64, Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine, Orléans
Price band **
Big towns were not on our agenda but they have their advantages and if you have never visited one, as was the case with me and Orléans, this may be worth rectifying. The Abeille is a super little town hotel, full of archaic charm like a great aunt’s parlour – but not one of those great aunts who is too blind to wash up, wipe the crumbs from the table and dust in the corners. You will find it just off the Rue de la République which runs north from the central Place du Martroi.
(From F2W ch 5)
‘At Orléans we may have set a new record for our latest hour of arrival. There are plenty of good restaurants open late, so it didn’t matter. Au Bon Marché on Place Châtelet was busy and great fun.
The Loire à Vélo trail brought us in to Orléans via the Ile Charlemagne park, the city’s lido. It was a bit late for bathing, but there were plenty of joggers and snoggers about, and North African families barbecuing merguez.
Is it just me, or are we as a tourist nation guilty of leaving Orléans out of our plans, for the same reason that the French give Agincourt a wide berth and The Sound of Music flopped in Germany? I plead guilty, and had someone not recommended the Hotel de l’Abeille, we would have skirted the city and remained in ignorance. We were grateful for the tip, because the bee hotel is a treasure and the city has a lot going for it: cheerful bars and restaurants in the old quarter between the cathedral and the river, and some noble perspectives worthy of the thriving commercial city Orléans once was. We made our grand entry via the central axis – over the Pont Royal, up the arcaded Rue Royale to the vast Place du Martroi, where St Joan rides her green horse.
Of course the whole place is crazy about Joan of Arc, who, as every school child knows, raised the siege of Orléans in May 1429 and after inflicting further thrashings on the English (at Jargeau, Meung, Beaugency and Patay) fulfilled her destiny by taking Charles VII to be crowned at Reims. Joan lost her touch after the Loire campaign, but she had done her job.
We did not have to go far for our fix, the Hotel de l’Abeille being crammed with Joanabilia. It belongs to the Loire’s network of special bike-friendly hotels, allows bicycle storage in its basement conference room, offers cyclists a glass of fruit juice on arrival and … that’s about it.
The design of our quarters was slightly eccentric, aptly described by G as “a bathroom with en suite beds” but there are more important aspects of hotels than sensible design, and L’Abeille is a quirky character hotel that gets the important things right. Every detail is cherished, down to the bee-motif windows and juice glasses in which our free vitamin drink (gratefully received, in the absence of something stronger) was served. Good honey, too.
Price bands: from * = B&B for less than 50 euros per person, to ***** = expect to pay more than 175 euros