Archive for September, 2010


September 5, 2010

It is an impossible task to compare French cathedrals.  It is even harder to describe a cathedral.   These days it is a rather simple click that will bring Chartres alive on any screen. Since all I have are words I’ll speak my peace so that my readers/commentators can drop their keyboards and run to spend a couple of nights in the town of Chartres.

These are not religious times, so upon entering this gigantic House of Worship, one is struck by the great number of visitors/tourists with cameras trying to capture every square inch of God’s House.  Difficult to comprehend the beauty of the structure and the colorful compositions of the hundred or so stained glass windows.

On that day, after the six o’clock mass, the public was invited to stay for a musical program presented by a visiting German church choir. The voices were not Chartres caliber and it was a surprise to me that two choir members rushed to the entrance hoping to receive donations.  We gave indeed, but that very second I had to deal with the sad contradictions and juxtapositions of faith and unbelief, the past and the present, Chartres of centuries ago, and Chartres as it is perceived and visited today.  The money thing.

The beauty of that Cathedral!  If you go take the cute and tiny tourist train that takes visitors for half an hour around the lower part of the town by the river, you will want to move and live there.  This summer most monuments were bathed in “son et lumière”  (sound and light) shows to bring back history.  All over this gorgeously clean and holy city (I felt I was in a different country) at every street corner, a light show on gigantic monuments acting as screens for the evening.

The majestic cathedral sits there and everything, river, streets, shops and houses seem to be protected by its sheltering beauty. I shouldn’t say this, but it is more impressive than Notre Dame de Paris, which is of course a beauty of a similar nature.


“On va faire un effort”

September 5, 2010

It was becoming a challenge.  Which French café would make you feel in heaven.  The expresso’s value is to be found either in the coffee itself, in the view or in the sitting, or perhaps in the service.  The eternal dilemma in France.

In our adopted corner “brasserie”, across the hotel in Paris, Alain our waiter, or was it Blaise, came by to get our morning order.  We ordered our expressos “alongés” (lengthened with hot water) and then we ordered a sandwich.  When we asked for it to be cut in half (a baguette of course) Alain said : “On va faire un effort” with a straight face.

Under other skies you would expect to hear things like: “sure”, “with pleasure”, “of course”, “no problem”, “right up”, etc.  But what makes the land special is Alain’s brand of response: “we’ll try”.  

That is France.