And after an exciting week in Paris…we are back to travel days… Sorry to hit you with a lame post, but try to remember how good the last couple of days were!
This morning we packed our stuff up and hopped on a train to Chartres. The ride was only an hour, so we were there in no time! There were no lockers at the r.ail station so we hitched up our packs and took them with us. The town itself was cute & ecclectic looking, with a random little fair ground in the middle. Right from the station exit you can see the cathedral rising above the small shops & bistros. That made it nice and easy to find. We decided we would like all of our sites to be like this…or perhaps we just need a magical giant, blinking arrow to float over where ever we want to go.
The Chartres Cathedral is the largest Notre Dame Cathedral in France. There have been 5 churches on this site throughout history. The current cathedral was built in 1193. Unfortunately the entire place is currently undergoing restoration, so there was scaffolding up in a couple of locations. It didn’t stop us from appreciately the grandeur though. The tall spires and the masses of flying butresses (what a fun word!) make for quite a spectacular sight.
Inside was no different. It was all lighted by candles in little red pots, placed all over the church. The high ceilings featured gorgeous gothic arches and many panels of stained glass. As opposed to some windows we have previously seen, these were no quite as bright, but were amazing for the detail they carried. The tiniest pieces were used to piece together incredibly intricate scenes. There was also a collection of detailed carving work along the outside of the altar area. It housed so many tiny statues. Interestingly, a lot were without heads. Scaffolding again obstructed our view of a few places, but we were able to see one fully restored section. The aged and blackening walls had be put back to their original shining white. This place will look amazing once it is all done!
The highlight of the cathedral would have to be the altar dedicated to Notre Dame, or Our Lady…being Mary. We were awed by the beauty of the candlelit chandeliers and how the light glittered off the golden statues and details.
The area housing Mary’s veil was also stunning. In 876 the cathedral acquired a piece of fabric believed to be the tunic worn by Mary at the time of Christ’s birth. When the church burned down in 1194 the fabric remained unharmed. The people of Chartres took this as a sign to quickly rebuild a larger and more grand cathedral to protect it. The new cathedral was completed in only 60 years (in comparison it took over 200 years to built the Notre Dame in Paris). In front of it was a large wrought iron gate with beautiful detailing and the case holding the veil was visually very interesting.
When we exited the cathedral we were greeted by a group of Roman soldiers….seriously. Lined up in front of the church was a group of men dressed as Roman Legionaries and two woman in toga-like dresses handing out flyers. I was a promotion for something…but we’re not sure what. The flyer was in French.
After gawking at the Romans we went in search of lunch. We ended up having Croque Monseiur at a little bistro in between the church & the train station. We then went back to the station to wait for our train. We could probably (and by probably we mean definately) have done our journey to Tours quicker but we chose to only take trains that didn’t require reservations. We were in no hurry so we decided we would rather save the money (as you have to pay for reservations) than get to Tours 2 or 3 hours earlier. This slower route meant a 2 hour lay-over (is it called that with trains or just with planes?) in Le Mans, but that was ok with us. Justine was having a tired day so she slept and Kristin entertained herself writing blog posts & playing on her iPad.
When we arrived in Tours we checked into our hotel. No, that is not a spelling mistake. We are in a hotel, not a hostel. The only hostel in Tours is way far away from the train station. This didn’t really work for us as the sights in the Loire Valley are far spread & we were planning on taking a train every day. So we’ve booked ourselves into a cheap hotel right by the station. It’s kinda dive-y looking from the outside and a little old & rundown on the inside, but it will do. We have our own room, with our own non-bunk beds and our own TV that actually gets an English channel (it’s CNN news, but we’ll make do).
We then went for a wander around Tours. It’s a nice town with a few busy shopping streets. We eventually settled on a place to eat right in the center town square. We sat out on the covered patio and enjoyed the relatively good weather.
Justine had Penne Primavera. It was yum, yum, yummy!
Kristin had the house specialty pizza, but it wasn’t a very traditional pizza. It was more like a baked pita with goat cheese, ham, lettuce & a creamy, chive-y, honey-y spread. She was trying to be adventurous like her mother & Dylan would want her to be…and it paid off! It was super delicious!
Now it’s early to bed to catch up on sleep lost to hours by the Eiffel Tower.
Love, Luck & Lima Beans,