Tuesday, January 10, 2012


With just an overnight stay, it's not possible to fully appreciate all the features of a town like Chartres. First and foremost is the Cathedral which is the first thing you can see on the approach to Chartres, even from a long way off.
Chartres is just a few kms shy of 100 kms from Paris to the south west with the river Eure running through the slower slopes of the town. A walk along this river reveals some great photo opportunities and some insight to early life in Chartres.
The Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site is never far from view no matter where you are in this city of 40,000.

Since before the 800s the site always had a place of worship on the hill. From the mid 800s to today its believed five buildings sat here. Wars and fires destroying them until the current cathedral. Built somewhere between 1194 and 1260 (I've read conflicting dates) it was lucky to survive WWII. It was mostly spared during the wars of Religion and the French Revolution although some damage did occur.
During WWII the Allies believing the Germans held the Cathedral were ordered to bomb it. A US Colonel went behind enemy lines to check if this was the case and came back to confirm that the Germans were not occupying the Cathedral as an observation post. If they had, this Gothic Cathedral may not have been there for our visit on this day.
During the war, the stained glass windows were taken down for their own protection - Sue thought these immense examples awe inspiring. Our guide book claims that there are over 150 stained glass windows within the Cathedral.

The Chartres cathedral from our hotel room window as we posted a blog back in 2009 on our little notebook specially bought for the trip.
The west side with the tallest Gothic spire (16c) to the left.
The spire to to the right is Romanesque (12c).
Both outside and inside the Cathedral has the most decorative sculptures.
A close up of Old Testament figures carved into the Royal Portal.

The Royal Portal - 1145-1155

Luck have it and unknown to us was that the morning before moving on, Chartres had a market on this Saturday morning. The stalls were set-up with pride and displayed the produce in such a way that it was a shame to disturb them. The market was a very local thing and we seemed to be the only tourists there.
We took the opportunity to purchase some shallots and garlic to take to our one week stay at our cottage in Thenay but more about that later.

We rose early to see the market - as you can see, we were almost the first there.

We could have wandered the streets of Chartres a lot longer than we did but we found that it was fairly quiet and many shops were closed, maybe there was some sort of holiday. Chartres was a city of many eras. You could walk the narrow laneways and under arches, beside protective walls and then emerge to modern shops. Although the Cathedral was saved during WWII, much of the city was in fact heavily bombed so both old and new architecture morph together.

I kinda like clever graffiti which in these examples, I would call street art.

This particular piece of street art captured my attention.
Chartres still retains some very fine examples of its past heritage.

A walk along the banks of the River Eure is most relaxing on the mind. Water somehow does that. The walk presents some really great images for the camera with architecture dating back hundreds of years. Quaint hump back bridges cross the river at various intervals with the odd mill and wash house along the way.

The River Eure.

An early wash house on the banks of the river.
I wonder how many people over the centuries crossed this bridge before us.

Taken from the hump back bridge - several mills occupied positions along the river.
On reflection, an overnight stay was not enough to take in the sites and local life of Chartres but we needed to move on to our one week stay in the Loire. On a previous trip we stayed to the west at Chinon. Having planned this trip (our third) to France, Sue wanted to stay to the east of the Loire before moving on to Burgundy. Sue also wanted to visit fellow bloggers Ken and Walt, Americans who have lived in the Loire now for possibly ten years. The story goes that Sue commented on Ken's blog to say if someone taps you on the shoulder at the market and says "G'day" it would be us two Aussies. It eventuated that we share a bottle of local wine and nibbles with Ken and Walt.

The little cottage that we were to spend the week at is in a small village of Thenay just near Pontlevoy.
The very strange thing was that several months before leaving for the trip, we were invited to lunch with friends and we called into a book shop along the way. As I walked by the bargain bin, there was this book on a French Village - it just happened to be Pontlevoy.

Our stay in Thenay was to prove most fruitful. Not only did we gain a fondness for the Loire but we also gained a friendship with the owners of our little cottage in Thenay.

We'll tell you more next Wednesday..
I hear Sue calling me to make coffee and pour her a glass of Muscat - must go now.


  1. We have spent many a happy day in Chartes, breaking the journey on our way to more southern parts of France.

    We are always amazed by the sheer beauty of the cathedral and the last time we were there a "son et lumière" was taking place - images being projected onto its walls and windows. It was fantastic.

  2. Jean, I believe they do a similar light show at Poitier and other large buildings in France.

  3. I have always been in a hurry to get from Calais to our house when I drive up and down on my own. Sadly I have never seen the Cathedral, one day!! My favourite cathedral to date is Riems which I think will take a lot of beating.
    The wall paintings are fantastic. I could happily shop in that market it really looks excellent. Your photos are fantastic. Diane

  4. Diane,
    I'm sure that you are right about Riems - the Cathedral where Kings are crowned, yes? We've not been to the Champagne district.
    I'm afraid you are too kind about my photos. Our little Canon point and shoot only takes memory photos.

  5. I learnt a lot about this beautiful cathedral in a university course I took last year - "Art & Architecture" it would be so lovely to see it in real life.

  6. Dianne - put it into your plans for your next trip.
    Also beware of all my cycling friends in Adelaide next week for the TdU. Maybe some blogging material for you next week of finely tuned athletic men in lycra :)

  7. I think these little cameras are amazing. I have a Samsung that we bought in a supermarket for somewhere around £75, I also just point and shoot. I get a few disasters, but it is usually my fault as I have moved the camera!! Diane


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