One of the beauties of a relaxing hotel barging holiday in France is the chance to explore the towns and villages that line the banks of its waterways. Guests aboard the hotel barge Renaissance in Western Burgundy and the Upper Loire get the opportunity to explore one such rural riverside town, Gien.
Explore the Treasures of Gien on a French Barge Tour
Although the settlement has a history that is thought to stretch back to prehistoric times, many of the town’s historic buildings were destroyed during the Second World War. The reconstruction in the 1940s, however, was largely sympathetic, which ensures that Gien still has a sense of its own history today.
The iconic view of the town – encompassing the River Loire, the eighteenth-century stone bridge and the medieval castle – can be best appreciated from the south bank of the river. Just remember to take your camera with you!
Château de Gien
The impressive castle dominates the town’s skyline. It was rebuilt on twelfth-century foundations for Anne de Beaujeu, daughter of King Louis XI, in the 1500s. Throughout the centuries, it has played host to numerous French royals, including François I, King Henri II and his wife Catherine de Médici, and the Sun King, Louis XIV.
Today the château houses the International Museum of Hunting in 14 of its rooms, displaying weapons, trophies, sculptures and paintings that tell of the history of hunting over the centuries.
One of the highly anticipated tours during the cruise aboard Renaissance is of the Gien Faïencerie. Faïence pottery has been made in the town since 1821, when the Englishman Thomas Hall founded the factory. It offered the perfect location – wood for the kilns which could be sourced from the nearby Sologne forest, while the River Loire provided sand and water for the clay, as well as a means of transporting the finished goods across the country.
Gien is known for its vibrant, beautiful pottery, reproducing earlier styles at a much more accessible price. Today a trip to the museum will give you an insight into the fascinating creative process, as well as allowing you to admire some of the factory’s finest work over the years.