Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chartres, Poitiers, Perigeaux

05/16, Wednesday
I have just accidentally erased our blog for this day. Very frustrating, but here I go again.

We left Rouen after another relaxing breakfast in Daniel's dining room. We went through Paris again and, again, needed to change stations. We thwarted a little pick pocket attempt with the help and eyes of a very nice young man. Two women, one very pregnant, had started to get my purse open, while blocking the Metro train door. The other had her hand in Dick's jacket pocket (only had tissues for nose). Nothing taken and the women quickly got off the train.

The main event in Chartres is the Notre Dame Cathedral. We visited it last on our audio walking tour. Thirty-seven stops...we found most of them, but there's always a little confusion with the map. Several stops were along the Eure River which runs through Chartres. It's narrow, running behind homes and buildings that used the river to wash wool and to clean tanned leather.

The ND Cathedral is impressive in size and in design, Original churches on the site either burned down or were destroyed in wars. The last structure, which is what we saw today, was completed in 30 years, finished in the 1280s. Thus, the design is pretty consistent Gothic style.

After dinner we returned to see a light show projected on the front facade of the church. It sounds kind of strange, but the projections are very sophisticated and tasteful...depicting historical events involving the church. It was actually quite impressive.

It has been fun to be reading historical novels of the areas we visit. In Notre Dame we saw the tomb of Richard the Lionhearted and I 'm just finishing "Queen Without a Country". The main character is Bergenaria, who was married to Richard.(bad marriage). The book mentions Roeun, Chartres and LeMans, the town Bergenaria ruled. Also we both read "Sarah's Key" right before visiting the Holocaust museum in Paris. It confirmed the salient position France played during that tragic time. After seeing Albert Schweitzer's hometown and museum we downloaded a documentary on him. Sure makes things more interesting.

05/17, Thursday
We're training today to Poitiers which requires returning to Paris once train station change needed this time. The train is very long though, and we were in car 18 closest to the engine...a long way to walk, but we had no problem even though we only had 15 minutes.

Poitiers is a university town of 30,000 residents. There are more students per resident than any other city in France...lots of young people. It has a Notre Dame Cathedral, too. It's pretty modest in size compared to that in Chartres and Paris.

The town streets are under repair converting from macadam to nice off-white, small stone blocks...almost complete except in front of our hotel. It is a big improvement in appearance, but a little inconvenient.

A young French marketing student suggested we walk to St Pierre's (Peter's) cathedral. It is hidden toward the outer reaches of the old town, but it the Bishop's church and it is pretty imposing.

(Up to now in Poitiers, we have not felt welcome as tourists. The tourist info person was not helpful or friendly...would only speak French, wouldn't rent us an audio guide because not enough time. This young woman turned our feelings around by starting a conversation with us in English, and showing interest in America and Chicago. She told us about the student:resident ratio and that very few Americans visit Poitiers because it is not a major tourist city.)

Two small pizzas for dinner, beers, and a triple chocolate dessert to share in a nearby bistro. Very nice place. Then, a short walk on a couple of streets we had not seen earlier, before winding back to our hotel.

We're trying to figure out our next adventure into Austria which was not in our original plan of travel. Hopefully, we can take an overnight train from Rome to Vienna which is, at a minimum, 8:30 hours train time. There is an Austrian train OBB that seems to work. We hope to visit Salzburg and Graz as well as Vienna.

05/18, Friday
Taxi to the station for train departing at 9:12. We transfer in Libourne, about 1-1/2 hours for train to Perigaux and arrive at 11:55, on time, of course. (French trains are prompt and on-time.)

Our cute Hotel DES Barris is on the Isle River, a short bus ride from the station. The Bistrot downstairs draws us in for lunch. It is really good. So good that we go back for dinner. It was cute, the waiter had a reserve sign on the table by the window since he remembered us from lunch. I had Capaccio de Boeuf a la Genovesi for lunch. Wow ! Then for dinner I had risotto with scallops.

Luckily we did two walking tours in the afternoon to combat the calories. One covered medieval time and one Roman time. We really thought the St. Front cathedral in Perigeaux was more impressive than Sacre Couer, which was built after St. Front and patterned after it. It has 12 spires vs. 4 at Sacre Coeur.

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