Joan of Arc (Orleans, France)

At the point where the Loire River flows southeast leaving behind its northward coast, lies the beautiful and historic city of Orleans.

On reaching Paris, I poured on to brochures to find about a tour to Orleans, only to be told that the tour buses pass Orleans while visiting the Loire Valley. We decided to venture out ourselves; with a French phrase book as our only companion and a train from CDG Etiole via Gare de Lyon and Austerlitz, we reached Orleans.

The emotional involvement of Orleans with its pretty maid, Joan of Arc is prevalent here. The station has a d’ Arc in its name and the mall is called Place d’ Arc. A little bit of History very naturally steps in here; also known as Jeanne de’ Arc, Joan was a simple peasant girl who claimed to hear the voices of saints telling her to help Dauphin, later King Charles VII, gain the throne of France. Not long after the coronation of the King, Joan was captured by the Burgundians and handed over to the English. She was taken captive to Rouen in Normandy where she was tried and burned as a heretic. Her martyrdom contributed in uniting the French and change the course of the war in which finally the English were driven out of France after a hundred-year war.

The “Place du Martroi,” one of the main squares in Orleans, hosts the nice bronze equestrian statue of Joan in the middle of the square. The statue features the carvings on her illustrious life.

From here we proceeded towards the Cathedral of Saint Croix; one of the biggest and most beautiful Cathedral in France. The beautiful stained glass windows of the cathedral narrates the life of the Joan of Arc, from her birth to death in the "purifying" flames and a little shrine featuring the Saint, pays a tribute to the World War II soldiers.

There was something very interesting about Orleans; its tramways that took us around the entire town showing the ancient taverns and places where Joan worshipped. The site where she stayed has now become the “Maison Jeanne d’ Arc.” During the 10 days siege in Orleans in 1429, Joan stayed in this site of the building. It was absolutely a unique place worth visiting because scenes from her life, starting from her attachment with Charles VII, his coronation, her seizer to her stake at Rouen are all recreated here and are put up with the help of audio and visuals. The entire history almost gets repeated in front of the eyes.

Costumes and weapons of her time are also put up as exhibits in this museum. Although this house is known as the house of Joan of Arc, it used to be the house of the Treasurer General of the Duke of Orleans. The house is actually rebuilt because the original house was destroyed in a fire.

From here we returned to visit the White Tower, constructed in order to defend the city from foreign invaders. Presently the building houses the town's archaeological service office. Touring around the town we finally reached the Place de la Republique, close to the 'rue Jeanne d'Arc'.

During the end of April and beginning of May the "Joan of Arc celebrations" takes place commemorating the heroic liberation of the town led by Joan. To pay homage to the lady, a local young girl is chosen to play the role of Joan during the entire celebrations that include a dramatization of taking over the fortress, a sound and light show in front of the St.Croix and a parade in the town center.

Even though everyone in Orleans was kind and helpful, we realised  that  just one day in this lovely little town was too little to appreciate history.

We went around this city with pretty shops and loads of history of Joan of Arc. While we stood near the statue of Joan, a group of children, probably on a field trip, stood close to us. One of them came to me and asked, ‘what is the time?’ I replied, but a little surprised because each of them had a watch on their wrist. Then different questions like ‘will it rain today?’ ‘How long will you be in Orleans?’ etc followed. Its not that we did not like the conversation, we were surprised. Back to Paris, while narrating ‘ how we spend the day’ we were told about this recent common affair. In small towns of France, school children, studying English as a language at school, normally practice their spoken English with tourists. How I wish I knew this earlier, I would have spent hours just chatting with them, would have been great fun!