When I was seventeen (or thereabouts), the Chartres Cathedral was my favorite. I think it was the asymmetrical towers and the long, narrow jamb figures. And also the stained glass. Definitely that. Since we would be driving to the Loire Valley to visit some chateaux, I thought it would be perfect to make a short side trip to the cathedral. As we got closer, we could see it towering over the town of Chartres.
Of course we pulled off to take a photo of it and found this cute little house, too. I wouldn’t mind living in it on the outskirts of Chartres.
We were hoping to make it to the Chartres Cathedral in time to go on the tour with Malcolm Miller. I had read that his tours are amazing and insightful. He has studied the cathedral for decades. There was a tour at 12 pm (which was the only one we would be able to make). We got into town at about 11:50 and tried to find a parking spot. I pulled into one below the cathedral and we gathered our stuff to head up, but then we noticed …
all the stairs. It was still quite far, and I didn’t think we’d make it in time, so we thought we’d try to find something closer. We wound up little streets to a signed parking lot. It was definitely much closer, but it took us longer than I expected to get up there. We had missed the tour, but it did mean that we had some time for lunch. I was so excited to see a ferris wheel and carousel in the middle of town. I love that carousels are so common in France.
After lunch, we headed to the cathedral.
Chartres was different than both Westminster Abbey and Notre Dame. Even though it’s just as well known, it’s more remote. It takes some additional effort to go there and it really does feel more like a pilgrimage. There was even a little plaque outside the cathedral.
But you really notice it when you walk inside. I knew that Chartres had a labyrinth at its entrance. The idea is that those pilgrims who didn’t have to take the arduous journey to the cathedral would follow the circuitous path of the labyrinth instead. I love the symbolism of the labyrinth and thought about following it myself. But it was actually a little crowded. There were quite a few pilgrims at the Chartres Cathedral. I thought they were beautiful. Many of them had taken off their socks and shoes in respect of the holy ground. I watched them walk slowly through the labyrinth, pausing to pray at intervals.
It was definitely a more spiritual experience at Chartres than at the other cathedrals I visited. I think it’s easy to forget the original purpose of the cathedrals and only think of them as art. Of course, they are that, too.
We walked around the outside of the cathedral afterward. Sometimes I have a hard time fitting the interior of the cathedral with the exterior. It seemed like there were little rooms or nooks and crannies on the outside that aren’t visible on the inside. The inside always seems like one large open space, but then there are all of these little windows and stairways on the outside. I want more freedom to explore a cathedral some day.
We did run into the tour a few times while wondering about. I was hoping to eavesdrop a little, but they had earpieces so that Mr. Miller could whisper his brilliance without disturbing the rest of us.
We didn’t get to explore much of the town since we still had about an hour’s drive to Chambord, but the buildings right around the cathedral were so pretty.
And just as I was taking a picture of this charming building, a woman cycled by with a baguette in the basket of her bike. How perfect is that?!
As we were driving out of town, I had to pull over one last time because I found the lush greenery and bridge over the canal just too beautiful to pass up. That, my friends, is the benefit of renting a car.
I know this doesn’t have anything to do with France, but since it’s Election Day here in the states, I feel like I can’t just ignore it. I was on edge all day today and I kept checking the results all throughout writing this entry. But I’m so happy that our president was re-elected for four more years. I believe in the things that President Obama represents – everyone pulling together to help lift each other up, providing healthcare for all, and giving more people access to higher education. I know it’s not all as simple as that, and I definitely know that I have many friends who disagree with me and think that President Obama represents quite a different set of values. But for me, tonight, his re-election affirms that my country (at least a little over half of it) feels the same way that I do. I’m optimistic about the future of my country. I’m glad the long campaign is finally over and we can get down to the real work that needs to be done. And hopefully our elected officials can figure out the best way to work together. Happy Election Day! Now we don’t have to worry about those campaign commercials any more.