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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

chartres 1 hour from paris

Chartres, a little more than an hour by train from Paris, is a popular day trip from the city. It's also become a bedroom community for the city, since it's in the countryside surrounded by the wheat fields that inspire the nickname "breadbasket of France" so many people choose to live here and commute into the city

Since Chartres dates from the 5th century and earlier, auto traffic in the past 50 years had created a nightmare of congestion and traffic in the 40,000- person city. But a huge project in recent years transformed the downtown with three levels of underground parking, opening up the historic city center surrounding the famous Chartres Cathedral and maintaining the charm of the riverside lower city.

The Eure River is no long navigable, but because it connects to the Seine it provided the long ago Vikings an easy avenue for their raides. Walls built to protect the city were in place until World War 2 when Germans who held the city blew them up as the fled before the advancement of Patton's army.

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Chartres was built between the 11th and 15th century, mostly to house a relic reputed to be the robe worn by May when she gave birth to Jesus. A remnant of it still is on display in what is the third largest Cathedral in the world.
Its famed stained glass windows were taken down and hidden away in World War 2 and so have been preserved. They're beautiful but huge, so those coming here to study them would be well advised to bring binoculars.
Like other cathedrals, they were made to tell Bible stories to a populace that was largely illiterate. The cathedral, which is almost constantly be renovated in one place or another, is shown above. Right now its dramatic rose window is covered with scaffolding for its renovation.

The town, especially the area around the cathedral is reputed to be place of power, where Druids lived before the time of Christ. A labyrinth in the cathedral, used by early Christians who negotiated on their knees as they prayed, is the destination for modern day spiritualists.

Many of them are,however, disappointed to find rows of chairs assembled over the labyrinth most of the time. It is cleared of chairs only on Fridays. A part of the ancient labyrinth, covered by chairs for those attending religious services, is shown above.


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