Day Two: Rambouillet to Chartres: Following Chemin St Jacques through stone towns to an ancient cathedral - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

March 29, 2017

Day Two: Rambouillet to Chartres: Following Chemin St Jacques through stone towns to an ancient cathedral

Our route for today. This is a fixed map (not scrollable) and while close does not show our exact route. I will try to put a mapo like this in each day so people can have an idea of the places we are talking about.
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It was a bit of a rigamarole getting back on track from last night's slightly off route hotel Noctuel. The main issue was trying to stay off pieces of road with no shoulder and fast traffic. Eventually we did settle on D906, which at least had a wide white line. When necessary, a wide white line can be considered a shoulder! With this road we passed through a series of villages, like Gazeran, with white(ish), crumbly, but highly picturesque houses. None was large enough to have a bakery (which in France means the place is really small).

D 906, riding the white line
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Modern, cute, cottages in the little village of Epernon
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Finally we returned to the original route we had planned on bikemap.net, and were pleased to find that Chemin St Jacques (Camino) and the Veloscenie agreed with us, and had their route markers posted all the way along. From that point until the outskirts of Chartes we had the pleasure of just cycling from one cockleshell sign to the next. And for the final bit we were on a bikeway created by Chartres town. Their trailside maps claimed this would take us right to the cathedral, but as usual both the bikeway and Camino signs petered out. No matter, we just consulted our GPS.

We join the main Compostella route from Paris (Vezelay)
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The iconic blue and yellow markers are plenntiful along the way to Chartres
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Presumably a much older market than the blue and yellow.
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Chartre city has built a nice bike path leading to the cathedral
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Here we are at a point where two "Voies" join
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Even the Dutch are getting into the act!
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In Chartres I noticed many examples of houses using multi-coloured brick decoration
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Now the only thing, just due to its fame I had developed an image of Chartres cathedral as a gleaming structure standing in a large square, probably by the river (river Eure, runs through town). Not! Chartres is a fortified medieval town and the cathedral is high on a hill, behind a wall, and with medieval buildings clustered all around. So when Dodie reported "GPS says climb that... and that!" I was urgghh.

But oh, was it ever worth it. The huddled buildings had actually been cleared back a bit in the past century, leaviing some space for viewing the cathedral. And the remaining buildings are extremely beautiful and creating an ideal ambiance for the cathedral.

We began with just a quick peek at the outside. On first glance it seems very very old, and weathered. But in a moment you see the effect of extensive renovation works - and later inside, a mix of gleaming white and weathered grey.

Inside Chartres
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A cathedral or church has stood on this spot since the 4th century, but the present one was built around 1230, following a fire.

A man standing outside guided us to the tourist information, which is in a 15th century fachwerk building a couple of streets away. Although there is a pilgrim's hostel, they found us a fabulous room in the Hotelerrie Saint Yves, a renovated probably monastery right across from the cathedral. They offered us a pilgrim rate which turned out to be about the same as the hostel. They also put the bikes in a large gallery/room to themselves.

So there we were, installed in a medieval village opposite a great cathedral!

The Chartres cathedral
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There are cathedral entrances on all sides
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Here is the tourist information office, in a 15th century building
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Near tourist information there are streets with lots of restaurants and shops
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Our hotel, if you snake around to the left
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The view from our window
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Our hotel shows evidence of having been a monastery
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We get our Creanciales stamped
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There is a big contrast between restored and unrestored bits inside
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This sculpture runs on for at leat 100 feet
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The cathedrale offers many books on medieval subjects.
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The labyrinth on the main floor figures large in postcards and books. Evidently you come on pilgrimage and walk the labyrinth.
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But they only clear away the chairs a couple of times per year.
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The interesting houses opposite the church
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We found the veil of Mary!
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Dodie had noticed onion soup on the menu outside a restaurant across from the cathedral, and that sounded both appealing and appropriately French (without including any weird organs). I ordered the Pilgrim's Platter, though it was not actually a special pilgrim's deal. What it was, though, was an assembly of salad, pate, cheese, and baguette. It's big feature to me was the absolutely top quality and freshness of everything there. It was all just a delight, with the possible exception of the regionally famous Chatres Pate - made from "game". Tasted kind of liver-y to me. Our dessert included chocolate crepe and also hot chocolate. Both of these reinforced my observation that when the French make something with "chocolate" it means they take real chocolate and melt it in to whatever the preparation is. No Hershey's syrup! No Swiss Miss powder!

We had our Creanciale stamped at both the hotel and the cathedral. Togehter with the stone villages, Camino signs, giant cathedral,onion soup, and real chocolate, we are well satisfied with today's touring. And oh yes, we saw Mary's veil!

Top quality, healthful meals are standard in France
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"French" onion soup, I presume
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I forgot not to just order coffee. Maybe this shot can join the perplexed one in my profile.
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Today's ride: 44 km (27 miles)
Total: 105 km (65 miles)

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