On Thursday we took the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Chartres. It is a big, modern, and clean city; quite nice. After lunch we went straight to the Cathedral, the city’s main attraction for most visitors thanks to its historical importance. It has some of the best Gothic construction ever, according to those who know such things. We would return multiple times during our stay. One of the most memorable visits was when we went on a tour of the crypt, which is not actually where people are buried but is a series of chapels built under the church. It serves as the foundation for the structures above.
Even in the presence of such a beautiful, as well as spiritual, icon, we soon were searching for food. Our lunch at the first bar/tabac we saw was actually one of the better meals. We sat outside in a lush courtyard accompanied by un petit oiseau with a nest in a decorative sculpture. The server was friendly, easily interpreting our French. The portions were just right, which for Tricia and me means small.
The next day, we tried one of the restaurants near the Cathedral. It was OK but not great. I fear we were the recipients of tourist fatigue, little attempt to speak French to us, just English. As is often the case in tourist areas, the cuisine is just passable since most customers will never return. However, to France’s credit, that is not as common as in some tourist places we have visited over the years – the French are proud of their food.
We ate at the Cafe Blue for both lunch and snacks. Even though it as close to the Cathedral as possible, it had great service and food. Its setting is perfect for gazing at the church and watching the people parade by.
On Sunday, needing some variety, we ate at an Italian place. Sadly, the service did not live up to the ambience of the shop/restaurant. Our French is understood most everyplace we go. Tricia is often complimented on her French, and occasionally even my much less elegant elocution is given positive marks. Yet for some reason it appeared the servers were snickering at us. When I told one man that the meal was délicieux, which was a stretch, but I was being kind, he cocked his head as if he didn’t understand. They must have understood, as they brought us our orders and such without ever a word of English. I could have overlooked the less than stellar food, but the arrogant attitude kind of took the glow off of the meal.
Walking along the river, we spied a couple of cafes and bistros perched above the water. Both of them were away from the Cathedral, which may make them more local oriented. So my conclusion is that the Cathedral is a 10. The food, however, is still inconclusive. We may go back to Chartres one day. If we do, it will be to visit some of the less famous churches and explore the food in more depth. Both of those pursuits are worth a trip.