Normandy and Onward
Monday morning breakfast was different—only three of us at the big table. The others were a Canadian couple who are kind of reversing my drive; the started in Belgium. They are going by map and not GPS. I wish them luck! Even with what seems like some strange meanderings, I can’t imagine doing the trip without it. Also, it is unfailingly patient when I miss a turn off a roundabout, but can be snarky in suggesting ‘when possible make a u-turn’.
Today was planned to visit Rouen on my way to Chartres. I remember when I was here before, I was jet-lagged at the start of a trip and was dragging along until I turned a corner and saw the clock tower arch over the street, flanked by the timbered buildings. Zing of travelers adrenaline! I parked the car in the facility that is underground directly under the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. I came to the surface and got oriented and headed toward the cathedral, soon seeing aforementioned clock tower. Monday is a quiet day, with several shops closed, but still some good window shopping.
It turned out that the cathedral didn’t open until 2:00 on Mondays, so I walked around exploring the town and enjoying a leisurely lunch. It is much cooler (upper 60’s-low 70’s), but that feels pretty normal to me!
I realized that I haven’t had any toilet pictures this trip. There haven’t been any wildly odd ones, but I have noticed that the public women’s rest rooms do not have toilet seats. Not just that they are left off, they were clearly designed not to have one. When the facility is an either/or, like in a restaurant, there is a seat. As observed on previous trips, it seems that any public facility other than a freeway rest stop, will involve going up or down stairs, or both to reach the facilities.
After lunch, I headed for the cathedral, which was one of Monet’s favorite subjects in the early days of impressionism. The cathedral has been there in some incarnation for over 1000 years. The interior is high gothic, and the exterior is as well, with a variety of tower designs, and a lot of carved decoration. One of the tombs inside was for Richard the Lionheart. Apparently his heart is here, and the rest of him is back at the abbey at Fontevraud! Normally I like to take advantage of seating while enjoying a cathedral. I have to say the chairs here don’t encourage one to linger. I’m glad the board at my church didn’t select these chairs for us!
Heading back toward the car, I stopped for a dessert item—a beignet (sugared donut thing without a hole, sliced and spread with a filling of nutella….yum. Also, a papeterie shop was open, and I got a French happy birthday rubber stamp!
Locating the car, I set the GPS for Chartres and had a mostly autoroute trip. It was a little disconcerting when four lane roads encountered roundabouts where you had to slow down from going 60 mph to negotiate through them. There are so few traffic lights that I have to remind myself to watch for them when in a larger town.
The cathedral in Chartres is immense and visible from a distance. I can imagine the impression it made on pilgrims approaching in the middle ages. I found my hotel and got everything out of the car. Now I will need to select stuff to send home in a box, and get the rest of things packed well enough to get from the car drop off to the apartment.
Tuesday morning I got the box from the post office, then headed out with laundry. I couldn’t find the place the hotel told me about, but I found the laundromat in the guidebook and got the challenge of figuring out the machines (successfully). I relaxed and played games on my phone as the machines whirred around. I actually enjoyed my wanderings, window shopping and catching views of the cathedral around every corner. I even found another craft store (the key word seems to be ‘loisiers’).
After laundry, I got an outside table with a view of the cathedral and enjoyed lunch before entering the massive cathedral. It was built between 1134 and 1260 (interrupted by a fire in 1194). It is 423 feet long and 122 feet high, and is filled with beautiful stained glass from the 12th and 13th centuries. The floor is inlaid with the pattern of a labyrinth in black marble, walked by pilgrims since the Middle Ages. Chartres is still a popular pilgrimage sight today, with at least half a dozen formal pilgrimages each year. Amazing to think that those exact stones have been in place since around 1200 with no restoration needed. Other parts of the cathedral have been maintained, restored, or modified over the centuries.
Back to the room to pack ‘the box’. I want to rest up for a night outing to view the ‘luminations’ light show. I will be sending this before that, though. I need to go to the main floor—the signal is pretty weak here at the end of the third floor.
I just realized almost all of the photos are vertical orientation this time--guess that is what happens with cathedrals!
A sign today: Bring in your old jeans for 20 euros off a new pair...