit to pay some more private respects to those we’d lost in our own way. 

The glorious organ, the storied stained-glass windows illuminated by the autumnal sun, holy statues and flickering spiritual flames symbolising those who were no longer with us. A special place of reflection in the heart of the city.

For me no trip to France is complete without a delicious meal of Moroccan food.  Our restaurant of choice was Al Medina, located in the centre of town.  Whilst not the best couscous we’d ever had the portions were plentiful and it became a struggle to finish.

We then passed the patriotically lit Mayor’s Office on the way back to our Airbnb.

Stuffed to bursting we soon went to bed where we slept very well indeed!

We began the next day with a basic breakfast from a local bakery, it was nothing to write home about but still better than anything you’d find in even the nicest of UK supermarkets.  After a slow morning of doing very little other than perhaps going to watch Captain Fantastic a film that made me think of my Dad dialled up to 11 and then some, it was time for lunch. 

To start I chose the duck foie gras terrine with salad, enough to make even cynical old me smile.
Anne-So chose the prawn salad.
I had the lamb with beans which was filling and packed with flavour.
Anne-So had the fish with a cream and mushroom sauce.

Now normally we’d not be ones to turn down dessert but on this occasion we had a noble reason.  On our morning walk I had spotted a patisserie that looked absolutely first rate and was charging the kind of prices you could only dream about in Central London.  So we settled up at the restaurant and went for cake and coffee. 

After lunch we headed to Hôtel Groslot near the Cathedral.

This building was once the home Jacques Groslot, bailiff of the King of France and dates back to the 16th Century. 

The interior was quite spectacular which I suppose explains why the main function of the building today when not serving tourists is hosting weddings!

Our next stop was some personal reminiscing for Anne-So as we walked to see the house where she grew up and the Church that she used to go to as a child.

On our way back to town we stopped off for a brief walk through the Jardin des Plantes.  I enjoyed our time in this slightly wild botanical gardens. 

We headed through the different Climatic Gardens, walked through the avenue of trees but unfortunately we had to miss out on the Great Greenhouse which at the time of our visit was undergoing renovation.

As golden hour faded and dusk became evening we returned across the river and made a move for dinner.  Not normally ones to eat too early we made an exception for the rather swanky and highly rated creperie, Jane A.  With no reservation we turned up at opening time and hoped for the best.  Thankfully luck was on our side and we managed to get a table. 

After a not so short wait we ordered some savoury crepes and a bottle of cider.

Not long after ordering our food came and we dug in. Like a good pizza the sign of a quality fresh crepe is a short wait.

I was very happy with my choice, crispy bacon that contrasted with the creamy goats cheese and the acidic tang of the cider. 
We said farewell to Anne-So's family and spent the next two days exploring
There’s no greater luxury then the simple things done well.
The only problem with crepes is you only know when you’re done when your belt is struggling to hold back your stomach, so that meant we had to squeeze in desert, in this case a simple chocolate covered delight to fight over.

We settled up and stepped out into the cool night air for the short walk back to our Airbnb.  I was looking forward to heading to Paris the following day but also feeling a little sad for what we were leaving behind and the challenging events of the last few days.

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