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Paris day-trip : Chartres Cathedral

Practical information

    Trains : Chartres is accessible by frequent trains from Gare Montparnasse, Grandes Lignes. Trains take 50-75 minutes. Round trip 22,70 euros. To reach the cathedral from the train station, walk straight along rue Jehan de Beauce to Place du Chatelet and turn left in the the place, right onto rue Ste-Même, and left onto rue Jean Moulin, or, just head toward the massive spires.

    Were is not for a piece of fabric, the cathedral of Chartres and the town that surrounds it might be only a sleepy hamlet. But because of a sacred
chartres cathedralrelic - the cloth that the Virgin Mary supposedly wore when she gave birth to Jesus - Chartres became a major medieval pilgrimage center. The spectacular cathedral that towers above the surroundings rooftops is not the only reason to take the train ride here : the vieille ville (old town) is also a masterpiece of architecture, and will almost let you happily forget the zooming highways that have encroached upon it.
   Founded as the Roman city Autricum, Chartres is an old, hill-top village at heart. Its oldest streets are clustered around the cathedral and are still named for the trades once practiced here. There is even an old "salmon house" on the walking tour (a map of the tour is available at the tourist office in front of the cathedral), right by the place Poissonnière. These winding paths offer some of the best views of the cathedral and are navigable using the well-marked tourist office circuit. Chartres's medieval tangle of streets can be confusing, but getting lost here can only be enjoyable.
  Timing is important if you want to fully enjoy your visit to Chartres, as everything closes during lunch time, casual visits to the cathedral are not permitted during mass, and English tours are only given twice a day. The ideal day trip would mean arriving around 10 or 10h30, picking up the invaluable walking tour map of the vieille ville from the tourist office, and heading straight for the Musée des Beaux-Arts to catch it before it closes at noon. (Those particularly interested in stained glass can walk through the smaller Centre International du Vitrail afterwards, as it closes at 12h30). You can start your walking tour in the northward direction at the beginning of lunch time and stop en route for lunch at the beautiful Moulin de Poneau, on the bank of the stream (be sure to make reservations the day before). A visit to the Maison Picassiette makes an enjoyable detour. Finish with a visit to some of the beautiful smaller churches, and make it back to the cathedral in time for Malcolm Miller's English tour, or just for your own afternoon visit. Rest at any of the cafés surrounding the cathedral or in the streets neighboring it, and then finish the day with brief visits to any of the small museums.

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