Parlez vous Francais?

Trip Start Dec 11, 2011
Trip End Jan 07, 2012

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Where I stayed
St Yves hotellerie

Flag of France  , Centre,
Saturday, December 17, 2011

Yesterday was a huge travel day but we made it from UK to this amazing town of Chartres. All our research back home paid off as we tried to crack the French rail system. The Eurostar slid into Paris and our French experience began auspiciously with needing a 50c coin to be able to use a toilet! It took a couple of attempts at the ATM to get Euros and be ready for any emergency. It's interesting how vulnerable you feel with phones not working, no cash and no Internet to use the maps on the iPad or phones. And it was raining.

The Eurostar arrives at Gare Paris Nord and the train to Chartres leaves from Gare Montparnasse and I had read the forums that said that it is easier to take a taxi with all your luggage. That's great advice but the problem was that the taxi queue was incredibly long, so over a Maccas coffee (did we really do that?) we decided to give the Metro a go. There is a logic to the hierarchy of trains and if you stay cool, read all the signs and walk very fast you can do it. It took two Metro trains to get there and we were fully stretched with our cases and bags on the crowded underground, but we did it. Peter is the hero as he carries two cases every time there are stairs, which is often. We found the Trains Grande Lignes and had to validate our Eurail pass, helped by a delightful station assistant and then wait for the platform number to come up for the TER train to Chartres. Sweet relief as we sat back and watched the French countryside go by while we ate the packed food kindly supplied by Wendy at the B and B. We were in France! No one even looked at our ticket!

You see the cathedral first from the train, soaring up above everything else, its copper roof gone green. It's the reason everyone comes to Chartres. Once again, hindsight says we should have taken a taxi to our accommodation but we wanted to walk the kilometre and soak in the town. We probably walked two in the end as our place was hidden down a one way lane behind the cathedral. We did, however, circumnavigate the cathedral several times in our hunt, making a racket pulling our suitcases over the cobble stones. What an incredible construction and what a beautiful old town!

Hotellerie St Yves used to be a monastery and pre dates the cathedral, so it was built in the 11th century. The rooms are simple but very clean and comfortable, with wonderful views across the town. I think our room is what would have  been two monks' rooms and has had a little bathroom module put in the corner, like in the cabin of a ship. Most importantly, it is about 50 metres from the cathedral! We slept well last night after our very physical day - Peter is still asleep as I write....

We braved it in the freezing cold to find a meal and ended up at the Cathedral Bistro where we enjoyed chicken casserole and Peter had creme brle with mandarins and I blissed out on a cherry, almond and ice cream dessert that had a fair bit of alcohol in it! It was our first try at ordering in French; fortunately the waiter was very pleasant because at one stage I said dan (Indonesian) instead of et. Our default second language is too strong! It doesn't matter much as I don't think he understood much of what we said and it works just to point at the menu.

Will write about the cathedral next entry as we plan to spend some time there today, explore the Old Town and maybe take in a Christmas concert right here in this building this afternoon.
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Michael and Chris on

LOVING the blog posts!!! Please keep it up. We are giggling at so many things (the alarm fiasco, speaking Indo to waiters...).

Missing you lots, but so glad you are having a wonderful time. Look after each other. xx

Michael and Chris

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