Today marked my birthday, but we also heard the news about the Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage. What a big day!
Our class trip began at 9 a.m. with a bus ride to Chartres, a town 50 km south of Paris. It was supposed to be a hot day in Paris, so we were glad to have slightly less heat there. Teo took us to Chartres to show us the cathedral, which he said was built as a monument to Mary. Since it’s the only cathedral built within one generation (25 years), he said it’s a perfect example of gothic architecture because new adornments were not added as years passed. It was a lot simpler than Notre Dame but still had the rose windows to let in light.
The inside was simply gorgeous. Stained glass panels all around, and huge arches reaching to the ceiling. I was really interested to see that different parts of the walls were different colors – some dirtier and darker than others, while the center was a pristine white. Teo said it just depends on the cleaning; people have cleaned the main hallway around the altar, but some side walls were blackened from pollution and smoke over the years (it’s not a shadow!).
He told us the way we see medieval churches and buildings now is not how they saw them, because they were painted with bright colors all over, and were made of white limestone typically. Now the paint as worn off and we see a grayish stone color. I can’t imagine the Chartres cathedral all painted in color – it was huge with many details.
For lunch, we found a café called Le Serpente where I ordered ravioli and creme brûlée – I think this was my first official dessert from a restaurant and it was, of course, crunchy on top and custardy below. One of my friends had been wanting French onion soup for a while because, well it’s France, and she finally found some there.
For our afternoon walk, we toured the small town of Chartres, which is a medieval village with buildings that are 700 years old. They were built of wooden beams and reminded me of Sleeping Beauty’s house. One especially pretty part was a river that flowed through the town under small bridges.
Back at our hotel, we rested for a couple hours before going to dinner. I went with two girls to an Italian place we found on Yelp called Gusto Italia. Teo jokingly shook his head at us for choosing Italian in France, but hey it’s the closest I’ve ever been to Italy!
And the restaurant was actually perfect – it was a very cozy place near the Eiffel Tower with very friendly employees. It was really funny because we had some trilingual thing going on, where we speak broken French and they know we’re English so they speak broken English, but then the menu items were in Italian and the employees would say some things in Italian. It was complicated but humorous.
We all three ordered specials – they had shrimp dishes and I had risotto 4 fromage. It was very amazing and rich and cheesy. Their seafood meals were very flavorful, too, which was a nice change from simplistic, classic French food. We aren’t complaining, but it was good to change it up – and the employee brought us a free grilled veggie entree.
Though tiny little bugs came out at dusk, we all really liked this restaurant and agreed it was our favorite so far. It started to sprinkle a bit, but felt good in the humid air.
For dessert, we shared a nutella tiramisu because the employee recommended it. It was deliciously soft and creamy and not too overpowering.
Following Parisian customs, we’d eaten dinner from 8 to 10:30 p.m. so it was finally beginning to get dark when we left. From there, we just walked around Paris a bit to see the city of lights at night. We passed by the lit up Eiffel Tower and decided to take the metro to Bastille to see it in the evening. There were a lot of cafés and bars open with beautiful lights, but we didn’t stay in the area long before coming back.
One thing I like about Paris is how active it is at night because the sun sets so late, at least in the summer. Everyone is always walking along the river or in a park at 11 p.m., which makes the city seem more alive.