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The Loiret (department number 45) is located in the region of Val de Loire and has an estimated population of 618,126 (census in 1999). Situated in north central France, the department is named after a small stream which flows through it before joining the River Loire.
The Loire winds its way right through the department's agricultural lowlands where cattle are bred and wheat and oats grown. These lowland areas are flanked by hillsides where wine is produced in abundance.
The capital of the department is the city of Orleans which is also the capital of the region. Other cities include Montargis, Pithiviers, Sully sure Loire and Gien.
Why you should visit Loiret for your next holiday in France
Just a short trip from Paris and you are in this wonderful, rural area which offers sightseeing as well as beautiful views and tranquil walks.
The Loiret area is very similar to the English weather pattern with temperatures around 75/80 degrees in July and August, depending on altitude.
What to see in Loiret
Orléans is the largest town in the middle Loire valley after Tours. It is the capital town of the Loiret department. It is an ancient Roman town dating back to the third century and lies in a fertile plain at the most northerly point in the course of the River Loire.
Orléans is a good base for exploring the Châteaux of the Loire Valley and the surrounding vineyards of Sancerre which produces the region's white wine.
Its name is forever associated with that of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orléans. During the Hundred Years' War between the French and the English, in 1428-1429, it was the last French stronghold, then under siege by the English, but was relieved on May 8, 1429 by a French army led by her. This marked a turning point in French fortunes. A festival in her memory is held annually on May 7 and 8 when the city is filled with parades, fireworks and a medieval fair. There is a small museum devoted to her at 3 Place du General de Gaulle in a restored 15th century house.
To the east of the Place du Martroi in Orléans is the Cathedral of Ste-Croix which is situated on the site of an earlier 10th C. church, part of the foundations of which have been preserved. The building of the cathedral commenced in 1278 but it was not finished until the 16th C. It was badly damaged during the 16th C. religious wars, but was rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries on the model of earlier Gothic churches. The west front, flanked by twin towers, has five doorways and much Baroque decoration.
The cathedral is an impressive size being some 136 metres long. Nine chapels behind the high altar date from the late 13th Century. Look out for the fine 17th Century organ and the beautiful early eighth Century carved woodwork in the choir.
In the east of the Loiret lies Montargis, a large market town which is ideally situated at the point where the Loing River and a number of its smaller channels converges with the Briare canal and several smaller canals. It is a wonderful sight as a total of 127 bridges have been built to help people navigate the town. It is worth discovering when market day is and make sure you try some Pralines, a nutty treat boiled in syrup for which the town is renowned.
Sully sur Loire
Best known for its 14th Century Chateau, which is situated on its own island looking like a fairy tale castle with a drawbridge and tall white towers springing out of the large moat. The chateau is appealing both when sunlit and floodlit. The department of the Loiret, who own the building, are slowly refurnishing the interior.
An attractive town on the banks of the Loire. The stone bridge, which is the main entry point into Gien, offers the best view of the local chateau. Gien has long been known in France for its fine china, and a large factory still employs over two hundred people today. You can buy the ordinary tableware in the factory shop.
How to get there
Various international and other independent airlines operate services to Paris, then by car or train.
Using the excellent French motorways the area is well served by the N60 (E60), A10 (E05), A71 (E09), A6 (E15) and A5 (E54).
SNCF operate an extensive service to the region from Paris.