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03 July 2011

Chartres, Brittany, and back home to Château.
Although what we could see of the cathedral was very impressive, much of it was under scaffolding for repair and cleaning. The windows were magnificent, and the interior cool and such a relief from the heat outside (38c). There was a funeral/memorial service going on for a canon who had recently died, so we had the opportunity to hear part of a sung mass. The crypt is the oldest part of the building, and on a guided tour of the crypt, we learnt quite a bit about the building. One of the most impressive stories was about saving the windows during the war. In fifteen brief days before the Germans arrived in Chartres, the 2,500 sq metres of windows were taken out, some temporary glass put in their place, and the precious glass taken by train to a hiding place in the centre of France. After the war, they were restored of course. Looking at the huge magnificent windows, I couldn’t help wondering how that whole operation could have been achieved, amazing.

After dinner we had to wait until almost 11pm for the son et lumière. Very impressive, so many buildings with colourful images telling stories with a background of music.

The following day, Tuesday, we set off very early and arrived in Vannes in good time to take John’s elderly uncle out to lunch. Sadly he has deteriorated a great deal since we last saw him. Later in the afternoon we arrived at Méslène and had a very pleasant evening with Maria and Helen. I enjoyed walking around with Maria when she was feeding the animals, lots of gorgeous babies.

We stayed overnight at a Chambre d’Hôtes run by friends of Maria, Angela and Albert Brown. They have a lovely house in the country, and provide a great service. Everything is homemade, they are interesting to talk to and we enjoyed ourselves – this is our second visit, we stayed there a couple of years ago when we were last visiting Maria.

The next day we set off for Quimper, and met Maria’s daughter, another Maria. We were delighted to meet her very lovely family for the first time. She is very interested in John’s work on the Blake family history, and we were very much occupied with that discussion.

Friday we had a very long drive over to Vichy, but the positive side was that the journey was across country, on reasonably quiet roads, and that was three quarters of our journey back home to Chateau. Vichy has a fascinating history. It is in the centre of thermal springs, which the Romans discovered and developed them as baths. Later in the time of the three Napoleons, it was a fashionable place to “take the waters”, and I am sure Kathleen ffrench visited there with her grandmother. The architecture is very much influenced by all the attention it received from royal families, aristocrats, with very decorative grand houses. Beautiful parks and promenades between the thermal centres. After a couple of hours of walking around following the stories of history, we set off home to Chateau and were back here in no time. No rain since we left, so friends have been watering the garden, and there was lots of produce to harvest.

In the evening there was the village feast, with 120 participants, there were two sheep being barbecued on spits. A lovely evening, full of chat and fun and we staggered up the hill to bed some time around midnight.

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