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Day 5: Via Turonensis from Gisors to Chartres, 125 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

In Gisors, we are actually in Normandy, and that remains the case for part of the day. We continue our journey in a large loop around Paris and conclude this circular route in Chartres, where we will head south on the Via Turonensis.

Yesterday, we didn't visit anything in Gisors because it was already relatively late, and we wanted to get Floris to the flat to rest. His neck was still sore, but everything else seemed to be okay. Today, we have to cycle 125 km, quite a distance. Since it might get hot, we decide to wake up at 5 am, and by 6 am, we're on the road. We've had our breakfast with petits pains au chocolat and petits pains au raisins and delicious instant coffee (!) that I bought yesterday at Lidl. At 6 am, it's still quite chilly, and there's some mist.

The town of Gisors has significant buildings: the Castle of Gisors and the grand Church. However, we can't visit them so early, but they are both close to the flat where we slept. The castle was built in 1097 by the King of England, William le Roux. Henry II Plantagenet continued its construction. It played an important role in the Hundred Years' War between the French and the English, with many battles fought between the two. The castle is a prime example of a motte castle: a partially artificial hill with a fortified castle on top, providing a magnificent view of the Epte Valley and the town.

Gisors: Kasteel, the Saint Gervais and Saint Protais church

The second building is the Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais Church, an enormous collegiate church (with a college of canons) with parts dating back to the 12th century and others to the 15th century. It's impressive, measuring 70 meters in length and 24 meters in height. The church is a mix of Romanesque, Renaissance, and Gothic styles, and with its stained glass windows and carved decorations, it's a unique church in all of Normandy. The west side resembles the broad western facades of several British cathedrals, such as Lincoln and Wells. We can only take a brief stroll around it as everything is still closed at 6 am. Nevertheless, there's enough light for some photos.

We leave the town and follow the beautiful Valleé de l'Epte along a Voie verte for about 25 km. It's a pure delight to cycle through. After that, we continue on an equally good and splendid road and Voie verte through the Parc naturel région Vexin français. We pass by Mantes-la-Jolie and cross the Seine River a little to the side. Then we cycle on to Dreux, passing through the Forêt domaniale de Dreux along another Voie verte until St Georges Motel.

In Dreux, we have a picnic next to the Chapelle royale saint-Louis. It is located in the ruins of the castle and serves as the necropolis of the Orleans family. In neo-Gothic style, the building is a beautiful example of nineteenth-century architecture, with the stained glass windows from Sèvres adding a special brilliance. The whole complex now belongs to the Saint-Louis Foundation. From this chapel, you have a beautiful view of the city, including the Saint Pierre Church, built between the 13th and 16th centuries, and the impressive 16th-century belfry. We don't have much time and simply ride through the city to arrive 40 km further in Chartres.

Dreux: Chapelle Royale and view on the city; opa on his bike

Due to the long ride and sometimes steep slopes, my Batavus bike's battery runs out just as we enter Chartres, and I have to pedal hard for about five kilometers without motor assistance, carrying all the weight we have. But we make it to the hotel. Here, we stay at an Ibis budget hotel where it takes some effort to find a place to store and charge our bikes, but eventually, we manage. We freshen up and head to the cathedral of cathedrals, Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Everyone knows Chartres, so I'll limit the information. By doing so, I am doing a disservice to this beautiful cathedral. The best thing to do is to go see it yourself and follow the path there with your bike...

Chartres: Notre-Dame cathedral; tympan of the Portail Royal; North portal

Notre-Dame Cathedral is an early Gothic cathedral on a hill overlooking the city of Chartres. It was built between 1194 and around 1220. The cathedral is famous mainly for its stained glass windows featuring the predominant Bleu de Chartres. Like every cathedral, it houses an important relic: a veil, known as the Veil of the Virgin Mary or in Latin, Sancta Camisia, which Mary is said to have worn when she stood weeping beneath the cross of her dying son, Jesus. Others claim that Mary wore it when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was pregnant with God's son. Still, others believe she wore it during the birth of Christ. This veil was donated to the church in 876 by Charles the Bald, grandson of Charlemagne.

In Chartres, take the time to see everything. Of course, there's the west side with the Portail royal, the oldest part of the church, or rather, from a previous earlier church, with magnificent column statues. The southern entrance features, among other scenes, the Last Judgment. The northern side is dedicated to Mary. Inside, take your time to admire the splendid stained glass windows and rose windows. Also, the carved choir enclosure and the labyrinth in the middle of the nave are unique. On Fridays, you can walk the labyrinth yourself as they remove the chairs. Take plenty of time, especially to marvel at the stained glass windows. My favorites are the four windows on the south side, where the four major prophets carry the four evangelists, with Mary standing between them. The Old Testament supports the New Testament—a beautiful symbolism!

Chartres: Stained-glass windows and the choir enclosure

After a two-hour visit, Floky and I have dinner together at the restaurant La Serpente, just to the right of the west facade because tomorrow is his 17th birthday. He enjoys escargots de Bourgogne, tarte avec du rouget confiture d'oignon, linguine Jambon paysan, and marinated calf sweetbreads with a raspberry-based sauce – all very delicious.

Then we return to the hotel to sleep and continue our journey on the Via Turonensis. We will also continue celebrating his birthday.

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