Today I did nothing whatsoever to do with my dissertation. Today I went to Chartres. Way back in high school AP art history I remember studying the development of Gothic cathedrals and their floor plans and masonry and spires and buttresses… and of course 12th-13th century Chartres was a key player (easy to remember because of its asymmetrical towers). So in my mind, Chartres Cathedral was the key player for this little day-trip. What I did not expect to find, however, was the town from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
I kid you not, that is exactly what I stumbled upon when I walked the streets of this lovely, adorable, unassuming Medieval town. What was nice, though, was that since Chartres Cathedral is in the Upper Town (literally higher elevation than the older “Lower” town) you can see the towers from wherever you are and use it as a reference point among the turning alley-width streets that make up the town.
Chartres is home to some of the oldest surviving French Medieaval buildings, including the oldest surviving home (still a home, on 29 Rue Chantault) and the “Maison du Saumon”, which currently has nothing to do with salmon, but is preserved as an excellent example of 16th century architecture.
Even the newer parts of the Upper town, which are busy with the traffic of tourists and locals browsing the many stores, bistros, and patisseries, have thankfully retained (or incorporated?) the original Medieval charm that makes Chartres so special. And speaking of patisseries, Chartes is known for its super-soft macaroons (which are actually originally an Italian pastry, but have become known as a French sort of cookie, and the French certainly know how to make them right).
In my search for said macaroons, with full intent to purchase a selection for the tasting, I instead came upon the perfect pain au chocolat, a giant specimen for only 1.05euro (just look how much bigger they are than the croissants, even!). And, for the first time on my France trip, I bought a French pastry (macaroons do not count since they are gluten-free, I say). And it was warm, and buttery, and flaky, and filling yet light, and full of chocolate. Totally worth it.
It would be remiss of me not to post some interior shots of Chartres Cathedral, especially since it’s known for some of the best stained glass and surprisingly massive interior proportions. I will warn you, however, I do not have a fancy-dancy camera nor was the interior lighting superb, but here I give you two hotos that hopefully give a sense of size and amazing color:
These pictures really don’t do it justice at all. Just… just go there. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.
And now: sipping on some champagne, enjoying the memories of what turned out to be a wonderful day, despite the threat of rain all day.
And yes, I did walk to/from Gare Montparnasse 😀 So far my goal of walking everywhere around town: complete success.