Welcome Guest | Login or Register

Paris (er… Chartres) Trip – Day 6

Today was a leisurely trip by train out to the French countryside to visit the charming town of Chartres. I don’t have a whole lot of pictures today, because we took it pretty easy (that, and I just wasn’t as snap-happy as usual). Anyway, enough with the introduction. I WILL say that this entry is free of pictures of naked people. I DO have a picture of a urinal though…

Did I mention that the transportation system in Paris is wonderful (crowded, but wonderful)? You can take the bus, the subway, the train, a taxi, or even a bike. Yup, Paris has a unique bike rental system (I’ll snap a picture when I get a chance). You can walk right up to a bike stand, pay your money (or use a pre-paid pass), and pull a bike out of the locking system and ride it around Paris! Today we rode the bus from the apartment down to the train station (about 30 mins) and then we hopped on a train to ride out of Paris and into the countryside. Now I can’t sleep a wink on planes, but there’s something about the quietness and smooth ride of the Parisian trains that just put me right out. Next thing I knew, we were getting off at Chartres!

Me in front of Notre Dame de Chartres The cathedral is situated on top of a hill and is very easy to see from the train pulling into Chartres. The train stops at the bottom of the hill, so a short walk later, I was standing in front of it (hills are small and relatively sparse in this region of France). This cathedral is the oldest and best preserved example of Gothic architecture in the world. It predates Notre Dame in Paris and is slightly larger. It also has the largest collection of authentic intact medieval stained glass in the world. Click here to see what I mean.
This is a picture of the North window (the main entrance is in the west) which is called the Glorification of the Virgin. It was paid for with money donated by the French monarchy which is why the French coat of arms are underneath the circular pane. Mary is in the center of the circular pane and she is surrounded first by doves and angels and then Old Testament kings and prophets. The lower panes depict triumphs of virtue over vice. How do I know all of this? I know because of the best attraction at Chartres: Malcolm Miller. He is a tour-guide/historian who has made Chartres his life’s work (over 50 years). For a mere 10 Euros, you can hear him regale fascinating tales about the history of Chartres and the meaning behind its many windows and sculptures. Now he knows way more than he can tell you in a half-hour tour, but he welcomes you to come back again and again and learn more. To me, Chartres was just another church before he brought it to life. If only I could find guides like him everywhere I went… Stained glass in Chatres
The veil of Mary (or basically just some 2,000 year old cloth) The church/cathedral at Chartres has been built, burned down, and rebuilt several times over the course of history. The primary reason it keeps getting rebuilt is because it is the home of a sacred relic: the veil of Mary. Over the years it has stood, Chartres has been a popular place of pilgrimage for many Christians who wish to pay homage to the veil. It is believed that Charlemagne originally captured the veil in one of his many conquests and then gave it to the church. Now I’m not much of a religious guy, so I don’t put much stock in the whole veil of Mary thing (excepting that it’s a great way to fill the church’s coffers), but the cloth IS over 2,000 years old and believed to have originated in the region that became Syria. That in itself is fairly impressive (as ancient cloth goes).
And now for a picture of a toilet… We went across the square from Chartres into La Serpente, which was a nice French restaurant. I had the salmon and it was good. This is an image of the restroom downstairs in La Serpente. The reason I took this picture is because it is typical of bathrooms around France. Many bathrooms are unisex which means that men and women go in the same place to use the toilet. Now usually the stalls are separated if there is room (meaning that there are stalls for women and stalls for men), but the urinals and sink are often still communal. One shouldn’t be surprised to come upon this scene and see a man using the urinal and a woman standing right next to him washing her hands at the basin (the sink is off-camera to the left of the hand-dryer). It can take you by surprise if you’re not expecting it and it can still feel a little odd even if you are expecting it. The wacky bathroom at La Serpente
Marianne on the Place de la République When we got back to Paris, we decided to go out for dinner. On the way we passed the Place de la République’ (the Square of the Republic). Atop the square was a statue of Marianne. She is the symbol of the republic. She has appeared in famous paintings (such as Liberty Leading the People in the Louvre), postage stamps, the former Franc currency, and the French Euro. Learn more about her here. Dinner was at Léon de Bruxelles which is a restaurant that specializes in Mussels. It was almost fast-food like in speed but French in quality (although the chain originated in Brussels). You basically choose what seasoning you want (I had curry), they toss the ingredients in a pot with the mussels, put a lid on it and cook it for a few minutes, and then bring the pot to the table and open it. Then you simply chow down on the delicious mussels! I would LOVE it if they had a chain like this in the states. It’s too bad most Americans are too wimpy to enjoy good food like this.

Afterwards we went home and went to bed, so that’s all I have for today. Tune in soon for Day 7 when I go to the Paris Opera House (the place the Phantom of the Opera haunted), the Arc de Triomphe, and the L’Orangerie museum (famous Monet paintings). See you then!

5 Responses to “Paris (er… Chartres) Trip – Day 6”

  1. on 27 Sep 2007 at 7:44 pm Jennifer

    yay for toilet pictures!! will you share a potty with me?!

  2. on 28 Sep 2007 at 1:51 am Suzanne

    Re: lunch in Chartres. In addition to the salmon, you also packed away les profiteroles — 3 crisp little puff pastries stuffed with ice cream and covered with hot dark chocolate and sprinkled with toasted almonds.

  3. on 28 Sep 2007 at 1:48 pm Kristi

    I’ve never had a better history class, even in college. I can’t wait for your next excerpt!

  4. on 01 Oct 2007 at 9:56 am Jessica

    Mmmmm muscels! Also I would have loved to have some of that desert. As far as bathrooms, they have one here in Tampa like that at the gothic club The Castle.

  5. on 12 Aug 2008 at 2:04 am Stan McC

    It’s been maybe 14 years since I was last at Chartres. Glad to see that Malcolm is still there doing his thing. Great insight to the history.

Trackback this Post | Feed on comments to this Post

Leave a Reply