Ah, post-final exam bliss. Since Monday I've been filling my days eating out with friends, watching movies, shopping for chef's uniforms for my internship (hint: it's really difficult for someone my size, but thankfully there is no dearth of tailors in this city), preparing for my summer trip, and doing pretty much everything I can think of that I won't have time for once I start working next week. Having covered most of the Paris "necessities," I've been keeping a mental list of day trips. Versailles. Check. Giverny. Check. And now I can add Chartres!
A medieval town about an hour's train ride outside of Paris (we never did figure out which region it's in, but I'm guessing the Loire Valley), Chartres is known for having one of the best preserved Gothic cathedrals in the country. Even the name of the city pays homage to the distinct blue hue used in the stained glass. (Or so said Steph's guidebook). Near the main foyer there's an interesting inlaid labyrinth, meant to symbolize something about getting closer to God. I believe the words David, Goliath and minotaur were thrown around in the explanation, but now I've gotten it all mixed up.
It's ironic how many churches and cathedrals I've been to in Europe considering my complete lack of religious beliefs. But despite that, I suppose what I'm drawn to is the history and the workmanship. And, from an anthropological standpoint, the stark contrast between, say, this cathedral and a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple is really quite fascinating. (Ooh, I feel the makings of a future post brewing...)
After making the rounds through the cavernous interior, we climbed one of the spires to the top - some 300 steps and god knows how many meters - and were met by spectacular views and a frightfully chilly wind. Despite the nice weather the previous weekend (I only had to wear three or so layers while working on the food truck and not the usual five to six), it had snowed mid-week and in fact there was still some piled up on the steps near the top of the spire. I was afraid of slipping and falling on the ancient stone, but everyone made it up and back down safely, including Steph's mom who is visiting from Melbourne to attend our graduation ceremony at the end of the week.
Following the descent we made our way to a cozy salon du thé to regain the feeling in our fingers and toes over some house specialty hot chocolate while planning our next move. Turns out the cathedral is essentially the only destination in Chartres, so after wandering through the historic area a bit more we hopped the train back toward the chaos of Montparnasse station.
Another day, another view. Hoping I can cram a couple more excursions in this week. We'll see.