Monday, May 27, 2013

May 21: Chartres and a Rumble with the Transit Cops

We had a VERY full day today.  We took the train to Chartres and the  cathedral was everything we expected; the stained glass windows had  been recently restored and were some of the most beautiful we'd ever  seen.  Most had been restored, and the contrast between the restored windows and those that hadn't been cleaned was dramatic.

Our Lady of the Pillar
Sometimes you walk to a spot in a cathedral or church that you know has a special significance.   This was the altar of Our Lady of the Pillar.  The Madonna and child statue was commissioned in 1508 as a black wooden copy of the 13th century silver Madonna that once stood on the main altar.  The pillar on which it stands does date from the 13th century.

One of the detailed carvings around the sanctuary.

We were a bit disgruntled when they shooed us out for 20  minutes so they could change things around for a group of pilgrims  coming in, and then found that they'd blocked off some areas, but we  continued to enjoy the place.  Then the organ started.  And the choir  sang "Panis Angelicus".  Then the pilgrims started to arrive- thousands of them, who had walked from Paris (over 50 miles away) in  cold rain.  They included parents, children, a lot of Boy Scouts, many carrying banners.  It was amazing.  This is one of the reasons we  travel.  We encounter things that we would have gone out of our way to  see, but had no idea they were there, and just happen to be in the  right place at the right time.
The pilgrims start to arrive.
More, singing hymns, wait patiently to get in.  We read later that the Cathedral couldn't hold them all.  You can see the weather they endured during their walk from Paris.

Here is a link to one blog created by a person on the pilgrimage.  Please note that I don't agree with all the beliefs expressed on that site, but it does provide a vivid description of the pilgrimage and links to other blogs and pictures.

View of the Cathedral from the train.

We left in a  happy glow, and decided to visit Napoleon's tomb on the way back to the hotel.  It was only a diversion a few stops off another line.  As we changed trains, we encountered transit police making a random ticket check.  I'd thrown mine away so I gave them a new one.  Wrong answer.  Very wrong.  A ticket that hadn't been stamped by a machine as you went through a turnstile was a sign you might have gotten in, say, by slipping in behind someone without paying;  I had to pay a fine of about 50 dollars.  No way out of it, of course.  We had almost zero cash so I handed over my Visa.  It didn't work.  Did I have another card?  No.  Did Ron have a card or cash?  My husband the pickpocket magnet?  Heck, no.  I patiently explained that due to the high incidence of pickpockets we carried only one card and little cash.  Well, they'd have to call the police. OK, fine.  We waited and after awhile they told us we could go.  I  suspect the police were not interested.  Big sigh of relief.

Two post-scripts:  Napoleon's tomb is part of a 10-dollar package deal with the military museum; it was 5 PM so we decided to go another day.  We picked up groceries on the way back to the hotel.  The Visa worked  just fine.

I should also add that we never met any of the legendary nasty Parisians on this trip.   People were nice and they were helpful.  The transit police were polite and they were doing their job.  I was in the wrong.  Still, I'm glad I avoided paying a fine!

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