Friday, 1 July 2011

Steeples all the way to Rouen

After an excellent breakfast, I set off wearing clean clothes (thanks to the auberge's tumble drier) in an optimistic mood for Rouen. I hoped to call into Orleans and Chartres on the way to visit their cathedrals. But first I went for a stroll around Montargis. I found this a tidy, prosperous-looking place full of floral displays and canals and rivers (with red water lilies growing in profusion). There is an old part of town in the centre with interesting shops - not that I'm into shopping, however.

Orleans was a much larger town with a quite splendid cathedral. Where does France get all these staggering churches from, I wonder? I spent some time walking around the interior admiring its construction and the detail of the stone carvings.

After this, more prosaically, I went off to the park and had my picnic lunch - pate de campagne, bagette, fresh fennel & endive - all rounded up with a peach. Lovely. The park was full of young children playing together under the watchful eyes of their mums. I'm guessing French schools must now be closed for the summer.

The road to Chartres was a route nationale and it was one of those nearly traffic-free ones, rather straight and cutting through the countryside like an arrow - and in places lined with avenues of trees. This makes for really enjoyable riding.

Chartres is a medieval village but its dominant feature is its gigantic cathedral which sits at the summit of the place. I could see it from five miles away as I approached the town. I was struck by the sheer vastness of the building. Completing it must have been the most enormous enterprise. The interior was dark and lit by stained glass.
Restoration work has begun. Whereas the unrestored walls were dark and gloomy, the restored stone shone with a white brilliance that took my breath away. I'm guessing it will take many years to complete the full restoration of the cathedral but it will certainly be a sight to behold.

The hostel was an interesting combination of new and old architecture. The interior was very modern and comfortable - the exterior on old dyeing works. Another building worth the visit - besides a bed for the night. I met several interesting people here who came from France and elsewhere in the world. This makes for good  conversation.

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