Chartres and the Beauce


Between the Seine to the north and the Loire to the south lie the big flatlands known as the Beauce Plain, much talked about in Emil Zola’s novel ‘The Earth’ It is farmed intensively with modern machinery now, but in Zola’s time you can imagine the farming communities out there in the winter working manually on the land with nothing to stop a biting east wind. Hardy souls. I rode the 60 odd kilometers from Orleans to Chartres across the plain with little traffic to bother me, and three memories stay with me.
A beautiful Mantagues Harrier was off to my right at one point, hunting across the young corn and giving a wonderful aerial display.
Another solo traveller came down the road towards me. I can only imagine he was a pilgrim( many come via Chartes). He was leading a donkey piled with boxes and bags, with an umbrella on the very top like a flag pole. We exchanged greetings and then parted. My donkey spent a night in an hotel room last night, though I doubt if the management would have condoned his faithful companion.
From many miles out you can see the spires of the cathedral, built as it is on one of the few hills in the area. Something to aim for, an objective.


Built in 1134, it is a fine example of gothic architecture, and regardless of your religious beliefs, demands admiration. Think what a peasant coming in from humble dwellings on the plain would have thought of it.




There is currently a large scale clean-up of the interior in progress and you can see the difference in this picture. Somehow I preferred it as it was but it does make the place much lighter.


Chartres has a fine example of a church labyrinth walked by Middle Age pilgrims in prayer. I wasn’t feeling sufficiently devout to move all the chairs.


Back on the road north today I was caught up in a local parade. It’s quite easy to get involved, and as I followed them down the road I started making trombone noises to myself. I think I’ve been alone too long.



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