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After visiting the Cathédrale de Chartres, the Husband and I still had some time left before our afternoon train back to Paris, so we decided to further explore Chartres.  Before going to visit for the day, some friends had lent us a book about the town that gave us a hankering to explore some of the other cathedrals in the area.  What can I say, we’re suckers for a good church (which, surprisingly, are all over the place in Chicago!  Now to just figure out if its culturally acceptable here to go into a church and walk around like we do in France….).

We visited two other churches that we came across while simply meandering the streets of Chartres (which were much more quaint than those of Paris…).  Our favorite church was definitely the first church — it was simply one of those magical moments that we will never forget.

I’ve always heard that cathedrals were once painted and have such have spent hours sitting in cathedrals across France, trying to imagine what they once looked like.  The beauty of this particular cathedral, painted, left me almost in tears.  imagine my further joy when, all of the sudden, organ music started booming around us, echoing through the beautiful passageway that we were standing in.  We were all alone in the cathedral except for the mystery organist, so The Husband and I sat down to enjoy the moment, not speaking, simply soaking it all in.  After about half an hour, the music stopped, and slowly a man in business attire carrying a lunch bag and a briefcase descended from the alcove and left the building with a simple “Au revoir”.

The second cathedral we visited was beautiful in a more simple, sad way.  It was obvious once again that we were the only ones there, and that these other cathedrals in Chartres do not have the resources to restore them in a way that would rival the Cathédrale de Chartres.  We made sure to donate whatever sous we had on us at each cathedral, but it was sad to see that these churches, as beautiful as they are, are under appreciated by the tourists that take the trek out to Chartres.

 

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Out of all the cathedrals and churches in France that The Husband and I have been to throughout the years, I definitely think Chartres has the most beautiful grounds.  What made the grounds even more magical was the free baguette that we ate for lunch on the grounds!

Funny story — The Husband and I spent probably a half an hour walking around the little side streets, looking for the perfect place to eat lunch.  As we were just about to give up and go to a place neither one of us wanted to go, a nice looking lady stopped us on the street and asked if we eat baguettes.  Um, YES!  Only like 2 a day.  Turns out she was from the office of tourism and they were doing a baguette survey — we took ten minutes to taste test baguettes for the city and we got our favorite one for free as a thank you gift.  Pretty good deal, right?  This is why we love France and we love being able to speak French.  If we had only spoken English we would have been a no go!  God bless those baguette loving people.

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Buckle your seatbelts for even more photos of Chartres!  I couldn’t help myself — not only do I normally take way more photos than actually needed, I was mid-4 month freak-out about how we were leaving France soon and wouldn’t have many more opportunities to take photos of places like this.  If you want to see even more (but still not the full collection), check out my flickr page by clicking on the photos.

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About a month before we left France The Husband and I decided we needed one last trip to a historical site in France.  We enjoyed le Mont-Saint-Michel so much that we knew our choice needed to be another church.  They just don’t make them in America like they did in Europe!  So, off we went to the town of Chartres, about an hour train ride from Paris that cost us all of €12 each.

The town itself is beautiful.  Full of winding streets paved by cobblestone and with churches on almost every corner, it is a quintessential stereotypical French town.  Now, I have to say that we had been told so so so much about Chartres, so we were expecting a lot.  And it didn’t disappoint!  But I will say that Chartres itself was not our favorite church in the town — that will come in the next post!

 

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A few weeks before we left Paris for good (this time….) we had some friends in town — a friend of my fathers who was visiting with his wife and daughter for his daughters college graduation.  Anyone who knows me knows that theres one thing I love more than The Husband in this world, and thats Paris.  I jump at the chance to show people around my city and share some of the love that I have for it.  Lucky for me The Husband thinks Paris is just as great as I do…. (He was a staunch Lyon lover before we moved to Paris….  Something to do with him having lived there before and hearing from all the Lyonnais that Paris was lame….  Good thing we fixed that!)

We spent just a few days together, but managed to hit up some of my favorite sights in the city.

 

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Our Paris home was located in a kind of random area — but we loved the location!  Within 20 minutes we could walk to Sacré Coeur or the Arc de Triomphe (walking is always better than metro-ing in Paris) and we definitely took advantage of that short route to take lots and lots of walks in Montmartre.

Every Sunday we walked from our place to Sacré Coeur and back, stopping along the way to look at street art and appreciate the con artists working the streets.  We had some good friends move back to the States about a month and a half before we did, so we took advantage of their last week in town to meet up for a picnic at the foot of Sacré Coeur followed by a leisurely walk around the bobo section of Paris.  The best part was definitely stumbling across the stairs featured in the second part of this video, causing me to sing For Emma for the rest of the evening.

We miss Paris.  We love America, but we miss the place that became our home over the past two years.  Good thing we’ll be having another adventure next!

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As I look back on these photos, I am reminded of how lucky we are to be living out a dream, even if our plans don’t always work out as we imagined them.  It’s particularly hard to be away from family and friends when we are having a hard time, as we have been lately.  But places like this and the friends that we have made here make it easier to get through the hard spots in life.

I’m grateful for every opportunity we’ve had while we’ve been here, especially the ones like visiting le Mont Saint-Michel, a place so gorgeous it took my breath away and strengthened my belief that there is a greater plan and purpose here on this earth.  We’re trying to make the most of our last two months here with more trips like this one (amidst the problem of finding out where we’re going to in the states, haha) and lots of long walks along the Seine.  That means lots of good pictures coming up!  But for now, enjoy the rest of the Mont Saint-Michel, or the time that we spent exploring the tiny paths through the tiers of houses on the island.  This was definitely one of the most incredible trips that we have taken this time in Paris.

Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel
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Le Mont Saint-Michel

One of the things that most impressed us most about le Mont Saint-Michel was the sheer size of the structure.  Granted, it wasn’t that big originally and only achieved such size through many add ons, but still, a monument of that size is impressive!

MK, The Husband and I spent about 3 hours in the actual abbey itself before heading outside to the extensive grounds and then exploring the island itself.  By our extremely exact and scientific calculations, we only saw maybe 20% of the abbey in all of that time.  Impressive, non?  We did, however, make sure to entirely explore every nook and cranny that was available to us, just to make sue we got the entire experience, you know?

Our favorite part?  When we were in the monks mess hall and The Husband started quietly whistling to see what the acoustics where like.  I mean, the monks had to chant in there sometime, right?  So we knew that had to be amazing!  Anyways, we were all alone in this enormous room except for one lady reading at one of the monks tables.  As soon as Andrew started whistling she looked up and shushed him!  We couldn’t believe it — we didn’t see anyone else the whole time we were there, but the one time we saw someone she got upset because we tested out the acoustics!  Let me tell you, they were great!

Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel
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Le Mont Saint-Michel

The Husband absolutely reverted to being a kiddo while we were at le Mont Saint-Michel.  It made MK and I laugh to see him running from place to place, touching everything and trying to explore every nook and cranny.  He’s been so stressed with school and waiting to find out where we’re going that taking some time to enjoy himself was much needed.

It’s funny seeing a glimpse of what The Husband was like as a child and what our children will someday be like.  He was ecstatic over all the things he could touch and pull on, and was sorely tempted to pull the bell pull to ring the bells of Le Mont Saint-Michel.  Lucky for us, he reigned in his excitement so we could finish seeing the rest of the abby.  Totally worth it in my opinion.

Apparently our Mont Saint-Michel experience wasn’t typical — its usually more like the line 13 than completely empty like we had it.  My advice?  Definitely hit up le Mont Saint-Michel in January!  We practically had the whole place to ourselves!

Stay tuned for even more of the bajillion pictures we took while there.

Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel
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Le Mont Saint-Michel

The best part about the Mont Saint-Michel is that I got in completely free.  Okay, so totally not the best part, but it was still pretty awesome.  I was free, MK was half price, and The Husband had to pay full price since he’s so olddddddd.  Right after paying, you leave the little hut and are greeted with the most splendiferous view (yes, it was so magical that I can’t even think of a real word to describe it).

You’re on the back of the island, looking out over the ocean from the top of the abbey.  Now, I grew up next to a huge body of water (re: Lake Michigan), and The Husband is from Florida so we’ve seen our share of sweeping beach views.  But, I have to say, this one was unlike any other view I had ever seen.  We were up so high that I felt like I could see forever, and it was hard to believe that this water we were looking at could take us all the way to America.  The tide going in and out around the island makes for an even more beautiful view from the island, for some reason.

And then we turned around.  We hadn’t even gone into the abbey yet and knew already that this was going to be our favorite place in France.  These pictures don’t do it justice — you need to go there yourselves!  These are all of the chapel at the very top of the Abbey,  which was just the beginning of our visit!
Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel

Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel
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Le Mont Saint-Michel
Le Mont Saint-Michel