Let’s Take a Virtual Vacation

IMG_9145Are you ready to kickstart the week with a little virtual vacation? It’s a bit too early in the year for sun filled activities and I think most of us in the northern hemisphere are over winter and ready for spring, so how about some culture for our armchair travel adventure?

The weekend before last we swapped our red terracotta tiled roofs for grey slate and country for town, and what better place to do this than in the city of Chartres.

Located about 80kms south-west of Paris it is probably best known for its cathedral, which is famous throughout the world. The city was heavily bombed during World War II and much of the old town was destroyed, but incredibly the cathedral remained virtually intact and even more astounding is that that included nearly all of the stained glass windows.

P7840963This Gothic cathedral took 66 years to build and was completed around 1220. Just imagine the work and manpower involved, it is mind blowing, the architecture is sublime.

P7840959The cathedral is famous for so many reasons; the twin spires, a landmark that is visible for more than 25kms around.P7840974P7840935

Its enormous stained glass windows, and the specific colour blue known as the bleu de Chartres has been impossible to replicate ever since.


Just being able to take the time to soak up the atmosphere inside felt like the most enormous privilage.

P7840917P7840921We were very lucky to be staying in an apartment owned by some friends of ours. You see that huge window and the tallest of the houses? That top floor is where we were! Incredible, amazing, words just cannot do justice to that view. It is beyond fabulous.


It overlooks the west facade with its three intricately carved portals. The central portal is only ever opened for special ceremonies.


But just take in that view



P7840943and it’s worth noting the contemporary interior of the apartment. This is a classic example of juxtaposing old and new. 21st Century streamlined furniture enhances the beauty of the original windows and wooden floors. I love antique furniture as much as the next person, but I also love a touch of modern and I believe in this case any other choice would have just been a distraction from the view. Incidentally the French mix up old and new with enormous style, it’s something they are very good at and something I see a great deal of.

Leaving the apartment through the front entrance hall I am immediately drawn to the old mailboxes on the wall and love that they have been maintained in favour of something in metal with a larger capacity. Indicentally, “Stop Pub” means no advertising booklets and leaflets.



Once out onto the street, the ever imposing cathedral takes centre stage.

P7840965But there is plenty more to see in Chartres. Fortunately it was a warm February weekend. A day when lunch could be eaten outdoors and the cafés and restaurants were busy with people enjoying the winter sunshine.



Not surprisingly I had to stop and admire the architecture


and the best way to do this is on foot. Just strolling along the streets, not quite sure where we were heading but not really needing to either.


P7840978P7840971P7840939P7840966 But don’t take my word for it. If you are visiting France and starting your trip in Paris, try and take the time for a day in Chartres, I promise you won’t be disappointed.



42 thoughts on “Let’s Take a Virtual Vacation

  1. Absolutely beautiful photographic tour of Chartres….one of my favorite places….love walking along the Eure and seeing foot bridges leading to charming and elegant houses!

  2. I LOVE Chartres and as it’s quite near to our place, it’s a shame that we didn’t know you were there! We could have met up….. we are there quite often and all the places you took pictures of I have quite possibly photographed too for all eternity…. It’s a lovely place and you can’t get lost as it’s just the right size to keep you amused and busy but is never too ‘big place/too cultured to have you think ‘Now I’vew seen it all’ because you never have…. We had some very nice and cozy meals and what I like is that you can always walk back to your car in good time. We never went when it was FULL tourist season; possibly then you might find no parking. The cathedral is stunning, the shops are just what one wishes for a day out, people are helpful, a perfect short (very short) holiday!

    As I’m in CH this week, I really need your reply by mail the next 2 days!

    1. It was my first visit, it was combined with a tournament! No surprises there, so not a whole lot of time to spare, otherwise I would certainly have let you know. xx

  3. Chartres is truly one of the most beautiful cathedrals anywhere. Your great photos make me want to return. The spectacular windows and the stories they tell about the craftsmen’s guilds are so interesting. Thanks for the armchair tour!

  4. You take me back a long time ’cause I have been lucky to have had that day in Chartres when staying in Paris. Could still recount every hour 🙂 ! Thank you for your photo-journey . . . and, yes, I love the mailboxes also . . .

    1. It was my first visit! Roddy studied the Cathedral when he was at school, but for me this was something totally new. I love that there is still so much to learn and discover in France xx

  5. The stained glass is spectacular. It must be magical when the sun shines. It boggles the mind to think the cathedral was built with rudimentary tools.
    What a lovely getaway. I love visiting churches large and small in France. Have you visited the smallest cathedral in France in Vence?
    Ali xx

  6. Oh, thank you for this lovely virtual vacation! Beautiful photos and very much needed as I am so tired of winter. Susan, when you travel to a location where you don’t have friends to recommend places to eat, how do you make your selection? Do you check Trip Advisor or another online source? Or, do you have an innate sense of where you would get a good meal? So curious! Thank you!

    1. Hi Anne, spring is here if you follow the meteorological calendar! We have had some fabulous weather, but today is very very windy, but like you I am so ready for winter to be history for another year. Regarding restaurants, actually I follow the age old rule, that if it is busy with what are obviously locals then it must be good. The French won’t accept poor meals, food is of great importance and I therefore do believe that if they eat there I will too. But I do also like to check where the food comes from. Many restaurants in France now advertise that their meat is all local for instance, and that is really important for me too. xx

  7. We were there in the bitter cold winter of 2017. We took refuge across the street from the cathedral in the Café Serpente shown in one of your photos. We had the most wonderful lunch – for a long while we were the only ones in the place – and were lovingly attended to by the husband & wife owners. The menu had everything we wanted and everything was perfect. Just a brief passing but it has a special place in our hearts.

  8. It’s looking good after the restoration. My memory of it, pre-resto, is that it was dark and dirty. Must go back.

    No photos of the Maison Picassiette? Is it not open at this time of year?

    1. Just didn’t have enough time to go everywhere and do everything, the trip was combined with a tennis tournament, so it was a case of making the most of what free time we had! xx

  9. What a lovely virtual tour you’ve given us (with such an exceptional home base, no less — dying of envy over that apartment’s view!). The last time I visited they had just begun renovating the interior, and to me it looked like a rather heavy-handed restoration. What was your impression of the finished product? You have such a refined aesthetic that I’d love to hear your opinion.

    1. I loved the finished restoration. But I have never visited before so I have nothing to compare it to. But I was really impressed. Now the apartment, that is another story, imagine waking up to that view every day xx

  10. Thank you! The architecture is fantastic. Cannot think how long it took to build & the amount of work put in. So lovely

  11. Chartres looks very inviting. I would love to see the cathedral some day. Beautiful.

    Susan, next time you are near a patisserie, could you please step inside and photograph the pastries and the bread. I never get to see pastries like that unless I am in NYC. And I truly love the sweets, but also admire the hard work that goes into creating them.
    As you know, I love to bake, but I do not want to spend the time it takes to make those artistic delights that impress me.
    I have been baking my way through Dorie Greenspan cookbooks for awhile now. A favorite of hers is a simple loaf, called French Yogurt cake. Which she says french women make at home frequently, but they rely on their local patisserie for more elaborate deserts. It has a marmalade glaze and is very easy. You would love it.
    Thanks for the tour! Patty

  12. Arrrr this is why I love your posts. Thank you for sharing this story, the amazing photo’s, I feel totally relaxed now. OK back to the real world. Have a great day.

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