France: Chartres

Day 15  Thursday, October 9, 2014

What a Wonderful Surprise

After an early breakfast that included some coulommiers cheese (pronounced yum yum), our hosts took us to see one more surprise at their home. They have caves that were used to dig out the rock to built the home back when the lord and lady of the manor were setting up their country home. It was quite the labyrinth. We were impressed by the height and width of each of the rooms as well as the complexity of the system of caves. It was used for living in, keeping the livestock in during severe winters, making and storing wine, hiding in during wars, and mining the stone for the buildings directly above.

Long ago wine flowed through that channel.

Another sad farewell and we were on the road again. We drove to Fontevraud Abbey to visit a site Jim had especially been looking forward to seeing.


We saw the tombs of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and Richard the Lionheart (Eleanor and Henry’s son). Eleanor commissioned her tomb while she was alive and making decisions, and she selected wisely. It is a beautiful carving of her lying down and reading the Bible. They have it lit in such a way that the pages seem to be glowing. We weren’t able to stay as long as we might have hoped because we had a sizable drive ahead.

A window for Richard the Lionheart
Elenore and her Bible
The medicinal garden

We drove to Tours and then north to Chartres. The cathedral was visible from miles away and did not disappoint up close either.




We had studied a book about the stained glass windows (most of them are original, as Chartres has not suffered destruction during either of the World Wars), but seeing them in person was thrilling. The pieces of glass are very small compared to more modern stained glass. The details of the faces and clothing made you appreciate the time, labor, and talent that went into them.

The Blue Madonna

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Chartres is a beautiful city and we enjoyed walking around the streets once the “tourists” had left town and headed back to Paris or wherever. They have many pedestrian-only streets and the locals come out in the evening to stroll.

Our home for the night is the former bishop’s residence. The ceiling in our room is about twenty feet tall and the spiral staircase in the center of the building is a stunner. We were thinking this evening that on this trip we have stayed at the site of a former fort, a former barn, a former home of an explorer, a former manor house for a lord, and now a former home for bishops. We’re big fans of recycling!

Our Chartres home is behind the blue gate.

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The nuns live in the large building across the lawn.

On a bit of a whim and an Internet rumor, we went over to the cathedral at about 9:30 on the chance they were doing the illumination of the cathedral tonight. We had read that it ended at the end of September. To our amazing good fortune, it was extended for two weeks. Our mouths just hung open as we watched the show. The sides of the cathedral (and about twenty other buildings) are washed with laser lights and other projections. We can’t begin to describe it so here is a link to part of the show. This may be one of the most stunning things we have ever seen.

Still pictures can’t do it justice.