Hi lovely travellers!
My name is Charlène and my aim is to help you get out of Paris, city of lights. Here, you will discover Chartres, only one hour away from French Capitale!
You will find on my blog history of the city, great places to visit, which activities you could do, where you can stay, where you can eat... Anyway, I will give you many advice to spend the best weekend ever!
Please feel free to contact me directely if you have any questions or suggestions!
The Grand Monarque hôtel is very well known and reputed in Chartres. I especially love the Madrigal bar during summer where you can enjoy great cocktails 🍸 or simply a glass of champagne 🥂 in the outside terrasse. Today I tried the restaurant La Cour for lunch.
I had some expectations as everybody talks about this famous hotel!
I have to precise that La Cour is like a bistronomic brasserie, it is not the one Michelin Star restaurant.
So, as we where here to celebrate my dad’s birthday 🎁 we started with the La Cour cocktail 🍸 It is Champagne with elderflower, rose and aloe Vera: amazing presentation and so tasty!
➕cheese gougères were delicious.
We ordered 3 different starters:
Foie Gras, Pâté de Chartres ( speciality of the city!) and marinated salmon.
➕foie gras was well cooked and seasoned and pâté well presented
➖marinated salmon was a bit dry even with the cream sauce. They should add one more toast with the foie gras it was not enough.
Dish of the day: chicken and mashed potatoes with oyster mushrooms, Shrimps and St. Jacques shells salade and the duck foie gras burger.
➕chicken was very tender, probably cooked low temperature, the salade was colorful and vinaigrette original, bread burger is made with black curry it was a real discovery!
➖in the menu, mashed potatoes were supposed to be with parmigiano cheese but it was regular, the cheese was on the salade next to it. Mushroom tasted nothing like unseasoned. Shrimps on the salade were undercooked almost raw, had to ask to be cooked again.
Only my dad ordered dessert. On the menu nothing was chocolate based! I thought the choices for desserts was not very attractive.
The café gourmand was very simple. For me it looked a bit old school like at the beginning of this new trend. I don’t know how you feel about café gourmand but for me it should make you dream! Many small desserts to try! We tried it was all right but disappointing for this type of restaurant.
Maybe I am a bit difficult and picky ( but that is because I am experienced in F&B service) but here are my thoughts.
Waiters could be a bit more smily and friendly. The transition between dishes is not fluide , we felt it was a bit long between the various meal. Some information are not specified on the menu, chef de rang should tell you when serving. ( ok not like in a gastronomic restaurant but for example the black curry in the bread is something guest should know, you never know about allergies , same for the salad: you have peanuts inside!) , our waiter was nice but not super natural when asking if everything was all right. Also small detail, my mom did not have the right knife to eat the chicken and nobody noticed. When we left before paying Maître d’hôtel did not even ask if we had a good time, he was talking about reservations with his colleague. They gave us our coat but forgot to remove the scarf they put inside the sleeve. Again : attention to details , I think it is the basics. Guest should have at least a bit of attention.
Some small mistakes in the kitchen but very good cuisine in general even thought I found a lack of creativity in the menu. Service should be improved in term of attitude and attention to details. What do you think? When I go to a restaurant I want not only to have great food but also great service with nice people telling me stories about what I am gonna eat.
Did you tried this restaurant? Tell me about your experience!
I still recommend this place, as the hotel is very nice but price is too expensive for the service you get.
If you had to choose to admire only one stained-glass window in Chartres, it should be this one!
As you can see in this window, you can distinguish two kind of blue 💙 Look closer! How come??!
Stained-glass windows are made of different panels assembled together. In that case the two panels are not from the same century!
This panel is from 12th Century. At this time, the glass was made of sand from the Mediterranean sea 🌊 so full of salt. They used to travel a lot and spent money to have the best kind of glass. The blue is purely authentic because the salt preserved the color whereas the darkest blue is a bit oxidized and the colors have changed.
Panels with the darker blue are from the 13th century. At this time many stained-glass windows had to be created for the many cathedrals rising. To save money, they use sand from the rivers instead of the sea to produce glass material.
Now you know why the Chartres’ blue is so famous!💙
So , did you noticed the difference when you visited⁉️
Another detail that you probably have not noticed if nobody told you. You know in painting what is a « Trompe l’oeil »? There is HUGE one everywhere inside the Cathedrale!
You see the little stones on the roof and on the walls? The rectangular ones? It is not stones!!! It is only painting! Yes back in the time they wanted the Cathedrale to look truly perfect, so it was much easier to paint « fake » stone for the harmony!
Just a quick sum up of what you MUST see once in Chartres:
1) The Cathedral
Did you know that you can see the arrows of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres from the top of the Eiffel Tower?
This Cathedral is huge! It covers 6 000m2 (9 300 018 square in). Its’ crypt is the largest in France. If you like architecture, you will notice that one part of Notre-Dame is Romanesque and the other part is Gothic.
Observe all around the Cathedrale : all faces are different!
Inside, discover the energy of ancient maze, a powerful meditation way.
Stained-glass-windows are astonishing, I am sure you will enjoy the famous « Bleu de Chartres », unique blue pigmentation invented back in the time.
Our Cathedral has many stories and secrets to reveal…
2) Garden of Évêché
Just behind Notre-Dame, do not miss a walk in this beautiful garden. You will pass by the Beaux-Arts Museum and enjoy the back architecture of the Cathedral.
The garden is divided in two parts. From the top part you will appreciate the view from old city and nature. Downstairs, the maze will invite you to become pilgrim.
It is a great place to share lunch with local products that you can find in the city center.
Keep walking down the stairs and explore downtown Chartres. You will see the Collegiale Saint André from the XII century. Usually, cultural events are organized such as « Les Artisanales » where you can discover local artists and craftsmen. Explore the garden and smell the aromatics plants from Middle Age!
Keep going down and find the Saint André Fountain (also called Saint Nicolas) that used to be the only source of drinking water for the entire city!
Cross the bridge and admire old houses build on the river!
Medieval aromatic garden
4) La Petite Venise
During sunny days, it is the best park to walk around. It is peaceful and relaxing along the river. You can even rent kayak boat or pedal boat. If traveling with children they are gonna thank you for an amazing afternoon here. You have various kind of chicken to discover, a playground and even a mini-golf!
It is closed from November to March for boat renting but if you are comming during winter season you can still go running in the park if you are a sporty or go roller blading!
I advice you to get fresh drink and crêpes at La Guinguette at the edge of the Eure river.
5) The House of Picassiette
Name sounds probably strange for you? Don’t worry it is normal!
His real name was Raymond Isador so called « Picassiette » because he decored his all house from walls to furnitures and garden with pieces of broken glass and crockery. He represented landscape and monuments and even the famous Rosase of the Cathedral.
It is worth to see and unique! More info in this article!
6) La Porte Guillaume
This is one of the gate that was build at the end of the 12th century to protect the city that possessed surrending walls all around.
Here is an old cliché from 19th century, before it was destroyed by German Army in August 1944.
It is located downtown Chartres, near the river and the Saint-Pierre church.
In 2010, the city council decided to start excavations in the site and they project to rebuild this gate as original, it should be over in 2024, can’t wait to see that!!!
7) Eglise Saint-Pierre
After the Cathedral, it is the second most important church in Chartres. It was started by Queen Bathilde, spouse of Clovis II. In the 12th century the church was integrated in the surrending walls of the city. It has been destroyed by Normands and was burnt at least two times but always rebuild in Gothic style.
You will observe many stained glassed-windows in the church, keep your eyes up!
If you have the energy ( come on it is not too far and you are on holidays!), you may walk until the park called « La Petite Venise ». If you follow the road you will pass through the « Lycée Marceau » ( it is a high school) and on your left you will find a green way that will lead you directly to the park!
8) Museum of stained-glass-windows
As you’ve noticed, with many churches, Chartres is full of stained-glass windows, so having a museum seems logical no?
Here you will learn everything about how to make a stained-glass window, its meaning, the history , the technic and many more information! It is a real tresor!
All year long:
From Monday to Friday: 9:30 am to 12:30 am and 1:30 pm to 6:00 pm.
Saturday: 10:00 am to 12:30 am and 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm.
Click here to see the map ! It is very easy, just next to the Cathedral.
9) Maison du Saumon
This is one of the historical house of the city! Built in 15th and 16th century. Translation in English would be « The House of Salmon ». You are wondering why? Indeed it is situated « Place de la Poissonnerie » : fishmongers’s place. From 15th century until 1950 it was a commercial place where you could buy fresh fish and exchange local products. It used to be full of houses. If you look up the house, you will observe the typical colombage and a wood sculpted salmon. Observe carefully the frontage : you will discover Saint-Michel fighting the dragon.
It used to be a famous fish restaurant and it became in 2009 the office of tourism. You can go there and get more information about the city, tours and buy souvenirs.
10) The Médiathèque
This is one of the monument you cannot miss! It is sooooo huge! Originaly built for the post office in 1919, it was ordered in 1875! Located Place des Epars back in the time it was not an ordinary building! The architect was Raoul Brandon who studied at the prestigieuse school of Beaux Arts in Paris. He is from Lucé a small town in Chartres’ suburbs. He got his inspiration from the gothic art and of course from the cathedral. He created a mosaic, storytelling about a letter travelling from the sea, earth and air finaly delivered to a farmer in the countryside by the postman.
The building was criticized because people thought it was too pretencious. However it became also Historical monument!
In 2007, the city bought the building and refurbished it to create a place full of books, historical documents, music, movies, exhibitions…
It became the place to study !
Why is it worth to go inside?
On the top floor ( you can take the elevator) your have a breathtake view of the cathedral and the Place des Epars. On the first floor you have exhibitions about the city and its archeology.
Also you can consult books and have a coffee inside! Entrance is free!
View of the Cathedral from top floor
View of the Place des Epars from top floor
Let’s read !
Art is everywhere !
So now you have the main interests of the city, but if you walk around the city, you will have many historical houses to discover and old streets! Bring good shoes!!!
Last but not least, think about looking down on the ground 😉
We are very lucky in Chartres to have so many beautiful stained-glass windows, all very unique.
They are more than 800 years old and their colors are still so bright! If you wanna have a better idea there are more than 2 500 square meters of windows and about 173 glass walls. Those crazy figures makes our cathedral quite amazing! 😊
But how do you think the people succeed to preserve this heritage during World War II?
We are lucky that Chartres was much loved and protected by super heroes!
As soon as the war was declared in 1939, artisans made wooden boxes 📦 tailored espacially for the stained-glass windows. They removed all the window from the cathédrale to store them in the boxes. It took them 2 weeks!!!!! Crazy no?! Knowing that some glasses are 1×1 meter and if you have seen the cathedral it is super high!! Heroes I told you! 😊
They were very smart because they had to organized the stained glass windows to put them back in order afterwards. So they numbered every glass and every box so anyone could figure out how to put them back in their original place. This crazy work started August 25th and ended September 4th of 1939. First they hidded the boxes inside the crypt. They stayed their about a year.
However as the German army was approaching the city it was not safe enough. France had lost the war and almost all the country was occupied…
A decision had to be made: moving the boxes! An inhabitant from the city knew a great place where his family was living the Périgord (south of France 🇫🇷). Indeed this region is full of caves and galeries so it was the perfect place to hide the tresor. They chose the quarry of Château de Frongrenon to secure the stained-glass windows. Not all the boxes could be transported there: 539 boxes out of the 1000 took the train. They others remained in the crypt.
Jean Moulin was one of the main protagonist of this secret transportation. You know he was a rebel during the war, a true hero! I will tell you more about him in another article.
All the windows from the cathedral were replaced by plastic windows. Fortunately because at the end of the war so many exploded or were covered by black dirt.
At the end of the war, the windows could finally come back! People all along the way were clapping when the train 🚂 pass by their town as they knew what it was transporting.
The stained glass windows were cleaned and studied to better understand their symbolic. They were all set inside the cathedral in October 1948.
Thanks to all those people we can know admire these piece of art as they are!
Isn’t it amazing that in a not so big city a huge cathedral has been risen?
Do you think it is a coincidence ?
I am telling you, it is not! Notre Dame de Chartres is located on an ancient Celtic temple. They did not chose this specific place anyhow: it is because of the strong positive telluric currents.
Indeed it is a place to meditate, to reach god and to transform people that is why it is so important to chose the right location.
It is still a mystery, from where the money came from to build this church? Indeed reconstruction after the church burnt in 1194 took only 26 years!!! And at the same time in France many cathedral were under construction such as Paris , Rouen or Reims as a few example!
The geometric of the church is perfect: based on the golden ratio and on mysterious tables… the round table, the square table and the rectangle table. Is there a link with the knights of the round table? Could be …
Some historians are indeed thinking that different tables existed and had to be protect and kept secret. They are revealing construction formulas that were used to build the Keops pyramid in Egypt and many religious building like Notre Dame de Chartres.
Without those table we are enable to rebuild those places even with our modern technology! It is proven: modern architects are not capable to reproduce a cathedral! Amazing fact?!
Observe the cathedral and you will notice it is telling you a story! Just from the outside with the gothic style of building. All secrets are written in cathedral we just need to understand and interpret them.
Another secret is inside the cathedral. If you don’t know it it is hard to notice! The cathedral is so full of information!
Go on the south transept and watch your feet: you will discover a rectangular stone with a golden nail planted on it. Why?
Look up to the stained-glass window… do you see a tiny little hole on it?
On June 21st, the summer solcist, a ray of sunlight is crossing the stained-glass window and point directly on the nail on the floor!
What is this supposed to show us? Can it be a coincidence? Was it placed here for fun?
One of the explanation is that it was to fix the exact hour of the cathedral. However it is probably not only for that… unfortunately we are missing historical document about it. There is certainly another reason to be reveal…
The next big mystery is the labyrinth… this will be the object of a new article!
You can book tickets directly in Montparnasse, prices don’t fluctuate or book them on line.
On your way to Chartres, you will cross various cities, Versailles (watch out the view from the train you will see all Paris and if you are lucky you may even catch sight of « Le Château de Versailles« ), then Rambouillet ( known for its large forest and castle), Epernon (lovely countryside), Maintenon ( you might have heard of its famous castle bought by Louis XIV to his love? If you don’t know the story, you may discover it later on another article), and last but not least your final destination : Chartres.
Cost for one way by train: 16€ for more than 26 years old. Please note that if you are under 26, you can select the discovery ticket and it will be cheaper!
You may also chose the option to rent a car, which can be a good idea if you are staying more than two days and you wanna explore around Chartres. It takes some time to get away from Paris Center so plan 1h30 to reach Chartres. Take the highway A10 following Orléans-Chartres.
Cost of entry of the highway:6€
No matter how you are gonna reach Chartres, you are more than welcome!