2009 Athens to Amsterdam travel blog

Cathedral of Notre dame

Some fine detail

Outside butresses

Eure river

Today we drove to Chartres. This is where we are going to drop off our hire car before catching the train to Paris which is only about an hour away.

After checking in to our hotel we went to fill up the car with petrol. This wasn't as easy as we thought. Being Sunday not too much open. Then the first station we stopped at didn't have 95 unleaded which is what we needed. Then drove on to another station. This one had the fuel but was an unmanned station and you need to use a credit card, except it wouldn't accept foreign cards. Then our luck changed, a couple who had pulled up next to us and showed us how the card system worked, offered to use their credit card and I would just pay them the cash. That was very good and has been typical of the french hospitality we have encountered the whole trip. These people spoke no english, didn't know us, and still offered to help. I had heard all the bad stories of French being aloof and unhelpful but we haven't come across it yet - we will see how Paris goes.

Chartres is most famous for its Cathedral of Notre Dame, and it certainly stands out in the city. You can see it from miles away, even befor you see the city itself. Described in the information booklet as "sublime pinnacle of gothic art, the cathedral boasts 9 sculpted gates and 4, 000 statues, unique in France, and 2,600 m² of stained glass windows (5,000 figures) dating from the 12th and 13th centuries". It has two contrasting spires — one, a 105 metre (349 ft) plain pyramid dating from the 1140s, and the other a 113 metre (377 ft) tall early 16th century Flamboyant spire on top of an older tower — soar upwards over the pale green roof, while all around the outside are complex flying buttresses.

The cathedral is not the only interesting thing in town (although certainly the most popular). We went for one of the suggested walks around town, passing some other churches, notably the Saint Pierre abby church (11-13th cent) and Saint Aignan which was rebuilt in the 16th cent and features magnificent 16th and 17th cent stained glass windows.

Chartres is well known for its stained glass and has an international stained glass centre which offers a complete, diverse and lively vision of the art and techniques of stained-glass window making.

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