Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Notre-Dame, Musee du Moyen Age, and Chartres

This past weekend was intended for resting and catching up on homework after the long, busy week. Even though I was exhausted enough to never move again, the resting didn't start right away because first thing Saturday morning I headed down to the marché (open air market) a few blocks away. We didn't know what to expect so the first thing we did was walk through the entire market just to get our bearings. I have this fear of upsetting the Parisians simply by being American, so everywhere I go I always stare at everyone and listen to how they pronounce things in an attempt to blend in a little better. This of course is mostly impossible because I speak little to no French, but so far my attempts have been appreciated. After observing the people throughout the market I felt confident in my ability to buy cheese, strawberries, and bread, all of which were very very good. I didn't buy any, but every flower stand was amazingly beautiful as well.

Oh the CHEESE!

On Monday we had a blessedly short class schedule that started at Notre-Dame in the afternoon. Instead of waiting in the massive line of tourists, we sat outside and talked about the west facade. Of course, we'll all go back outside of class when there are fewer people in line so that we can see the inside of the cathedral.

Once we'd gotten enough sun and spent enough time worshipping Notre-Dame, we walked a few blocks back down to the Cluny museum (or the Musee du Moyen Age) where we had been staring through a fence last week. This time we actually went in to the museum to get a look at the remains of statues that had been salvaged from since renovated cathedrals like Notre-Dame.

The exterior of the Cluny Museum 

Today, I woke up at 4:30 in order to be on a bus to Chartres by 5:30. Unfortunately, the bus didn't actually arrive until about 6:15... As you may imagine this meant for a very disorganized, painful, and tired morning. Because of the miscommunication with the bus, our wonderful professor, Maile, bought us all coffee once we got to the Chartres Cathedral. We sat outside a cafe and enjoyed our caffeine before we all felt we could move again and head to our appointment with the Centre International du Vitrail.

Our appointment was with a lovely, fast talking woman who spoke to us about the process of making and restoring the stained glass windows in the famous cathedral.

After that lecture, we headed back to the cathedral to see the windows in action. Though known for it's stained glass, the Chartres cathedral is actually written about in art history texts as a distinctly dark cathedral. But once inside it's easy to see why this description is true and why it's false. The cathedral is currently undergoing a massive cleaning, leaving half of it still buried under dust and soot from candles,  making the walls considerably dark, and the other half pristinely white and well-lit by freshly refinished windows.

Freshly restored stained glass windows

The difference between the cleaned left and the yet to be cleaned right

We finished with a French to English translated tour of the building focused on it's architecture that further demonstrated the awesomeness hidden under dust at Chartres.

Then, we had a nice long break for lunch during which we discovered how perfect the little town of Chartres really is. It's full of small boutiques, winding cobblestoned roads, and local cafes. We settled on a slightly pricey, but well worth the expense, Italian place a few minutes walk from the center of town. I nearly cried with joy to discover that they had a vegetarian pizza on the menu and nearly cried again when I tasted it's deliciousness. 

And it only got better from there... Today I discovered macaron glaces, literally macarons with ice cream in the middle instead of normal cream. I've never been happier. The perfect way to end a beautiful day in the country.

Macaron glace du chocolat

Macaron glace du noix au coco

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