19.11.2012 - 19.11.2012 8 °C
Surprisingly, we did not wake up overly hungry, despite our food restraint measures of the previous day. However, we did feel the first order of business was to find nourishment. Looking backwards towards our home, we felt we should leave breadcrumbs along the route to find our way back, as there is no actual address to our current home. It is on an unnamed road out in the country but, fortunately, we were able to register it as ‘home’ on the GPS so that we could use the tool to find our way back. We spent an hour in the marché today; everything takes twice as long to buy in a different language. It ended up being a cultural experience for all of us. And we saw that we had been paying twice as much as normal for our baguettes in Paris – they were only 45 eurocents (60 cents) here! While we can find good deals on Nutella, bread, cheese, coffee, chocolate and wine (basically, all the essentials), we cannot abide paying 5 dollars for a dinner’s worth of fresh green beans.
I’ll relate a few things we’ve noticed about the French/France so far:
- The coat of choice is the pea coat and people are generally very well shod, often in a leather boot
- Virtually 90% of people wear scarves, the men included
- Parisians are not rude: we have had people offer to help on three occasions when we’ve been looking at maps, deciphering metro instructions, etc.
- There are a lot more smokers here than in Canada
- The great majority of houses are pale yellow, with some grey and brown (for variety)
- pack your own bags at the grocery store
- They like to talk with their hands (as do we now, but that’s because they can’t understand our accents that well)
Ben certainly has got the hang of the rotaries (traffic circles) after only one day of driving. That GPS really helps matters as well, and worked much better for us when we switched it over from French to English. Chartres was about a 45 minute drive. As we approached the town, we saw the large cathedral looming above the other buildings, dwarfing them with its presence. The initial cathedral dates from the fourth century, but the one in existence today on that same spot is another example of the Gothic style, readied in 1230. It is in the midst of a six year restoration effort so allowed us to view the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. As we’re not sure of the original look, it was difficult to say whether the aim was to restore it to its initial appearance or to create an updated facade. At any rate, they are painting over the stone with a cream shade and decorating the filigree in gold leaf and other colours. Picks it up a bit – the grey is rather dour. Ben envied the restoration crew their time at this work – he sees it as so rewarding, to be able to see one’s progress so definitively (as opposed to being a teacher, when you need to wait several years before you’re sure little Gavin actually enjoys reading something other than graphic novels and hasn’t become a juvenile delinquent). The intriguing elements of the church were their massive stained glass windows, including the Blue Virgin window, and Virgin Mary’s veil, a relic that provided the reason to build the cathedral.
We enjoyed a lazy walk around the old town of Chartres, teasing ourselves with a game of ‘Find Where We Parked the Car.’ It’s a labyrinth of narrow streets, many cobblestoned and decorated with leaning row houses. On our walk, besides the main cathedral (Notre Dame, a much-used name as it turns out), we came across two other large churches, both many centuries old. We wondered why the faithful needed three such buildings but I guess all the villagers, unlike now, would have gone to church back then. Or maybe they had three relics to house?