Oct 18 – Back on the move – France

We had to spend some time at home sorting out family business and giving the van a good clean.  After a few nights free camping in Gosport, visiting the dentist and other tedious tasks, we found ourselves free to get moving again so, I phoned DFDS to book a ferry and we were all set.  We called in to visit Marcus in Emsworth on our way through to Newhaven and dashed off to spend the night at the ferry terminal.  The crossing next morning was very pleasant, sunny and calm.  We decided to stay on the aire at Dieppe before starting our journey south.

Last year at this time we had just started our adventure of living in the van and travelling as much as possible.  We have learned a lot in that year.  On that journey, we travelled down the west coast of France and into Spain which meant that we cut through the middle and popped out at Peniscola.  This year we have decided to travel into Eastern Spain and I am looking forward to visiting Toulouse and Carcassonne on the way.  We have no other plan except to be at Alicante airport for our flights home on 22 Dec.

Our first stop was Chartres, another small old town dominated by an enormous Gothic cathedral.  We booked into a campsite that is handy for walking into the town and enjoyed the Autumn sunshine.  It was Sunday when we made our first sortie into the town and as ever, there were people enjoying coffee and food at the many establishments.  There was also a flea market on in the covered market place which was attracting a few shoppers.  Chartres is a very old historic town with Roman origins but became an important centre in the Middle Ages.

Medieval building housing the Tourist Information Office

The town and the cathedral were given new life in 876 when Charles the Bald donated the holy relic of “Mary’s Veil”.

Holy Relic info
Holy Relic behind bars

Following that, the cathedral has had a long and chequered history with several devastating fires and resulting rebuilds.  Chartres suffered badly from the Black Death in 1348 and the town became smaller and the outlying districts were abandoned.  In 1979, the cathedral was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The cathedral has been granted a 15 million Euro facelift and the difference is very visible where the work has already been carried out.  There is still a long way to go but, it will be almost  like seeing a new cathedral.  There is a film running of the restorers going about their craft and numerous information boards explaining the history and how the current work is enhancing and preserving the building.

Before restoration
After restoration

The dimensions of the cathedral are tremendous and you can only marvel at the skill of the many craftsmen who must have worked on it.  I wonder who project managed it!

Partly restored

The exterior is also eyecatching and we sat on a bench in the sun to soak it in.

Exterior view from the side
Closer side view
Front view showing the two towers

The left tower, which is much more flamboyant, is the newer addition dating to the 16th Century.  The right tower was built in the 12th century and is much less detailed.  The rose window in the centre dates back to the 13th century.

There is much more to Chartres than the cathedral and there were so many places to visit that we missed.  We did walk along the Esplanade De La Resistance in our search for somewhere to buy some fruit and milk.  A very nicely laid out memorial walk.

Pink granite fist in tribute to Jean Moulin, first President of the Conseil National de la Resistance

The church of St Pierre is a well preserved gothic masterpiece apparently.  Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside due to work being carried out.

church of St Pierre
St Pierre description
Church of St Pierre dominating the surrounding streets

Wandering around the back streets on our second day, in search of provisions, we saw this tromp l’oeil.  It was really successful as a deceit to the eye.

Fabulous trompe l’oeil

As it was a bit nippy and dull on our second day in Chartres, we wandered no longer.  Tomorrow we move on to Limoges.



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