On Monday, Sept. 19, we began our Gate 1 tour of Northern France with stops at Chartres Cathedral and Chateau Chambord, followed by wine tasting in the afternoon. Rebecca and I were up at 5:15AM to be sure we had time to shower, dress and finish packing before the big suitcases were picked up at 7AM. After a quick breakfast we were down at the bus before the 8AM departure.
Our first stop was at the the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, primarily built between 1194 and 1220. I’m always amazed at how well the Gothic structures hold up so many years later. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the building is considered to be “the high point of French Gothic art.” As you can see, it is quite beautiful.
The interior is lovely, also, though my photos don’t do justice to the glory of the stained glass.
There are two statues of Mary, one of which is large and beautifully done in the Renaissance style. The other is apparently older and is knows as Our Lady of the Piller.
The cathedral is in the process of being cleaned, inside and outside, by a laser. In this picture, you can see where the cleaning process was halted. The amount of detail in the decoration is just mind-boggling.
After touring the cathedral, we stopped for liquid refreshment at a little cafe next to the cathedral called La Serpente. Rebecca had coffee, while I had a cup of delicious dark liquid chocolate. I wish I could find somewhere around here that serves French-style hot chocolate. Yummy.
As we were leaving Chartres, a car backed into the bus at a toll booth, causing a 20-15 minute delay. How do you not see a bus in your rear view mirror?
Thanks to the idiot driver, we had only 45 minutes at our next stop, Chateau Chambord, begun in 1519 in the French Renaissance style by King Francois I. His son Henri II finished the chateau. During the French Revolution, the furniture and statues of the kings were destroyed. During World War II, treasures of the Louvre were moved to the Loire Valley chateaux for safekeeping.
We took photos of the exterior, then had a choice to make. A quick tour of the Chateau or lunch. Lunch won out. Rebecca and I split a ham and cheese baguette. I did get some nice exterior shots of the chateau, one of the largest in the Loire Valley. The roof is especially interesting, almost like a fantastical city on top of a palace. Maybe I’ll get back there some day with enough time to do the chateau justice.
Our last stop was at Montlouis winery near Amboise, located in a troglodyte cave, a very interesting setting. It makes sense when you think about it, since caves maintain a consistent temperature year round without help from A/C and heating systems. I managed to get a few photos with my Android phone, but it was very dark inside.
After checking in at our hotel, we went to dinner at Restaurant Leonardo da Vinci where I had salmon for dinner.
The restaurant is located in the Medieval section of Tours, a very interesting area. My photos aren’t great, but it was getting dark when we got there. I’d love to go back some time and wander the narrow streets.
As you can see, we had a very busy day.