Most people treat Chartres as a day trip or stop-over on the way to or from Paris. Its star attraction, the Chartres Cathedral, can be toured in an hour (allow more time to really explore it thoroughly). There are a few other sites to see for those who want to extend their time in town. But beyond that, why did I choose to stay overnight (especially when I have housing in Paris)?
I couldn't pass up seeing the city lit up at night for Chartres en Lumières.
Between April and October, the town puts on a show at night. I first heard of this event from a post on Out and About in Paris and it stayed in the back of my mind, only to resurface when Michael mentioned he wanted to visit Chartres again. 29 historical buildings participate, and the highlight of the nightly event is the projected light show on the main facade of the Cathedral.
Although we started (and ended) with the light show at the Cathedral, let’s build up to that and I'll show you our walk around town first.
If you remember from yesterday, our packed-full day in Chartres ended with an apero followed by a glorious French dinner at Le Tripot. So going for a walk along the water to see other participating sites of Chartres en Lumières seemed like a good, and necessary, idea.
This other significantly-sized church really came to life with under the projected lights. (We peeked in earlier in the day, and it is in serious need of some restoration/repair - it must be overshadowed by the church of Chartres.) At night you would never know the crumbling state of its interior.
It was a pleasant walk and it felt a bit like a treasure hunt as we anticipated what the next object lit-up would be. But let’s get to the main show. If you only have energy or will-power to see one area, do like you would do during the daytime. Make a beeline for Chartres Cathedral.
I won’t try to explain the grandeur that the building lends itself to be the canvas of a production - let’s have a look at some of the pictures Michael captured with his tripod.
If you heard some competing music in the background of the clips, that would be the jazz concert you picked up on. Almost every night in August the town hosted musical guests and we happened to catch a concert on the last evening of this summer series. In one of those magical European moments, we danced next to the Cathedral to a swing band before moving on to see the North Porch. (Also another moment I’m adding to the list of times I wished I’d learned how to dance...swing, ballroom, or other!)
Making our way around the church, the North Porch was also lit up. (The South Porch was too, but there was a lot going on over there with the concert and all.)
And because we started and ended at the Cathedral, I have to throw one more picture in. Always end on a high note!
If you visit Chartres between spring through early autumn, consider staying the evening for this spectacle. Especially if you are on vacation, the decision to stay a night in Chartres will be less expensive than in Paris, as well as the comparative food options. And you get to see all of this!
Dates for 2014: April 14th - October 14th
From nightfall until 1:00am, nightly
Also, Saturday, September 20, 2014 the city is organizing its 12th annual Festival of Light (La Fête de la Lumière) from 9:00pm-1:00am
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