La Basse Cour: B&B near Alencon, Normandy
Normandy B & B : Chartres
Town and Cathedral of Chartres
ChartresChartres is a beautiful town with lots of places of interest - the world-renowned cathedral, the stained glass heritage centre and miriad back streets, plus excellent shopping centre and plenty of places to eat, make it a great day out. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and surrounding it there are many buildings and entire streets of medieval origin which survive virtually unchanged.
ChartresBy the main national road it normally takes 80 minutes to cover the 100km (65 miles) to Chartres.
Leave the B&B in the direction of Neufchatel en Saosnois and then turn right on the D311 to Mamers.
At Mamers follow the signs for Nogent le Rotrou and Chartres.
Once you reach Chartres follow the signs for Centre Ville, Cathedrale and Office de Tourisme; there is an underground car park very close to the Cathedral. Take a ticket on entry and pay at the machine (cash or card) just before returning to your car.
Between the car park and the cathedral you pass the Tourist Office. Stop off there to collect a "plan de ville" which shows a route around the main points of interest in Chartres. There is also an audio guide available if you wish to hire one - it is well worth it.
If you have your own MP3 Player, you can download an audio guide to Chartres for FREE : "Audio Guide to Chartres"
Near the Chartres tourist office is a small shop selling good value and quality tapestry work - wall hangings and cushions.
Near Chartres Cathedral is the departure point for a tourist train with guided commentary as an alternative to the audio guide. The tour lasts 35 minutes, April to October inclusive.
The cathedral was built between 1134 and 1260 and boasts ornately decorated facades, and even more sumptuous stone carvings around the chancel. It has a crypt, the largest of any cathedral in France, which can be visited as a guided tour (generally 11.00am and various times in the afternoon - access is outside the cathedral). The bell tower can also be visited (access inside). The huge labyrinth, a pattern of black and white stones forming a maze in the centre of the main nave, is one of the few that survive in France. However, it is often partly obscured by chairs set for worshippers. Walking the maze symbolised the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The stained glass windows are also incredibly well preserved and number 172, including the famed "Our Lady of the Beatiful Window" with its startling cobalt blue surround. Many of the windows date from the 12th century.
Apart from the cathedral itself, some of the main points of interest and architectural delights of Chartres include:
- Maison du Saumon, Place de la Poissonnerie (now a restaurant)
- Rue de Ecuyers and the extraordinary "Reine Berthe" staircase
- the house at 29 rue Chantault
- The tiny bridges and old buildings all along the banks of the Eure, including the Ponceau Mill (now a restaurant) and Saint André church which once straddled the river on arches
- the abbey church of Saint Pierre
- the mosaic house "Maison Picassiette" at 22 rue du Repos
- the International Stained Glass Centre at 5 rue du Cardinal Pie
For a light lunch, there are creperies, sandwich bars with seating outside around Place Billard and rue des Changes, if you do not want a larger meal.
At sundown from mid-April to mid-September many of the principal buildings are bathed in coloured light - a sight well worth waiting for if you are visiting later in the day.
Chartres also boasts an excellent shopping centre for both special foodstuffs and gifts; local specialities are gamebird pie, macaroons, mentchikoff (praline chocolate covered in meringue), cochelin (puff pastry man), Chartres beer, sable de Beauce shortbread ...