Canal de Briare, Gien and Fleury (the Loire does not end in Orléans)


No, the Loire Valley does not end in Orléans (and less the river). This dream trip that we have been going through these days includes, from the tourist point of view and as a World Heritage Site, more than the guides usually show us from the department of Loiret to Sully-sur-Loire. It's those surroundings south of Orléans those that we have set out to know today, places likeGermigny-des-Prés (a Carolingian jewel), Fleury Abbey, the castle of Sully-sur-Loire, Gien and Briare, the big surprise of the day with his bridge-navigation channel, is one of the oldest in France.

After several days with more concentration of castles, perhaps we even appreciate a different and alternative route through secondary roads that oxygenate the route that ends today, after 1 week, with the main attractions to see in Orléans farewell.

Planning the route of the day: South Orléans

Last day of route by car through the Loire Castles in which we have been detailing how we choose the stops as well as the options that we discard and, within it, an area that is not usually taken into account but with much to offer. He itinerary of the day has been the following (click to see it on Google Maps)

Although we have spent the afternoon touring Orléans, we have used the morning to make our last tour by car, first heading to Germigny-des-Prés, 30 minutes away, and the Fleury Abbey, 5 minutes away from the previous one. The star visit of the day has been to 14 km to the famous population ofSully-sur-Loire and its extraordinary castle. We have taken advantage of the end of the morning to enjoy a panoramic view of Gien, 25 minutes away, eat and walk around Briare for another 20 minutes, the big surprise. The return to Orleans to take advantage of the afternoon has been a journey of 80 km in 1h15min

Distance traveled during the day: 165 km
Car used in the trip: Toyota Yaris rental (pre-booked online with Rentalcars)
Hotel chosen to sleep in Orléans: Empreinte Hotel and Spa (modern accommodation with SPA)
Alternative excursions to the car from Paris in Spanish: Loire Castles in 1 dayLoire Castles in 2 days2-3 day castles of the Loire and Mont Sant Michel orCastles of the Loire and Normandy for 3-4 days

What to see south of Orléans?

There are more possible stops south of Orléans although perhaps less famous than those we have visited these past days. However, as always, we detail all the options and youwe list in stop order (many do not appear even in the usual guides -With the most interesting-):

Jargeau, charming town and also famous for its battle
- Germigny-des-Prés It is an old French oratory of medieval foundation and one of the few examples of Carolingian architecture
- Fleury Abbey, an extraordinary sample of Romanesque art
- Sully-sur-Loire, town considered one of the most beautiful in France with one of "The 12 best Castles of the Loire (not to be missed)")
- Gien, town with traces of great value, ancient bridges and a beautiful brick and stone castle
Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire, some guides consider it the first (or last, as you look at) Castillo del Loira. Whether or not it deserves a stop
- Briare, quiet and beautiful town that has one of the oldest navigation channels in France built using pound locks.

Remember that Paula takes the little Olivia 24 weeks so the routes we have done are "for all audiences" (if we have done it, "anyone" does)

The Loire Valley does not end in Orléans: Germigny-des-Prés and Fleury Abbey

While between Orléans and Angers, the valley is 2-5 km wide and has the highest concentration of historic sites, monuments, castles and charming villages,The Loire Valley as a UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the route between Sully-sur-Loire (in the department of Loiret) and its mouth beyond Nantes where we started. And is it really worth going down from Orléans to enjoy this area? Yes, without a doubt, among other things because it is an area full of forests, nature, charming villages and secondary roads, free of mass tourism. Starting with Germigny-des-Prés, where we get fast from ourmodern accommodation with SPA (which leaves behind other more historic these days) and after paying the night parking (7.50 EUR), towardsone of the oldest churches in France (which goes unnoticed by many travelers)

But, perhaps more important than its antiquity, it is that in this place we can go back to the time of the Carolingian dynasty from the eighth century to the ninth century in Western Europe, that which Charlemagne extended to a kingdom that reached from the Pyrenees to the southwest and began a " Roman Empire of the West "of Germanic ethnicity. HeCarolingian oratory of Germigny-des-Prés (free), today called the Church of the Holy Trinity, preservesone of the rare (and few) examples of Carolingian architecture of those times

It was built in the shape of a cross by Bishop Teodulfon (advisor to Charlemagne) in 806 AD although it was transformed into a basilica in the 15th century and, best of all, it is still keep a treasure inside, the only Byzantine mosaic in France (9th century) which represents two angels surrounding the Ark of the Covenant that was "rediscovered" in the mid-19th century since it had been covered by stucco during the French Revolution

Lovers of this type of Carolingian jewelry have the capital of the Carolingian Empire and maximum exponent in the Palatine Chapel of the Aachen Cathedral in Germany but also in the Abbey of Saint Gall in Switzerland or the Abbey Church of Fulda or Corvey in Germany, from Saint Riquier or Centula, it is from Germigny-des-Prés, the Episcopal Group of Metz or the Crypt of Saint Germain of Auxerre in France, many more outstanding examples.

As we set course for Fleury Abbey, an important pilgrimage site since 673 which is 5 minutes away but where we can not go inside because unfortunately a burial is taking place and it has even cost us a bit to park in the surrounding streets (when it normally should not be complicated)

The abbey of Fleury is also known as Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire (or Saint Benedict on the Loire) and it is a medieval construction of France of the diocese of Orléans and its importance, in addition to its Romanesque legacy, comes by housing the San Benito relics They came from their original resting place in Montecassino.

The "appetizers" or "curtains" of the day have set the bar very high although we knew that the star visit is still 15 minutes from here, the famous Castle of Sully-sur-Loire

Sully-sur-Loire Castle, the moat castle filled with water

Sully sur Loire seduces you since you enter their domains. We are in one lively and historic city on the banks of the Loire whose origins date back to the Gallo-Roman era and that is considered by many as the other access to the perimeter classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco (remember that we did it for "Angers, the gateway to the Loire Valley" on the opposite side).

In fact, it is so pleasant for its streets that after enjoying a little of its atmosphere we decided to have a beer (well, Paula with Oli better a water) very close to that great fortress that does not expect (3.50 EUR), review the itinerary a bit of the day in our famous travel books (how many years have we been doing them? 20 already?) and bring us supplies (2 EUR)

He Sully-sur-Loire Castle is really impressive, look at it from the look you see it. This is the first (or last) Castle of the Loire Valley (although it is sometimes said that Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire is honored somewhat below) and his reputation is for something since it is an imposing medieval fortress of military design with a huge tribute tower, large conical watchtowers that give it a unique design and its great differentiator from others we have been seeing, its wide pit still with water

Its history is even more tortuous than that of other castles. The origin dates from a small defense post in 1102 that was expanded with a large cylindrical tower in 1218 of which there is nothing left. Subsequently, a flood devastated him in 1363 at which time a new change of hands endowed him with defensive greatness and for royalty parties (even Joan of Arc was in Sully a couple of times to visit King Charles VII). Maximilien de Béthune, Minister of Henry IV, would perform a great work between 1559 and 1641 but again the 18th century would lead to the Castle of Sully-sur-Loire to multiple destruction and reconstruction. Finally the renovations of the S.XX would endow it with its last towers, demolitions of World War II included

Although with such a grim story it might seem otherwise, the Castle of Sully-sur-Loire preserves many treasures inside, from furniture, the tomb of Sully or a tapestry dedicated to Psyche and a cannon frame of the s. XVI and therefore is part of our list of "The 12 best Castles of the Loire (not to be missed) " and has his own dedicated article on "Visit to the Castle of Sully-sur-Loire (with prices and map)" (coming soon)

Who was Sully? The great Sully, first duke with that name, was Maximilien de Béthune and his grave is on the ground floor but during the visit you can learn about his rooms and his wife's, collections, paintings, paintings, sculptures and up to 15 rooms plus.

It's around 12'00 when we decided to take the car again (parking is free, as usual) and leave the domains of the Loire Valley as such to finish off thisroute by car through the Loire Castles We started a week ago with two mandatory stops in the department of Loiret

Discovering the Loiret: Gien and the Briare Canal

With the idea of ​​getting to eat at Briare we have passed through Gien with the intention of just taking a partial vision of a beautiful and historical Gien that knew how to overcome its destruction in World War II and today survives with a Great Historical Heritage between walls and bridges over the Loire, dominated by the castle of Anne de Beaujeu of brick and stone. Gien is also famous for making crockery

But what we were looking for we found in Briare. The Loiret region is famous for many things but, among them, especially for its river tourism in the many navigable channels that give rise to extraordinary crossings crossing them with small boats.

Of its more than 100 kilometers of navigable canals, the beautiful (and quiet) town of Briare stands out, famous for its enameled mosaics but, above all, for its peaceful riverside atmosphere, which we travel walking from the marina where boats rest today (it is festive) to the area of ​​their locks and bridges

And what does it look like in the background? It is not a railroad bridge, neither cars nor people, despite being lit by streetlights. Are 662 meters long, 6 meters wide and 2 meters deep in which the Loire "fly over" the BOATS!

It's about the awesome Briare Canal-Canal, one of the oldest navigation canals in France built between 1890 and 1896 to connect the Lateral Canal of the Loire and the Canal de Briare, receiving the distinction of Historic Monument (and it is not for less). Its execution was carried out by Daydé and Gustave Eiffel's company.


After our visit, the bridge of the Briare canal seems to be dry from November to 2020 on the occasion of some necessary maintenance and restoration work (PHOTOS: La République Du Center)

The works will act on masonry, cast iron elements, electricity, paint, energy supply, metal tarpaulins and, especially, rebuild the sidewalks

The Canal de Briare links this town with Buges through 57 km and consists of a total of 38 locks, 14 in the Loire and 24 in the Seine

It is important to know that The origin of the Canal de Briare, beyond this masterpiece, dates back to 1604 when Maximilien de Béthune, the Duke of Sully that we have met in the Castle of Sully-sur-Loire who, under the command of Henry IV, developed this infrastructure for distribution (due to insufficient food) and cereal trade. The pharaonic work would end in 1642.

RESTAURANTS IN THE VALLE DEL LOIRA | BRIARE: Le Pont Canal, one of the most welcoming in which we have been these days although we are sorry for not being able to enjoy its terrace (it was full).

Many dishes of all kinds at reasonable prices. We opted for some salads, a steak and a duck confit, with beer, water, dessert and coffee (47.50 EUR)

The dishes are not overly elaborate, they are simple in general, but the service fast, the waiters are very pleasant and the location is unbeatable

It's time to get back in the car and undo the 1h 15min on the way to Orléans until theEmpreinte Hotel and Spa where we unload some "luggage" to kick the city, leaving the car again in the Parking Châtelet just behind (multi-storey and easy to park the car)

The trip through the Loire Valley comes to an end but we will do it in one of the most important French cities of the Middle Ages. Behind we leave its surroundings, that rare Carolingian example with a unique Binzantine mosaic of Germigny-des-Prés oratory, Fleury Abbey, the beautiful town of Gien and one of the oldest navigation canals in France in Briare. Can you ask for more?

(Continue on DAY 7 (II): "What to see in Orléans in 1 day (detailed route with map)")