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Anybody visited Chartres cathedral recently? (and other thoughts on a few days in Paris...)

Me and my wife will be in Paris this December, arriving around 11 a on the Eurostar from London. We'll then be returning back to London late two days later. So basically 2.5 days for fun. A short stay, but long enough to get something out of it I think.

This will be my second time to Paris. The first was over 20 years ago and I saw all the major sites so I don't feel any real obligations this time. We already have tix booked on our first (and only) full day for the Leonardo exhibition in the afternoon so that should take up 3 hours or so at the Louvre. We'd also like to visit Musee d'Orsay at some point- maybe the day we arrive? It isn't far from our hotel near the Eiffel Tower.

I'm just debating whether to go to Chartres that third and final day. I am a huge lover of gothic architecture, and it doesn't get any better than Chartres Cathedral. It's also a site of pilgrimage for Catholics and at Christmastime I imagine it to be extra special. But... maybe it'd be better to stay in Paris that final day and see more of the city. We also love Picasso and we could visit that museum if we stayed in town.

Are there any thoughts on Chartres following the renovations? I thought I read that now ANOTHER section is under scaffolding which always takes something away.

Thanks for the thoughts and recommendations! I have enjoyed posting on the England forum so far and look forward to hearing from the crew on this board. (oh and I am following the strike developments, I'm posting assuming we'll be able to get around w/o issue, if that isn't the case obviously our plans may get thrown out the window)

Posted by
9914 posts

I'm not sure I understand your days (and I have NOT had coffee yet, lol!!). You indicate your only full day is the day you are doing the Louvre/daVinci exhibit....so were you thinking to go to Chartres on the day you are also catching the Eurostar back to London?

If so, I would not do this. You'll need to be to the Eurostar level at Gare du Nord an hour before departure so keep that in mind.

Posted by
29 posts

No, you read me right! The train back to London doesn't leave until 8:30 pm so we have all day to get stuff done, even arriving an hour prior to departure time.

Posted by
682 posts

There is an amazing Toulous Letrec exhibition on at the moment, i would go there instead, its amazing

Posted by
35 posts

I would second going to the large Toulouse Lautrec exhibit at the Grand Palais. My husband and I saw it last month and we’re amazed at its depth.
Stay in Paris where you will make much better use of your limited time and visit Sainte Chapelle for gothic architecture and marvel at the facade of Notre Dame.

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks for these replies. Staying was what I was leaning towards, so I think I may save Chartres for another trip. Would be cool to see the Toulouse-Lautrec show. Love that period he worked in.

I'd still be interested in hearing anyone's thoughts who has visited Chartres following the restoration.

Posted by
29 posts

I just saw that there's also a major El Greco exhibition in Paris right now. Has anyone seen this yet? It's coming to Chicago in the spring so I could possibly see it then. Not sure about Toulouse Lautrec.

Posted by
35 posts

Yes. The El Greco exhibit is also at the Grand Palais, and you can purchase a ticket on line for the two exhibits. Unfortunately, the El Greco exhibit is quite small while the Toulouse Lautrec is grand.

Posted by
29 posts

Got you. Interesting that the same location is holding both exhibitions. Didn't even think about the Grand Palais when planning this trip.

How long did you spend at the Touluse Lautrec exhibit?

Posted by
682 posts

If you look at and read everything, an hour and a half. We went last thursday evening, no ques and not too crowded, should be a very different experience from the da Vinci!!!

Posted by
8504 posts

We spent 1.5 hours at the El Greco exhibit. There’s also a Degas exhibit at the Orsay (coming to the National Gallery in DC in the spring) & a Francis Bacon exhibit at the Pompidou. It’s a good exhibit season

Posted by
6725 posts

I am so disappointed to be missing Toulouse Lautrec one of my favorite French artists. There were several of his best in the exhibit at Fondation Louis Vuitton last spring when we were in Paris -- wonderful.

Posted by
29 posts

You're all right, this is a GREAT exhibition season. With only 2 and half days though I wonder how much time I should be spending in museums as much as I love them.

I'm a huge Degas fan as well. If I had to rank my favorite painters, top 5 would probably include Velazquez, Goya, Picasso, Degas, and Manet. So I will have to prioritize for this trip as I probably won't see them all (and no real Velazquez or Goyas of note to see in Paris).

I can probably catch the El Greco exhibit in Chicago, not so for Toulouse Lautrec. Leonardo already booked (not personally one of my favorites, but then again I haven't been able to see many of his paintings in person before so maybe this will change things).

So, that would mean 4 museums to get in. Probably one too many. So if I'm going with 3 I'm thinking it comes down to Leonardo/Louvre, Orsay/Degas and then either the Toulouse Lautrec exhibit or the Picasso museum.... Decisions, decisions....

Posted by
35 posts

While in Paris in November we saw several exhibits: Leonardo ( the reason for the trip), Toulouse Lautrec and El Greco, and Degas in the Musee d’Orsay where they did not have separate or timed tickets for Degas. Consequently, the Degas exhibit was mobbed, even slightly after opening in the morning and was extremely difficult to view. Don’t bother. We caught a cab and went to the Musee Marmottan Monet and had a lovely time.

Posted by
29 posts

Did you find the crowds at the Degas exhibit drew people away from the rest of the galleries? Or was the whole museum that crazy crowded?

Posted by
35 posts

The rest of the museum was normally crowded, nothing exceptional. It did help that we also had lunch in the cafe taking a break to then begin again. It really is a wonderful museum.

Posted by
4591 posts

I went to Chartres in September, and I absolutely loved it! I was in the cathedral for four hours. I purchased Malcolm Miller’s book ahead of time to better understand it before I arrived, and the last two hours I went through it with the English-speaking guide who does the afternoon tour including the crypt- excellent!

The next morning before I left to catch the train, I went back for another 30 minutes and also walked a portion of the labyrinth since the chairs are moved on Fridays.

Posted by
682 posts

I avoid these massive big fanfare exhibitions now - like the da Vinci - even if i was a fan, as the crowds make it so unpleasant and you just cant see anything. The only exception has been the Dior at the Louvres, though that was busy not heaving.
So i am going to put out the question, if you arent a big da Vinci fan, but there are lots of exhibitions on on artists you love, why not enjoy those and sell the da Vinci?

Posted by
29 posts

Well, I'm reading right now the Isaacson bio so it's got me more interested. I feel like this is an artist I should know better and what better way than this exhibition? May never get a chance like this again. This will get us into the Louvre anyway so we could bail early if it's THAT crazy.

And thank you for the comment on Chartres! 4 hours is a lot of time. The last time I was there I took the tour lead by Malcom Miller himself but that was in 1999. The memory has faded unfortunately and I can't recall many of the details. Bummer we don't have an extra day to visit... well I'm just happy I'll be in France at all. My last trip was pre 9/11. I'm sure it's going to be a whole lot different from what I remember.

Posted by
8504 posts

Every exhibit I saw, except the English Painting at the Musée de Luxembourg, was crazy crowded as Caro describes, just as crowded as the da Vinci. That includes smaller exhibits in smaller venues, "Rousseau to Saraphine" at the Musée Maillol and a fashion exhibit at the Bourdelle (I admit it was the last day of the exhibit). I strategized the best I could, but as Caro says, it affects the experience. Exhibition season, both spring and fall, is a big deal in Paris.

Posted by
35 posts

The way we avoided the huge crowds at the many exhibits we saw was to book timed tickets for the hours the museums opened. We saw the Leonardo exhibit at 9:00 a.m. which was fine. After getting the audio guide and going through again at 10:10 a.m. the place was a madhouse. As the Degas exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay did not have timed tickets the exhibit was almost impossible to view properly. We sped through it to enjoy only the last rooms. Again, we entered when the museum first opened which is a good rule of thumb when viewing any timed ticket exhibits.

Posted by
3336 posts

My thoughts on the renovations...I have visited Chartres many times over the past 40 years. I'm sure others will completely disagree with me but I find the interior renovations to be awful. I understand that they were trying to bring it back to what it would have looked like originally but, by doing that, the feel of the church has completely changed. I prefer a building of that age to show its age. Yes, it should be stabilized, repaired, and preserved. I think that by painting over the interior, this beautiful cathedral has lost something very special.

Posted by
53 posts

Anita,
I concur with everything you have written about the renovations. I, too, have visited Chartres a number of times since my first visit in 1972. Last time was in 2015. Not sure I should go back again. The white fake mortar lines were awful! I believe that our sensibilities and these monuments change and evolve in tandem over the centuries. We are not going to become 12th century people again, and maybe Chartres should not go back to exactly the same as it was in the 12th century.