We had been thinking about a trip out of town and had narrowed it down to either Lille or Orleans. In the end we decided to go to Orleans for the day.
The metro always looks clean but early in the morning it sparkles as the stations are cleaned every night. We quickly travelled across to Austerlitz and found the train to Orleans in the new part of the station underneath an enormous concrete pad that is being built over the station. I presume the overall roof will eventually be dismantled. A supervisor was zooming around on a Segway.
Some things don't change and the train was a long one made up of Corail coaches. The toilets were locked until we departed because they dump onto the tracks. The 200 kmph cars are heavy and old but they are very roomy and comfortable and ride extremely well. The train only went as far as Orleans, stopping at Les Aubrais. It was full. There is a two hour service and one would think the SNCF should consider an hourly interval service of slightly shorter trains.
It was foggy when we left and the fog became even thicker as we approached Orleans - so thick that we could only see the concrete guideway for the Bertin Aerotrain (http://colinchurcher2011-01.blogspot.com/2011/05/tuesday-17-may-valencay-and-romorantin.html
) experiments when we were very close to them approaching Les Aubrais.
|The fog was so thick that we couldn't see these concrete supports - picture taken April 2011|
The engineer was ahead of time at Les Aubrais, he slowed considerably when we were about ten minutes out, and we were on time into Orleans.
|At the SNCF station.|
We found the tram stop, purchased day passes from a machine, and went into the town centre. A pleasant young lady in the TAO (transport) office provided a map of the system and was looking forward to the opening of line B next summer. It was cold and damp and the fog didn't look as if it would lift (it didn't). We found a coffee shop and the lady there told us Orleans has a population of 150,000 in the centre and mentioned that 50,000 people from this region go into Paris daily to work. She was aware of the consultation about proposals to connect Orleans with Paris by TGV in 2025 and was looking forward to it. The new tramway will run just outside her shop. She was pleased that they will be using the ground system rather than overhead wires because it goes right in front of the Cathedral. She liked what had been done in Bordeaux and was looking forward to the opening of the second tramway route next June-July.
|The tracks for the new line B, including the centre rail have been laid in the city centre area. The view of the cathedral would have been marred by overhead wires.|
Our next stop was the Tourist Office where we obtained a map and were told where to find the restaurants. She also explained that the original Mairie, a Renaissance building, was open for visits. It is beautiful and is now mainly used for weddings etc. but it has some well restored rooms including the mayor's office and the council meeting room.
|Stained glass window in the old Mairie.|
|A porcupine is the royal animal and can be seen in many locations, particularly at Blois.|
|Stained glass window at Blois (taken in 2002)|
The cathedral is across from the old Mairie and is worth a visit. It has a very high ceiling and the stained glass is first rate and in good condition.
|The cathedral has a very high roof|
Time for lunch and we found a restaurant where we had veloute of potiron (Mary) (pumpkin soup?)/terrine of rabbit then confit de canard. With a bottle of Madiran this was a very filling meal. This is the first time we have had Madiran. It is a very dark wine, very similar in color and taste to Cahors.
|Sometimes it is better to stick to the language you know. "Part of the butcher in the green pepper" - which part? We didn't eat here.|
We found the Halles Chatelet which we had imagined would be a covered market but which turned out to be a shopping mall with a good food court. There is a residential section as well. However, it didn't seem to have a toilet. The river Loire was flowing swiftly although we could hardly see the other side for the fog. Walking back into town we found the toilet for the Halles Chatelet. A one-holer for the entire shopping mall.
The old town is very interesting. There are many half timbered buildings, some with intricate carvings, and many of the stone buildings have very elaborate carving. The Christmas market was very busy. The kids were enjoying the ferris wheel, roundabout and skating rink while there was lots of chocolate and sweet and savory treats for all to enjoy. One stall was selling only sausages from the Auvergne.
Back along the main street we saw the wreckage of a car which had been driven into a building. It was quite a mess. The airbag had operated and the sapeurs pompiers had already taken away the occupant(s).
Now it was time to take the tram from the station to the end of the line at Jules Verne and back to Les Aubrais. We arrived about 5 minutes before a train to Paris was due to leave. A SNCF demoiselle in bright orange high visibility clothing assured us that we could use our tickets on this train which ran non-stop to Austerlitz.
|The SNCF have hung a few decorations from the roof of Austerlitz. Will this come down when the overall concrete pad is completed? It would then become an uninviting concrete anonymity similar to Montparnasse.|
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