Monday September 14
We were the only early birds who were awake for breakfast at 7 AM. I went French, choosing French bread and camembert. Later our group took a walking tour of the old town. We felt as if we had stepped back in time as we were among buildings that were constructed centuries ago. After an hour, we were back at the cathedral.
We were in for a treat. Our cathedral guide was Malcolm Miller, a “fascinating English scholar who moved (to Chartres) 50+ years ago when he was 24, and has dedicated his life to studying this cathedral and sharing its wonder through his guided lecture tours.”*
Mr. Miller had been our tour guide when Carla was six months old. At that time, he told me, “I don’t compete with babies.” Carla slept through the tour, but we didn’t. Mr. Miller’s knowledge of every aspect of the cathedral, shared with wit and reverence, amazed us.
The interior of the cathedral was in the process of a cleaning that would take months, so there were scaffolds and cloths covering large areas. Art restorers covered with dust were busily at work. Nonetheless, there was still so much to see. The outside of the cathedral has incredible statues, doors, and steeples. Inside, there are the nave and the choir. However, the most magnificent, noteworthy, and unforgettable part of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres is its rose windows. The public was illiterate when the cathedral was built in 1260 AD, so the windows “told” Bible stories from the old and new testaments in vibrant shades of the rainbow that change as the sun shines through them.
It was time for a quick lunch. Nick enjoyed a crèpe filled with four cheeses, while I chose one that contained cheese, ham and egg. Lunch was followed by a visit to a stained glass workshop at which Felicity, the local guide, was very knowledgeable. We walked back to the hotel in a downpour, but wearing our quick-drying clothes was helpful. Nick took a long nap, and I hoped that some rest would help ease his congestion. He awoke feeling better, so we went out in search of a restaurant. Soon our tour mates Peggy and Malcolm joined us and the four of us had a lovely dinner together.
After dusk, the Chartres Cathedral is the centerpiece of a magnificent light show. I realize it sounds kind of hokey to say that pretty lights were shining on a building. The lights, however, moved in a multitude of bright colors that presented a huge variety of figures ranging from saints to acrobats, all accompanied by music.
The cathedral is not the only structure that participates the light show. During our tour of the old town in the morning, Toni showed us how to find plaques in the sidewalk that would each be near a structure such as a bridge or a house that was part of the show. Three of our fellow tourists, Barb, John, and Judy, decided to do the light show tour, and we joined them. The result, a kind of scavenger hunt, was great fun. One bridge showed us an underwater scene with fish gliding through seaweed under the watchful eyes of mermaids. We took in each scene until we arrived back at the cathedral some time later, and then at our hotel.
13, 568 steps
*Steves, Rick, Smith, Steve, and Openshaw, Gene. Rick Steves’ Paris 2013. (Berkeley: Avalon Travel, 2013) pp. 591-592.