Loire to the South of France travel blog


May 5

Sunshine, birds singing, fairly good sleep...it's going to be a glorious day! Nice conversation at breakfast with Jim and Colleen and Olivia. Jim and Colleen look early 60's and have been everywhere in the world!! He's a retired engineer. Interesting how many of the guys on a trip are/ were engineers.

Our local guide at the Chartres Cathedral, Malcolm Miller, has guided there for 50+ years!! He is in his 80's! He has dedicated his life to studying this cathedral...even written an illustrated book. He gave us a feel for the history and then "read" us several of the stained glass windows. I have always known that the windows told a story but have never had an in depth explanation. And it was freezing cold!!

Rolinka took us on a walk from the cathedral down to the river area. She explained a bit about the class system that still exists today...nobility (power), bourgeois (money), and working class. The town sits on two levels...a plateau where the nobility and bourgeois lived and the lower level down by the river. This is where the trades were located...especially the tanneries and the beer breweries. Rolinka's husband is from the bourgeois class...she is from the working class. Normally the two classes do not inter-marry. She says her husband is the black sheep of the family...he doesn't care about all that. And since she is originally from Belgium she is a bit of a foreigner so accepted! She said there are some advantages...when it's vacation time you just choose the relative who has a chateau in the area you want to be!!

Chartres has about 35,000 people. The main jobs here are related to the perfume industry...containers, packaging, shipping. The crops grown in the immediate countryside are rapeseed ( canola oil and bio- fuels) and oats.

Stopped by a bakery to pick up a variety of sandwiches and quiche for our picnic lunch behind the cathedral.

Intended to make the 300-step climb up the cathedral tower but it was closed on Mondays!! Mixed blessing?? Instead we had a coffee!

Met up with the group again at 3:45 for our guided tour of the stained glass museum. We thought we had already seen it...but we had just been in the gift shop! The guide was so knowledgable about the whole process of making a stained glass window. She told us it takes a whole year to design and prepare the glass pieces for one window!! She talked about the artists and different styles of stained glass art as we walked through the current show...mostly modern.

Returned to the hotel for happy hour before heading to a pizza restaurant for dinner. Couple of cookies at Subway on the way back.

Time to pack up. We are on the bus at 8:30 in the morning heading to Chinon via Amboise. Looks like we might need our umbrellas.

Impressions and random stuff:

The landscape reminds me of the Willamette valley.

Most of the people are very friendly and helpful. Rolinka told us that many French people won't try to speak English because they have perfection issues...they think they will say something wrong. It's not because they don't like Americans. As a culture they are soft-spoken and serious.

Rolinka has many many scarves and wonderful ways to tie them. Hopefully we will remember how to do it. She is going to have a class for us one of these days. We can bring back a bit of French fashion!



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