Chartres to Paris – Mini Pilgrimage Day 3

I have to start with a background story today.  In 1989 I took my first trip to France with a school group.  It was a public school but we made a stop at the Chartres cathedral.  The bus let us off and we were told to get lunch, tour the cathedral and be back to the bus.  My friend and I headed out and bought some food and then set out for the cathedral.  We wandered all over town, and using our stellar french asked for directions along the way.  We finally came upon a church but there was no one else there which we thought was strange.  But we took pictures before running back to the bus because we were late.  It was at this point that we realized the bus was parked in front of the actual cathedral.  I have one sad picture of the outside of it from the bus window and a number of pictures of some random church in town.

After just missing closing time last night I was starting to think I would never see the inside but at long last I made it inside!!!  We went at 8:30 when it opened and had time to wander around before mass at 9:15.  This was definitely not the church I saw on my last trip.  The feature that makes this cathedral famous is the stained glass.  The windows are really something to see.  It was really fun to watch the sunlight move across the windows during the very long mass (had no idea a regular Sunday mass could last that long…)  I am so glad I had the opportunity to return and actually see this beautiful cathedral.

There is a local yarn dyer (Destination Yarns) and she names all her colorways after destinations and they are all fabulous.  She had one named after the Chartres cathedral that I bought awhile ago because of my memories and now I see exactly why she used that name.  Now I will have to find the perfect project for it!!

We needed to return the car and catch a one hour train to Paris.  This should have been easy but it is Sunday and Bastille Day and we are in small town so it ended up being a little more difficult than one might think.  But everyone loves running to make a train, right?

In Paris we said goodbye to our pastor and the nun who had been with us and our group was down to three.  My dad had managed to book us a room in the Holiday Inn (I know but stick with me) Notre Dame which has the best rooftop bar in Paris which means a great view of the fireworks.  The room we had was listed at 500 Euro ($750 US give or take) but my Dad had booked with points.  Now, it was a nice room but not what I would expect for that kind of money (it did have a nice shower 🙂 )

The first thing we did was head to Sainte Chapelle.  This was another recommendation from our priest.  It was built by one of the King Louie’s and the downstairs chapel (which was really nice) was for the servants and the upstairs which had a large number of floor to ceiling stained glass windows was for the king’s family.  The chapel has an interesting history and the stained glass was a true work of art.  It is one of those tucked away Paris gems, right up the river from Notre Dame.  We grabbed a quick cafe lunch and then I headed to the hotel to enjoy my room by napping and facetiming with my parents.

We had scoped out the rooftop bar and I had received different answers as to availability of tables.  It sounded like if we got there after 8 there would be no tables so I headed up at 7 and got the best table in the roof.  I was pretty confident the French would not kick me out especially if I was still drinking and I was right.There I stayed until fireworks at 11.  I think my bar bill was more than some of the hotels I have stayed in on this trip but it was worth every penny!  By 10 you could hardly move up there.  I noticed a number of Aussies who were all really obnoxius (contrary to the Aussies I have met).  It was an interesting mix of people.  The fireworks were amazing and I was so excited that the railing by me was flat and really helped my camera take some great shots!  Can’t wait to download those!!!

Are we there yet?? Mini-Pilgrimage Day 2

The plan for today: morning prayer at Taize, quick visit to monastery ruins in Cluny, 4 hour drive to Chartres, Chartres cathedral and light show (yep, you read that right cathedral light show!). 

What actually happened today: morning prayer followed by video and gift shop shopping, monastery ruins followed by quick shopping trip through Cluny market and then lunch, almost 5 hour drive to Chartres (due to multiple stops) and cathedral light show.  We got there too late to actually go inside but ate at a cafe while waiting for it to get dark enough for the light show to begin.

Amanda really wanted to know more about the community at Taize so we stayed and watched a video which filled in a number of holes we had from attending the two services.  Then we had to wait for the gift shop to open (first setback of the day).  The monks do not accept donations and survive on selling pottery they make.  Needless to say we all left with some pottery.

Then it was off to Cluny which was just down the road.  There are ruins there from what used to be world’s largest monastery.  It was cool because they had this computer aided design that filled in the holes from the ruins you were seeing.  It certainly was one large place.  I knew we were in trouble when we saw a donkey carrying market purchases to a car in the parking lot before we ever got the ruins.  Amanda had been searching for a market since Rome and this was a genuine, local french market.  Thus the second setback of the day.  Market shopping!  We bought some goodies, got some lunch and set off.

Now I don’t consider a four drive far so it does not occur to me to warn people it is a four drive but apparently I should.  You would think we had a car of kids.  It was a beautiful drive through the French countryside.  And, when it was all said and done we had a lot of laughs and it was easy highway driving and thanks to the gps we never got lost so it was all good.  It was worth it when we pulled into Chartres and the entire back seat gasped when we got the first glimpse of the cathedral.

I admit to being skeptical about this light show.  Who lights up a cathedral built over a thousand years ago?  I completely and totally admit to being wrong.  It was the most amazing thing I have seen.  It was like nothing I had ever scene and utterly indescribable.  The real show is on the front of the cathedral but there are over 20 buildings lit up all over town.  It was a spectular way to end the day!