Based on more than one recommendation from friends who have been there, we took a morning train to Chartres to see the Cathedral of Notre Dame there. The mid-13th century building features 176 stained glass windows, some dating before the church itself was built.
A word about short train trips–don’t bother paying extra for first class. The first class cabin is very small, only about 12 seats, and no one bothers to check tickets. If second class is full, people just sit in first class. Some passengers just board the train and go right for first class anyway. There is really very little difference in the two cabins. Our train to Chartres was packed, so we were forced to sit in second class, while other passengers sat in the aisles and entry ways. The trip only takes about an hour, so enduring second class is not that horrible an experience.
OK, as Gothic cathedrals go, Chartres is spectacular.
Unfortunately for us, the center of the church is undergoing renovation and so is shrouded in opaque plastic wrapping all the way up to the vaulted ceilings. What this means to the visitor is that you cannot see across the church to view the spectacular windows from any real distance. The rose windows glow in the low sunlight when you can view them from a bit more distance. Even with our diminished perspective, the effect of the windows is stunning.
But don’t just leave the church to wander off to lunch. It’s important to walk around the entire edifice to view the intricate and countless statuary, especially the gargoyles through whose mouths the rain water drains off from on high.
After circumnavigating the church, we landed upon a restaurant that served a huge hamburger with Roquefort cheese. What could be better?
It was probably not a bad thing that our walk back to the train station took about 10-15 minutes longer than necessary, because we had turned the wrong direction instead of retracing our steps back to the cathedral. Oh well, not the first time we have walked a little extra on our travels.