INFORMATION ON CHARTRES

Note: Some of this may be a bit dated, but much of it is still current. For more information, see Jill Geoffrion's website: www.jillgeoffrion.com.

INFORMATION ON CHARTRES, FRANCE
Recommendations by Robert Ferré
I receive a lot of inquiries from people going to Chartres, as to where to stay, what to do, etc. So here is a brief summary of information that might be helpful. This was done a few years ago, but most of it is still accurate.

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STAY A WHILE
Stay as long as you can. I have been there 53 times and have still barely touched the surface of what I would like to do. I am reminded of the story of Abbe' Bulteau, who was one of the first to write about the history and art of the cathedral after it was "rediscovered" in the 19th century. In 1850 he published a book on the cathedral, but felt it was incomplete. He continued to work on it, but it was still unfinished at the time of his death, 32 years later! That's how I feel. You can never reach the end of what the cathedral has to teach you. The town itself is marvelous, as well. When I see tour buses pull up, discharge 50 tourists and say, "Be back in two hours so we can go see (whatever)," I laugh. In one case, they added, "And don't forget to get some lunch." All in two hours.

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GETTING TO CHARTRES
Chartres is about 60 miles southwest of Paris. The closest airport is Orly, as opposed to Charles de Gaulle Airport, which is located on the other side of Paris. Most flights these days go into Charles de Gaulle, however. Renting a car is not necessary, unless you plan to travel further a field. From Charles de Gaulle take the big white Air France bus to Montparnasse (second stop, the first stop is Gare de Lyon). The train to Chartres leaves from the Montparnasse train station, which is right next to the Air France bus stop. It's not expensive and takes about an hour. Trains leave frequently throughout the day. The train station in Chartres is only a few blocks from the cathedral, although it is all up hill. You won't miss it. For a more detailed explanation, see: Getting to Chartres.

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ACCOMMODATIONS
Telephoning France: 011 (international operator) + 33 (France country code) plus NINE numbers. Don't dial the first zero unless you are calling within France.

Paris

Perhaps you want to catch up on your sleep and get over jet lag before you go to Chartres. Here's a tip on a great hotel in Paris. It is called Central Hotel. When you get off the Air France bus at Montparnasse, walk to Avenue du Maine (about 30 yards), cross the street, jog slightly to the left and continue down a small street, Rue du Maine. You will pass several decent and inexpensive restaurants before coming to a little square (about 100 yards, maybe less). Facing the square is Hotel Central. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Montparnasse area, this is a quiet spot. The two-star hotel is spotlessly clean. The rooms are small, but then again, not expensive by Paris standards. The owner of Central Hotel, Monsieur Peron, lived in the United States for 10 years. He knows about customer satisfaction and good service. Tel: 01.43.20.69.15 Fax: 01.43.20.50.09

If you are hungry, go across the square (which is actually triangular) to Tarte Julie. It's a chain in France, selling delicious tartes (quiche) both as main course and dessert, plus salads. Yes, it even has checkered table cloths. If it's a nice day, get the food to go and sit out in the square. Next to the hotel is a restaurant that specializes in mussels, called "moules" in French.

Anoter favorite hotel is the Terrass Hotel, the only four star hotel in the 18th arrondisement of Paris. It's in a neighborhood setting, a short walk from picturesque Montmartre. Using their Internet specials, rooms can befound for a very favorable price. In the warm weather, they open their rooftop dining terrace from which you can view much of Paris. O my last stay, from my balcony I could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance, the old Opera, and more. Tel: 01.46.06.72.85 Fax: 01.42.52.29.11

Chartres

The descriptions below cover a wide range of accommodation available in Chartres. Telephoning from the U.S., precede all of the numbers by 011 (international operator) and 33 (country code). French telephone numbers have 10 digits. From the US, drop the first zero and use nine digits. In other words, after the "33" you will dial nine more numbers. The postal code for Chartres is 28000.

L'Hotel ** (two stars)
Tel: 02 37 21 90 71
28 Rue du Grand Faubourg (Just around the corner from the Grand Monarque).
Website: www.lhotel-chartres.com
This is a new hotel, opened just as the worldwide recession hit. The husband is the chef in the restaurant and the wife operates the hotel. It is not expensive, comfortable, very clean. It's a healthy walk from the train station. I did it in the rain. If I were still doing groups, and if we weren't using the pilgrimage quarters (see Maison Saint Yves, below), this would be my pick.

Jehan de Beauce ** (two stars)
Tel: 02 37 21 01 41
19 avenue Jehan de Beauce
www.jehandebeauce.fr
Very close to the train station, above the Hard Rock Cafe (pizza, motorcycles, smoke). Very simple. Ask for a room facing the courtyard rather than the street.

Chatelet,*** (three stars)
Tel: 02.37.21.78.00 -----Fax: 02.37.36.23.01
6-8 Avenue Jehan de Beauce
www.hotelchatelet.com
The Chatelet has three stars and private off-street parking for your car. Parking is expensive in Chartres (about $4 per hour), so that's a big plus, as they don't charge extra. It is right across the street from Jehan de Beauce in the first block up from the train station.. The rooms are modern and comfortable, but quite small and cramped. Many have a view of the Cathedral. The Chatelet serves only breakfast, but there are restaurants near by.

Le Boeuf Couronné ** (two stars)
Tel: 02.37.18.06.06 -----Fax: 02.37.21.72.13
15 Place du Châtelet
hotel-boeufcouronne.com
If you arrive by train, there are two less expensive (if a bit shabby around the edges) hotels, close to the station. Jehan de Beauce is the first, and this the second. This one is better. Le Boeuf Couronné has a restaurant used a lot by locals, and a great view of the cathedral from the front rooms on the upper floors.

Ibis Centre * (one star)
Tel: 02.37.36.06.36 -----Fax: 02.37.36.17.20
14, place Drouaise - 28000 - CHARTRES - FRANCE
http://www.ibishotel.com/gb/hotel-0917-ibis-chartres-centre-cathedrale/index.shtml
This is a very clean and modern chain hotel with an inexpensive restaurant that has the feeling and decor of a Denny's. The buffet breakfast is nice (you can stock upon hard boiled eggs and bread to make your own picnic lunch). However, the hotel is at the bottom of the hill, a 10-15 minute walk up to the cathedral. On the other hand, it's right next to the Eure River and a very nice park. It offers the professionalism and consistency of a national chain. The street beside it is quite noisy, so it's a mixed bag when you try to open the windows for a bit of air. Choose this one last.

Le Grand Monarque *** (three stars)
Tel: 02.37.21.00.72 -----Fax: 02.37.36.34.18
22 Place des Epars
www.bw-grand-monarque.com
This is reputed to be the best hotel in town. It's restaurant is also highly rated. In my experience, the quality is variable and the price much too high for value received. However, if you want to impress someone (there for business) stay here. There is a nice bar.

Le Manoir des Prés du Roy ** (two stars)
Tel: 02.37.22.27.27 -----Fax: 02.37.22.24.92
Allée des Prés du Roy, Saint-Prest, Chartres, 28000
If you have a car, this hotel is located out in the countryside five miles from Chartres in a calm setting. It is a very good value for the price. The restaurant is also a real find. The hotel was taken over a few years ago by someone who has ambitions as a chef. The dining room is spacious, and the meals excellent.

l'Auberge de Jeunesse
Tel: 02.37.34.27.64 -----Fax: 02.37.35.75.85
23, Avenue Neigre
www.auberge-jeunesse-chartres.com
This is a youth hostel. Adults can stay there, too. It is on the neighboring hill from the cathedral, with a spectacular view. (You may want to go there just to take a photo.) Lodging is $10, meals $9, and picnic baskets $5.50. Bring your own linen or rent theirs. It's a bit of a walk to the cathedral.

Maison Saint Yves
Tel: 02.37.88.37.40 Fax: 02.37.88.37.49
1 Rue Saint Eman
www.maison-st-yves.com
This is not a hotel, nor is it operated like one. You can't just walk in and get a room. Rather, it's a facility operated by the church for pilgrims, located in a restored seminary building just 50 yards from the cathedral. Meals can be arranged. I mention it here because it might be possible for an individual or couple who may be going to Chartres on a sincere pilgrimage to make arrangements to stay here, although it most cater to groups. See www.maisonstyves.com.

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RESTAURANTS
If you go to your local Barnes and Noble or Borders bookstore, as I do, take a few travel guides from the shelf, read them over a cappuccino in the cafe (taking notes, of course), and then put them back, you will find a number of good restaurants recommended for Chartres. I have tried them and they are great. But anyone can find the expensive places. In fact, there are numerous quaint little restaurants close to the cathedral which offer traditional meals at a low cost. It's hard to go wrong.

Very popular in France are pizza restaurants, which are OK in a pinch, even if they the pizzas aren't thick with ingredients as we are used to here in the U.S. For $15 or so you can get a very tasty pizza at Pizza Romain, which is right in front of the cathedral. (They have an extra charge if you split a pizza.)

Right on the corner next to the cathedral (south side), in the most prominent place, is Cafe Serpente. They have assured business being right next to the cathedral. We call it the "Surly Serpent" because they don't have the American attitude towards business. Here, the customer isn't always right. They do as they wish, and if you are lucky, they will serve you. At any time of the day and well into the night it's possible to get just an omelet, salad, onion soup or fries, which is quick. However, they are a bit pricey. If you don't want a real meal, go to the pedestrian shopping area and just buy a sandwich offered at one of the boulangeries (bakeries). Le Bistro de la Cathedrale is also right across from the cathedral. Its traditional food draws many locals. They have outdoor tables and chairs in good weather.

On the north side of the cathedral used to be a bar called The Welcome. Now it has been transformed into a very interesting place, the name of which escapes me. They opened up the cellar spaces, put tables down there, and serve tasty, inexpensive food.

Now located where Restaurant le Change used to be is the glitzy Cafe des Artistes. Rue des Changes is the street that goes from the cathedral to the market. Across the street is another good, affordable, restaurant.

Now let's get to more traditional restaurants. There are numerous ones within a few blocks of the cathedral, with competitive prices and good menus. I have had numerous good meals at le Tripot (11 Place Jean Moulin, 02.37.36.60.11). The fireplace takes the chill off a cool evening. Service is polite and friendly. It's a bit upscale. (There are several expensive restaurants in Chartres that I haven't included here, including La Maison, the Grand Monarque and Le Moulin.) Incidentally, "menu" in French refers to a fixed price meal. The folder on which the various dishes are listed is called "la carte." That's why, when you buy individual dishes rather than a fixed-menu, you are ordering "a la carte." Fixed price meals are always a much better deal unless you really want to create your own combinations.

A local resident invited me to dinner at another great restaurant called P'tit Morard (25, rue de la Porte Morard, in the lower town. The food is great, not expensive, with a lot of little extras and pizzazz.

For a superb buy and an authentic French brasserie, go to the Brasserie Chatelet. There are a few tables outside, and more inside, where it will be smoky. The portions are huge, the prices reasonable, and the service French (slow). It is located right next to the Hotel du Boeuf Couronne. Walking up from the train station it's a great place to stop. Try the moules frites (mussels and French fries).

Want a late-night snack? Several times I have gone at 11 pm or later to Cafe de la Ouest, right across from the train station. It looks intimidating from the front, because the front room will be noisy and smoky, with people playing pinball and standing around the bar. But in the back are two dining rooms and the food is quite decent. You might try the salade nicoise, or do what I do -- have several deserts. The people around you will be French. If you want a classy night cap, go to the bar of the Grande Monarch instead.

With Le Pichet, I have saved my favorite until the end. Once when I stayed a month in Chartres, I had lunch here almost every day. The owner is personable, the food good French home-cooking, the prices reasonable, and there is a no-smoking room! It backs up to the Tourist Office. The owner also has some furnished rooms upstairs which can be rented by the week or longer for low prices. Tel: 02.37.21.08.35 Fax: 02.37.36.24.79

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IT'S JUST MONEY
Don't limit your trip by pinching pennies and missing out on memorable meals and experiences. I find that cheap food doesn't exist in many places in France. In the U.S. one can get a compete meal at Denny's for $6. Not in France. On the other hand, a really good meal at a continental restaurant in the US can cost $60 and more. In France, for the same price, you can get a real feast. And for half that price, you still get a great four- or five-course meal. Even if you don't have much money, don't spent your time worrying about prices. I have seen people get very disturbed by receiving a poor exchange rate, which, compared to a good rate, might have cost them $5 extra. Or maybe they were ripped off for a few dollars by someone. Hey, folks, let it go. Don't let it spoil your trip. Most of all, don't go around looking defensive as if you don't trust anyone.

Most people who report that the French hate Americans and are unfriendly aren't actually such great ambassadors themselves. They go to the cheapest places in their travel-on-next-to-nothing guidebook, trying to save a buck, where the proprietor is working 18 hours a day trying to eek out a living, and then get disturbed if they aren't treated like royalty. Do you want to be treated well? It's simple. Spend lots of money; everyone will love you. I'm being a bit facetious, but the point I'm making is this: Pay what it costs, absorb your losses, keep smiling, and have a great time.

I remember a taxi driver in Paris who took me on a needlessly long route to my destination, not knowing that I am familiar with the city. He felt like he needed to run up the bill, believing that his "salvation" was in ripping me off for a little extra fare. When we got to our destination, I gave him a big tip and wished him a good life. No problem. Another time, I gave a ten-franc piece ($2 then) to a street person who was panhandling near my hotel. I wished him a good day, whereupon, hearing my strong American accent, he struck up a conversation and even tried out a few words of English. The next day, he was in the same spot, so I wished him a good day (no money this time). He growled, "Get fucked." It was a great lesson. I thought that my $2 should buy his eternal appreciation and respect. Wrong. All in all, France is a great place. Enjoy it.

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THE INTERNET

Bonjour Paris: www.bonjourparis.com
For an online ezine about Paris, you can go to the ever-expanding Bonjour Paris. There are some excellent published authors who contribute articles.

Paris Pages: www.paris.org
Les Pages de Paris" is loaded with information about Paris, including details on thousands of restaurants, hotels, cultural events, places to visit, subway, buses, and more. All you need for Paris, plus links to other tourism sites.

French Tourist Office: www.franceguide.com
La Maison de France is the official tourist office. They are trying to improve their image with a cheerful "Bonjour" campaign.

Anglophones: www.paris-anglo.com
Connections to the Paris Free Voice, a list of thousands of commercial establishments of all kinds that speak English, articles to read, book reviews and more.

French Government Tourist Office USA: www.francetourism.com
Comprehensive. Lots of information. A big improvement over their previous effort.

General Information: www.tourisme.fr
You can tell foreign URLs because they end with the country code, not "com" or "net" as we do it. I didn't spell tourism wrong, that's the French spelling.

Francophile Organizations: www.info-france-usa.org
Lists of Alliance Française chapters, cultural things. Quite extensive.

Products: www.france.com
A commercial site with very helpful information, including restaurant etiquette, exchange rates, weather, french lessons, and chat rooms.

Pariscope: www.pariscope.fr
Pariscope is the weekly magazine of happenings in Paris. They have lists of churches, theaters, cabarets, jazz clubs, anything you can think of.

Eurostar: www.eurostar.com
Eurostar is the fast train between London and Paris that goes through the tunnel under the English Channel ("the "chunnel").

SNCF: www.sncf.com
The French national railroads. If you speak some French, you might enjoy some of their very inexpensive tour packages.

RailEurope: www.raileurope.com
Located in this country, probably easier to deal with than SNCF, although I have found their pages and telephone menus very frustrating.

Chartres

By searching under "Chartres" you will find numerous items. I haven't found a good site for Chartres that gives updated tourist information. If you find one, let me know. The site for the cathedral is www.diocesechartres.com

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TOURIST OFFICE (Tel:02.37.21.55.00 Fax: 02.37.21.51.91)
I have found the tourist office in Chartres to be very helpful. They fax information, or send brochures by mail. Once you are in Chartres, you can find lots of helpful things there. The tourist office is just in front of the cathedral. The Little Train stops there, which will take you on a 40-minute ride through Chartres. You can also get self-guided cassette tape walking tours, which allow you to go at your own speed.

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