How about we take you to Chartres? In only 1 hour drive from Paris by motorway, we arrive in Chartres in Eure-et-Loir. 1st stage of our spring 2018 Tour de France. Why Chartres? On the road to the castles of the Loire Valley or Brittany, you too must have seen the spires of Chartres Cathedral in the distance on each of your passages from the motorway, telling yourself that one day perhaps you would take the time to stop there and visit Chartres and its surroundings.
This day arrived for us at the beginning of April, when the sun decided to reappear after a very grey winter.
By the way, we’re Frank and Richard. We’re travel bloggers exploring the world by sharing our inspiring stories, itineraries, city guides, practical tips and alternative good plans with you since 2008 on OneDayOneTravel. Read more on zarco.net
Then of course, the cathedral will be the highlight of your visit to Chartres, but the city has other assets, unsuspected riches and a more than appreciable quality of life. It was during the animation of a round table on e-tourism for the department that we wanted to extend our stay for a weekend by staying in a bed and breakfast in the historic centre.
We were able to explore the city centre on foot in complete freedom and tried out a few gourmet addresses and even took a cooking class. We also visited the nearby Maintenon castle.
We tell you all about it in this post of our travel blog OneDayOneTravel with all the practical information to help you organize your next city break in Chartres.
Since this weekend in Chartres in the Eure-et-Loir, we have travelled through other departments to show that you can escape and get away from it all in France. We are lucky to have such beautiful and contrasting territories. What a joy to be able to experience 1000 trips in one’s own country. This tour de France is to be followed live on social networks such as Twitter with #ODOTenFrance.
Visit Chartres and its cathedral for a weekend or more.
1. Visit Chartres : Our unmissable and unusual visits
1.1. Visit Chartres Cathedral
It is during a guided tour with Gilles Fresson, a guide and an incollete on the history of Chartres Cathedral, that we visit the remarkable building.
World-famous and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architecture (90% preserved) which bears witness to human creative genius, Chartres Cathedral was built in 30 years on the ruins of a Romanesque cathedral. Completed in 1222, it has become the reference model that has inspired many cathedrals such as those of Reims and Amiens.
The cathedral of Chartres has no tomb. Considered to be “Mary’s house”, this high place of pilgrimage has a special character on the road to Compostela.
The building also survived the wars. It is the best preserved Gothic cathedral in France.
Chartres Cathedral is home to no less than 2600 m2 of stained glass windows, veritable open history books, 60% of which are originals, and 3500 characters. With a height under the vault of 37.50 m, one would almost feel dizzy inside such an architectural masterpiece. And it has the same effect from the outside ^^
Do not hesitate to spend Friday to test the labyrinth present on the original paving inside the cathedral. The benches are then put aside to test it.
- Free activity open from Ash Wednesday until the end of October from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with possible closures during services.
At the time of construction, the cathedral was painted. In some places, traces of original paint from elsewhere remain. But it still feels strange to imagine this colourful building. The event “Chartres en Lumière” (Chartres in Light), which takes place from 27 April to 12 October 2019 (March 2019 update), gives you a good idea of what the cathedral might have looked like then. With the help of projections on the facades of the historic monument at nightfall, you can look back into the past like grown children. We were lucky enough to see a few random rehearsals of our strolls. Wonderful!
After visiting the cathedral, we advise you to go to the viewpoint behind the building to enjoy the view of the Eure and the lower town of Chartres. And yes, Chartres is built on 2 levels! Erected on a rocky promontory, the Cathedral dominates the whole city and the surroundings. It can be seen for miles around!
Chartres, you’ll have understood, is visited on foot. We walk along the Eure river in the lower town admiring the beautiful riverside houses. We enjoy the cathedral and the historic centre in the upper town.
1.2. Nocturnal visit of the crypt of Chartres Cathedral
Back to the cathedral but at night this time, still with Gilles Fresson, with whom we take a big step back nearly 1000 years!
It’s 9:30 pm. The gate opens. Our unusual visit begins. It is, candle in hand, that we enter the crypt of the cathedral by going down a few steps while Gilles starts to tell us a story.
We go back in time and put ourselves in the shoes of a pilgrim of the time by walking through a 250m long vaulted room where we can see murals by candlelight alone. We are here in the foundations of the cathedral, or rather of the cathedrals and churches that have succeeded one another over the centuries. We feel at every moment both the solemnity of the place but also all the strength of the architecture, next to the powerful pillars that support the building.
We go up a few steps to find the light again. Finally, this is what the story goes For this night visit, we stay in the dark. The feeling at that very moment is indescribable. One would never imagine finding oneself one day in the dark, alone, in a cathedral. And what a Cathedral! Only our candles and a few streaks of light through the stained glass windows allow us to progress. The moment is mystical and incredible at the same time. To live at least 1 time in your life ^^
The occasion is too good to test the incredible acoustics of the monument. Gilles manages to find the exact note in the voice that makes the whole building resonate. The hairs stand up.
- More information
On the next leg of our tour de France, we will be in the Tarn where we will visit the impressive cathedral of Albi.
1.3. Gourmet visit in Chartres: Cooking class with a starred chef
Chartres and the Eure-et-Loir is also an undeniable gastronomic heritage. A weekend in Chartres is therefore an opportunity for us (and we hope soon for you) to try some good restaurants. You can also take advantage of it to take a cooking class in a convivial atmosphere, whether you are a passionate or amateur, and test your own creations.
We spent the day with Laurent Clément, the former passionate and exciting chef of the Grand Monarque, who also gave us some of his cooking secrets.
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It is in small groups that this convivial day takes place, first at the market in downtown Chartres with a preference for local producers, then at 11, Cours Gabriel, where we get down to work to make several dishes.
From tatakis to tuna with sweetbreads, scallops and stuffed asparagus, not forgetting the dessert that we let you discover in the photo, we had a great time! The recipes are also accessible to everyone and each plate tells a story. We love it!
A real good time sharing the way we like it. In addition, the place is atypical because we find ourselves under a 150 m2 glass roof with Eiffel architecture.
Several formulas of cooking classes are proposed. We followed the course “Le marché du chef”. Find more information on the website of the 11coursgabriel.
1.4. Visit Chartres and its surroundings: the castle of Maintenon
To visit Chartres for a weekend or more is also to explore its surroundings. We take back our vehicle for about twenty minutes in the direction of the castle of Maintenon. In addition to the visit of the castle whose presence is attested since the XIIIth century, it is especially through Madame de Maintenon that the castle became famous.
Since then, the castle has evolved well, especially in the 19th century when the reception rooms were converted into private apartments.
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During the visit, one quickly realizes that each element of the facade, each room of the castle is a witness of the History of France. A real favorite for the chineseeries dating from the 18th century, witness of the trade between the East and Europe by the Indies Company.
The aqueduct, as a backdrop to the garden, was supposed to supply the gardens of Versailles by diverting the Eure. History decided otherwise. A good part of the stones were then used to build the castles in the surrounding area. What remains of it gives a very romantic side to the site.
The garden is also a must. Designed by Le Nôtre, the garden adorns itself with its most beautiful colours, especially in spring with its 15,000 tulips all in bloom.
Prices and information on the site of the castle of Maintenon and its events.
2. Where to eat in Chartres?
Chartres is well worth a gourmet visit. Its rich gastronomic heritage offers sweet and savoury lovers some very good surprises. The specialities are numerous. One of them is the pâté de Chartres, which is listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. It is in the restaurant la Cour located at 22, place des Epars in Chartres that we were able to taste it as an appetizer. If you come here for lunch as a duo, we recommend the Grand Monarque veal chop. A delight and a must.
La Table de Julie at 11 rue Saint-Michel is the 2nd restaurant in Chartres that we will retain. Chef Julie Lettelier, who has already worked with Paul Boccuse, took over the establishment in August 2017 to completely rethink it and offer a bistronomic cuisine. Here, fresh, local and seasonal products are given pride of place. The proof is in the pudding. The menu is renewed every day, which is not so common in the business. Even the wine is organic. In terms of atmosphere and service, it would be difficult not to have a good time.
Eggplant caviar is excellent, as is the homemade pâté. As good as Richard’s grandfather’s ^^ The cod is a delight full of flavor. As for the lamb, just writing these few words, and you’re already salivating.
An address as we like it where simplicity and fresh products rhyme with generosity.
3. Where to sleep in Chartres?
We are located in the heart of the historical centre of the city, in a very comfortable and welcoming 14th century mansion. Convenient to visit Chartres!
Welcome to Maison Ailleurs (link booking to compare). Valérie and her husband are very friendly and always full of good advice to visit the city. Always very much appreciated.
Open since October 2013, the couple offers only 3 bedrooms. We occupy the so-called “Charles V room”, an 80 m2 suite that can accommodate up to 4 people. The suite has a large entrance hall, a very comfortable and spacious double living room, an equipped kitchen, a beautiful bedroom and a bathroom with shower. Nothing is missing and the decoration is very tasteful.
It feels like home here. Our weekend accommodation is actually a spacious city apartment with double exposure. We love the view from the room over the garden, one of the few gardens in the upper town centre. Plus, it’s very quiet. Don’t hesitate to go for a walk in this authentic little French garden.
For your convenience, the house has a private parking lot. Very practical for an accommodation located in the historical centre.
To sum up, Maison Ailleurs, an accommodation that we advise you to spend a weekend in Chartres.
- Rate for this suite: 175 euros per night for 2 people including the excellent breakfast served in the suite with homemade products, parking, wifi and the great kindness of the owners.
- The rooms are all different. Prices start at 129 euros per night for 2 people.
The Eure-et-Loir and Beauce are not just rapeseed and grain fields, far from it. The proof is in this blog post where we have not seen everything, far from it.
There are of course many other sites, museums, villages, castles to visit. So, do not hesitate to leave us your recommendations to visit Chartres during your next stay.
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