Dwight Peck's personal website

Chartres, Le Mans, and the Louvre, 2012

In mid-April 2012, the snow's disappearing in the Jura.

Too much work anyway. Down tools. We're going to Chartres.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

We've taken the TGV from Lausanne four hours to Paris Gare de Lyon, the 91 bus to the Gare Montparnasse, and the train down to Chartres in the Eure-et-Loir department an hour to the southwest. We got off the train at the Chartres stop -- no map, no nothing; no idea where to go! All we knew was that our lodgings were next to the cathedral. What to do?

Follow the steeples.

We're looking for the Hostellerie Saint-Yves, originally part of the religious complex along the ridge in the old city.

Hurrying past the South Porch, no time to pause

The St Piat Chapel at the apse-end of the cathedral. No time to pause.

The Hostellerie St-Yves, a 17th century religious building on the site of an 11th century hostelry for pilgrims and a monastery destroyed in the Wars of Religion in the 1560s.

Possibly a disappointment for business road-warriors seeking the homogeneous luxuries of the Marriott style, but the Hostellerie Saint-Yves is very inexpensive (with an excellent breakfast extra), clean, friendly, centrally placed (next to the Chartres cathedral!!!), and charming.

This isn't just the entrance hall -- the meeting rooms and nearby buildings are part of the diocesan religious establishment (but nobody's handing out leaflets or rattling the tin cup, or checking your carry-on for alcohol).

The room is simple but clean and functional, with a great view.

This is the great view -- out the window of our room.

We're reconnoitering, a preliminary walk round the upper town -- up the alley to the cathedral.

Ooof, a little bit overwhelming. The cathedral of Chartres is generally recognized as the finest Gothic cathedral in France, and it's been a UNESCO World Heritage cultural property since 1979.

The circle of buildings round the cathedral, part of the originally-fortified upper city on the ridge under the authority of the bishops -- the secular authority, the counts' palace, now gone, was just down the road on the far side towards the river.

The welcoming committee

Another welcoming committee. They're all over the place.

The steps of the South Porch and diocesan chapter buildings

People of color with crowns on. (It's a 16th century pear wood statue on a 13th century pillar with cumbersome crowns from the 1850s. "In troubled times children would come here, kneeling, torch in hand, chanting a Salve Regina.")

We've been traveling all day and need to think about dinner.

The tourist train. It looks so familiar!

Of course it looks familiar. It's a Dotto Train Euro 5, the Muson River 1894, with about 50 passengers in a group at 7 euros a head. Do the math.

The South Porch in late afternoon sunlight (there wouldn't be a whole lot more sunlight during our visit)

The South Tower and South Porch

Chartres cathedral, south side

A quick memorization of the dinner menu

Another look at the cathedral -- because it's that kind of cathedral

The sign of a truly civilized country

The cathedral of Chartres -- built beginning in 1145 and rebuilt after a catastrophic fire that destroyed the whole city in 1194, and then . . . and then . . . in fact, the guidebook on the cathedral reads like the daily logs of the local fire department, one sad disaster after another, for centuries.

Look at that North Tower, on the left; doesn't it make you just want to climb on up there and have a good look-round?

Just checking out the menu

We're over on the north side now, still just poking round and planning the rest of our visit.

The North Porch. This is an astonishing cathedral -- for which we can thank Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr.

A menu inviting memorization

More north side of the cathedral

The North Porch again -- the decorations narrate the history of the human race from the creation to Christ's arrival (the South Porch continues the story to well past our present times).

Still more north side of the cathedral

The old Bishop's Palace, now the Musée des Beaux Arts

Kristin and our snack for getting through the long wait until the restaurants open

Extremely significant religious figures, standing on the rest of us

No one can walk by this thing with a camera in his backpack without . . . well, you know.

Like a giant spider squatting down on the garden

The Café Serpente is well recommended on the Web and wasn't bad at all. But that's just the start: we've got four more nights here and an everlasting curiosity.

Tomorrow: The Louvre, for the art, etc.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 1 May 2012.

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