September 8 marks the day we left Chateau Marcay, homestead of my ancester Rene de Bastarnay, to head off to see the famous Cloitre Notre-Dame Chartres in Eure-et-Loir. It was also the last day of Insight Tour, and then we were off to Paris for some FREEDOM!
Now, for years I have been yearning to pay a visit to Cloitre Notre-Dame, Chartres and see its incredible stained glass windows. These windows are renowned for using a color, bearing its namesake: Chartres Bleu. My initial enthusiasm was soon destroyed by the events that followed. First, the visit was going to be crippled by the usual “way to short” tour bus visit to the site. I was already prepared for that and knew I had to make the most of every minute possible. When the group entered the Cathedral, there was a service in effect, which meant no walking around inside and no photos. Ostensibly this meant, no nothing unless you fancy a Catholic Mass. As I was not yet in the mood for wafers and sweet wine, Elaine and I decided to walk around the building for a bit until the service ended.
After the service ended, we were able to make a very brief tour inside one section of the cathedral open to exploration. I managed to snap a few brief photos of the famed stained glass windows, but we had scant time to appreciate their beauty and incredible artisanry.
We decided to grab lunch at one of the overpriced cafes situated in front of the Cathedral. I was willing to pay a premium in order to save precious time so that I might be able to see a few more of the stained glass windows. Alas, that did not happen. The service was slow and I waited forever to get my lunch. I had ordered a nice juicy steak accompanied with frites and vegetables…apparently this was the kiss of death for any spare time I had left. Elaine’s food had arrived before mine and she even had time to eat. I suggested that she should get back to the bus as there was only 15 minutes left before the scheduled depart. I asked her to let our Time Gestapo Tourguide that I will be a few minutes late.
Eventually the steak came, a tad under cooked for my liking, but there was no time to demand satisfaction. I inhaled this blood red piece of meat as fast as I could and made a few stabs at the frites and vegetables. Upon receiving this rare feast I asked the waiter to “Please get my bill as soon as possible”. “Right away sir”, he assured me. As many more minutes elapse, I ask again for the bill, to my chagrin, they had forgotten and then apologized. Naturally, it was delayed even more because the waiters had just changed shifts. Too bad violence is illegal, I had my own ideas how to settle this account.
By then, it was apparent that I was at least 10 minutes late and there was nothing I could do, except leave without paying my bill. All I needed was an angry french waiter chasing me down the street. I called the tour guide and told him as much. Then I got the dreaded “if you can’t make it back to the bus in the next 5 minutes, we’ll have to leave!”. Goddamn bus tour and their inflexible schedule. I made it back by the skin of my teeth and said to myself, this is my LAST event with this group and I am cancelling my optional tours. Elaine agreed and as soon as we got back to Paris all our time was henceforth our own.
Our first stop was the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, one of the best known and largest Churches in Europe. As such, it needs no introduction and the photos really cannot give you a sense of its vastness.
Ironically, early into our tour I had booked and paid for some the “optional” tours, one of which was a tour of Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. By now, there was zero percent chance we would embark on any further organized tours. I told the guide to cancel the optional tours and refund our money. Finally we were free again and explored Paris ourway. We took our time to appreciate Notre Dame de Paris. We spent nearly two hours inside and basked in its beauty and history.
Our visit to Notre Dame was complete and daylight was on the wane. In order to enjoy the next few hours, Elaine and I decided to take a walk along the banks of the Seine River. We walked for a few kilometers and soaked up every bit of Paris that we could. This is the sort of walk one could do a thousand times and not tire of it. The rest of our day was going remarkably well given the morning’s travesty. The smiles were back on our faces.
I wonder if it’s better to be a bum in Paris or a poor man in Toronto. That’s the question that entered my head as we strolled along the embankments of the Seine. Each city has its share of bums, but I was surprised to see how some of the alcoves along the river had been converted to makeshift homes. Okay, they really reeked of piss, bad really bad. Guess that’s why I came back to Toronto instead of trying to freeload in France.
Funny how the rest of our day went from the house of God in Notre Dame to the house of piss under the Seine. Life is best lived in extremes, blandness is hell isn’t it? As is the case with every post here, the obligatory gallery follows.