May 11, Chartres

So, once again the babysitter’s concise instructions paid off, and I was on the correct train to Chartres, though I didn’t understand about having my ticket validated before I got on the train. I’ll know for next time. Maybe. But I had the ticket, anyway. Two very kind strangers helped carry my heavy bag up the stairs at the stations. The train itself was almost empty, so I was able to spread out, and listen to Il Divo while admiring the French countryside.

So I’m going to have to start being WAY more careful with the photo thing. No more shooting any old-looking thing that catches my eye. Because that basically describes Chartres. The cathedral is a UNICEF historic site, and the entire old town is protected, so it’s just full of buildings that have been around for centuries. Even the bridges, narrow and made of rough stones mortared together, look, except for a slip of blacktop down the middle, five hundred years old. Twisted street too narrow even for a Smart Car wind between tall, narrow, half-timbered houses, packed together like cereal boxes in the grocery store. There’s no discernable grid, as none of that annoying urban renewal stuff happened here, except for the German destroying the ancient Porte Guilliame on their way out of town in 1944. I’m working with a tiny-print map from the visitors’ center. Mostly, it doesn’t matter because I just have to look up, and see a cathedral spire, and know the way to the heart of the town, and the cute little 17th Century hostel I’m in, the St. Yves Hostellerie, which is just on the south side of the cathedral. It’s so cool that St. Yvees shows up any any big photo of the Cathedral. And so wonderfully close that I don’t have to look for public toilets. Believe me, in France, this matters.

The Cathedral. That one. The finest example of Gothic  architecture in the world. I was in it today, totally overwhelmed. I’ll try again tomorrow, though I might just settle for experiencing, living in it, rather than trying to figure out what’s happening in each stained glass window. I did take the guided tour on the crypt, which was very interesting. The docent spoke in fast French, and I caught a few dates, but very little else. I did see the little jeweled casket containing the most important relic, a folded length of cloth reputed to have been worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. I also saw a wonderful statue, a 18th Century exact copy of a 12th century statue. Sorry if the photos, whenever I can post them, aren’t clear. I was trying to avoid using flash to get a more realistic lighting situation.

They are not adverse to modern art in Chartres. I saw a crucifix in which Christ basically looked like a coffee spill (very modern, but is that why they keep it in the crypt?). Also, there were some very bold, primary-colored, stained glass windows, and some cloth hanging that I never did figure out the purpose of. I like the sense of continuity, of continuing to present art even if it’s changed.

I’ve been wandering around town, and found a really old church that was shut down during the revolution. Repairs have been made, but seem to consist of a glass and wooden top story and roof that looks like it belongs on a ski lodge in Colorado. Go figure.  Will wander more tomorrow. Perhaps. The high was about 42 degrees, without taking the huge wind chill factor into account.

Dinner was well-meaning but regretable. You’ll only get a photo of the dessert, which at least looked cute. Did find some Brittany cider. Very fine, indeed.

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One Response

  1. Brittany cider. Now, you’re talking. I like that they worry that modern renditions of the crucifix need to be protected.

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