Orléans et vous
WALK ALONG THE BANKS OF THE LOIRE IN ORLÉANS
WALK ALONG THE BANKS OF THE LOIRE IN ORLÉANS
Being able to cross the river led people to settle here from ancient times. The situation of Orléans at the summit of the curve of the Loire made it an important river trading port via the Rhône and later via the Atlantic. Over the centuries, the city developed closely with its river. Although qualified as natural, the landscape of the Loire is related to past human activities (dykes, navigational structures, extraction of aggregates, etc.). After being abandoned for a century with the end of river traffic, the Loire was recently rediscovered as a place of leisure. Throughout the seasons, it offers a variety of atmospheres, depending on the condition of the vegetation, the water or sand level and its changing colours.
A “must” to visit from east to west:
To the east, you can see the lock of Orléans canal. It was extended and inaugurated in 1921 to boost the dying river traffic.
The current port is the last one to be built, in the middle of the 19th century. It consisted of three parts: the dock, an east-west circulation route and trading establishments. The stone dock is on a slight slant to allow easy circulation of carts and to optimise work. The pavement consists of two types of stone (slight difference in colour). The hardest type of stone is at the bottom of the dock, where the impacts were hardest. To access the small vessels, a series of stairs has been built.
The built façade
The sailors' houses make up the main part of the built façade. From No. 24 to No. 28 on Quai du Châtelet, you can admire the uniformity of these houses: two-storey façades with evenly distributed bay windows. This architecture was part of an embellishment drive which dominated buildings in the 18th and 19th centuries. A row of plane trees gives the site shade and freshness; they mark the landscape of Loire towns.
The Pont Royal (today George V Bridge)
Designed by engineer Jean Hupeau, the bridge was built between 1748 and 1763. It has nine basket handle arches. Its deck, which has two slight slopes, is positioned at the right height to ensure operation during floods. A coat-of-arms placed upstream marks the centre and was made in 1758 by Allegrain, the king's sculptor. The bridge's construction led to the levelling of the islands, until then occupied by fishermen and a leper colony, and on which the earlier bridges had rested. At the southern end there were kiosks and a row of trees. To the north, the bridge opens onto an ambitious development made for the occasion: the Rue Royale which led to Place du Martroi. The whole programme uses straight lines and symmetry, reflections of the ideas of order and harmony that marked the Age of Enlightenment.
The different rings which can be seen on the access ramps to George V bridge made it possible to pass the bridge in all seasons through tricky and difficult manoeuvres.
At the corner of George V bridge and Quai du Châtelet there are two scales. One is engraved in the stone and the other marks the flood levels. It recalls the memorable dates on which the wild river overflowed, notably the ten-year floods of the 19th century which reached up to 7 metres. They are due to the association of ocean rains and Mediterranean rains and vary depending on the season (snow-melt in the spring, breaking ice in winter, storm rainfall in the autumn). The other scale indicates the height of the water in relation to level zero, which corresponds to the average level of the river at this spot.
Rue Notre-Dame-de-Recouvrance is the main road between the downstream port and Place du Martroi. It is lined with trade buildings and a church, where sailors’ wives used to come to pray for their husbands’ safe return. River navigation is a risky business, traffic is busy and the river is capricious. Here, the docks have a steep slope which is characteristic of the 18th century, the period during which this port was developed following construction of the Royal Bridge.
At No. 10 quai Barentin, you will discover one of the few examples of Art nouveau architecture in Orléans: plant forms, dilated volumes and a roof terrace. The ground floor of this house was raised to protect it from the floods. The last flood which affected the lower part of the city dates back to 1907.
Pont de l'Europe
This quay, which has been turned into a promenade, today leads to Pont de l’Europe. The latter was inaugurated in 2000 and is the 100th bridge built on the Loire. By using pure and strong lines, its architect, Santiago Calatrava, ensured that it blended into the landscape.
Sources: Orléans Mairie – City of Art and History Department
LEISURE AND EVENTS ON THE ROYAL RIVER
The Loire by bike
Covering a distance of 800 kilometres, this cycling tourist route connects Cuffy (near Nevers) to Saint-Brevin-les-Pins (opposite Saint-Nazaire). Orléans is an ideal and easy starting point for discovering the Loire by bike. There are cycle paths in both directions. Discover the Loire by bike and its circuits in the Loiret!
How about a trip on the Loire or the Orléans canal to enjoy the wonders of the wildlife and plant life close-up? It couldn't be easier! Let our selection of river trips guide you.
Event: Festival de Loire
Every two years, this festival is the biggest gathering of river navigation. 650,000 festival-goers came to discover the Marine de Loire and its guests during the five days of Festival de Loire 2015. This year, the Ebre, a Spanish river, and the Pertuis Charentais will be honoured at the 8th Festival de Loire, from 20 to 24 September, in Orléans.