Believe it or not, this is likely my last France post for this year. We’re now in New York (grandkid pictures to follow), having left France last Saturday. Flight over was no problem, except a little late, shuttle was waiting for us, so here we are in Elmsford.


For years – literally – we have been saying that we needed to go to the town of Chartres to see its famous cathedral. Last Thursday, we had one last free day and when Mary suggested a day-trip somewhere, I suggested Chartres, and off we went.

Casa Picassiette

Mary said we definitely should see Casa Picassiette before we went to the Cathedral, so we did. Casa Picassiette is, um, an “unusual” house. The man who lived in it covered darn near every surface with mosaic designs made from broken plates he picked up during the day. Only a few pictures will describe this; words fail me.

Casa Picasiette - one building of four and five.

Casa Picasiette – one building of four and five.

But it gets better: some interior photos:

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The man who built this was truly an artist.

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Remember: everything was made from bits and pieces of broken plates over a period of more than 35 years. The man who created it worked at different jobs during the day and at his creation during the night. I might add, just as a sidelight, that he had several stays in a mental hospital. Just saying…

Chartres Cathedral

Most people who know these things say that the Cathedral at Chartres is the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in France and maybe the world. One reason is that it is far more original than other cathedrals; while there have been modifications, Chartres Cathedral is largely as it was when completed in the 13th century. Also, the cathedral was completed fairly quickly, meaning that its design is consistent throughout, with few hodge-podge additions tacked on at later dates.

In 2009 a major restoration started. Now, a key question in any restoration of this sort is, “To what period do you restore?” This restoration is being done to what was known of the Cathedral in in 1300s, when it was largely complete and fairly new. There are, of course, arguments among architectural historians about the restoration, but generally it seems to have been well-received. One interesting aspect is that, as the restorers cleaned walls, they discovered that in the 1300s the Cathedral interior was painted with a cream color, and so the restoration has used that color. It is just beautiful.


I cheated – this picture is swiped off the Internet. The lack of people gives away that I didn’t take it, but honestly, the Cathedral was not at all packed with people, as we had expected.


A wall, showing the beautiful cream color to which the interior is being restored after cleaning and repair.


The organ, for Margaret. We listened to it being played for a while. Honestly, though organs in these huge cathedrals are powerful, the acoustics are terrible, and they often sound muddy.


The Cathedral definitely dominates the skyline in Chartres.


The view from our table at lunch.


Because the Cathedral sits on the highest point of the city, if you approach from the south, you can see the Cathedral towering on the horizon long before you see the city itself.

One last beautiful part of the Chartres Cathedral: because it has escaped damage and changes over the centuries, its stained glass windows are largely intact. The creators of these windows used a special technique to create blue from cobalt, and the result is that these windows are works of art, with spectacular blues in them.


The city of Chartres looks to be interesting, and deserves a couple days, we think. We will be back, and we are so glad that we used our last day-trip to see the Cathedral.

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One Response to Chartres

  1. Susan says:

    Visited Chartres in perhaps 2009, don’t remember the cream-colored walls, but they look spectacular. I think I just have to visit again! Chartres also impressed me as an interesting town that might be worth an overnight stay.

    I also loved the guilds, which contributed to the cathedral, and which left their mark.

    Welcome back to the US. We are looking forward to seeing you.

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