France 40 - Chartres, the green path and a red squirrel

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June 12th 2012
Published: June 13th 2012
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As we drove to Chartres the little town of Provins was still on our minds. The wonderful walk which took us down narrow medieval lanes, past Jewish merchants houses and the lovely french square. Tree lined, the sun shining it was such a lovely place. Roses were everywhere, in the gardens, rose essence in the shops, rose scented tea, rose flavoured cakes. The damask rose was brought to the town and had become its emblem.

Chartres on the other hand was going to be very different. We parked up at the nearest site to the city advertised as being within walking distance. We have learned through experience not to believe everything you read about sites. Walking distance can mean so many things to different people. What is walking distance for one person is too far for another. Perhaps the camping advertisement should be more specific with its distances. The site was a large one and it seemed very popular and full. We were told to find a plot which we did in a quiet corner that I called the British corner as there was a British couple sitting by their van sipping gin and tonic. They had had a hard day walking and felt they deserved the well earned rest. Next door to them was another poor British guy who was waiting for Red Pennant to come out and sort out his poorly van. It had broken down and he was well and truly stuck until they repaired his vehicle.

There was a small shop on site and I bought a welcome pint of long life milk, WFI was available free but only outside the reception area which was fine until it rained. It wasnt much fun surfing the net in the pouring rain trying to shelter under an umbrella. There was a small cafe which served pizzas and chips. The chips were welcome as our cupboard was bare. The toilets and showers were clean but the paths to them dirty with oil which had escaped from the tractor they used to cut the grass. I dont mind the smell of oil in the right place but it was a bit overbearing on the campsite. The site was very green and had many trees. It was next to the river and there was they said a footpath along the river which would take you directly to the cathedral. The cuckoo was making its noises through the night and it is a bird that is alive and well in France.

The following day we got up early and set out for the city. The walk was not as bad as we thought it would be. As long as you can see your destination it seems manageable and the spires of the cathedral were always there in the distance. The path was well used by joggers, walkers, cyclists and schoolchildren. The city had designated it a green pathway and encouraged the townsfolk to use it for leisure and exercise. We saw a red squirrel on the way, at least it was not grey but a rather browny red colour. Eventually we arrived in the square in front of the cathedral. It was empty as it was 8.30 in the morning.None of the shops were open nor any of the cafes. The shops seemed to be full of designer items or tourist tat similar to that found in any religious city such as Avignon or Assisi. Beggars were already in residence outside the cathedral and as usual it was covered in scaffolding. How unlucky can you get with buildings - we
Chartres Chartres Chartres

A car park/market with curtains
seem to have had more than our share of scaffolded buildings this holiday.

The cathedral known as Our Lady of Chartres is considered one of the finest examples of French High Gothic style but it underwhelmed compared to some cathedrals I have seen. It was interesting and had some lovely features but it was not the best although perhaps other people would disagree. The cathedral had been built between 1193 and 1250 and apparently most if not all of its glass was still original. It is also reputedly in a wonderful state of repair. From the outside in parts it looked as if it were almost new as it seemed too pristine and clean. There were though some amazing statues adorning the whole building on almost every corner and niche and the glass was impressive. A black madonna seemed strangely out of place but revered by worshippers. Even as we were there a devotee was praying to the madonna and fingering her rosary. The highlight of the interior was the choir stall and the altar but unfortunately again for us scaffolding was up and it was not possible to see the high altar.

After our visit we had one more thing to do in Chartres and this was to find a bank which we did. Armed with a supply of euros we were able to set off for the last stop before Dieppe, Calais and home knowing we had enough cash to last us the holiday out.


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