Most guidebooks recommend at least several hours, perhaps even a full afternoon, to visit Chartres, so of course we stayed three days. On prior trips to France we had planned to see the cathedral, but something always came up, we ran out of time or the weather turned cold and rainy. But this time we made it; a few hours after landing in Paris we were walking around the glorious Chartres Cathedral.
Click on the image for a larger view on Flickr and more details.
Chartres is a charming small town, very pretty and quaint, well worth the extra time we spent there. Besides sitting in the cathedral gazing in awe at the stained glass, we visited parks and museums and strolled along the river. From there we went to Dijon, not so small or quaint but still charming, with one of the nicest markets I've ever seen.
Dijon is the capital of Burgundy and has gained fame as the gastronomic heart of France. Unfortunately for us, we didn't eat very well. There were many restaurants to choose from but as luck would have it they ranged from average at best to downright mediocre. One place was even out of French wine, so instead tried to sell us a vastly overpriced bottle of common Italian red from Abruzzo.
From Dijon we went to Colmar in Alsace, and I had my first ride on the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), France's high-speed rail. There was a small electronic bulletin board in each car to display route and stops, and it also showed our speed: usually around 310-315 kmh, or about 195 miles per hour. The lovely French countryside whisked by, the train car barely swayed, and before you knew it we were at our destination. I love the TGV but should warn you, it is not cheap. Prices vary hour to hour and day to day, depending on demand, and last-minute fares can be outrageous. What a pleasant way to travel, though.
Colmar is exceedingly charming and quaint, and like many such places it is overrun by tourists. September is still high season and we had to wend our way through crowds to get to our hotel. Fortunately the throngs were concentrated in a few popular areas leaving us free to walk around quieter parts of the town. Crowds or not, Colmar is a very pretty place.
Many people relish Alsatian food, but I quickly discovered I did not care for it. A typical dish is choucroute, a big plate of sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, and five or more kinds of meat, big slabs of ham and scarcely cooked bacon and several sausages. Painfully overloaded with meat, we had the wonderful idea to try a fish restaurant on our last night in Colmar and had the best meal of the trip.
The last stop was Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace. All things considered, this was my favorite of the places we visited. Strasbourg was charming and quaint in its own way but much larger and more energetic than Colmar. Again we struggled with the heavy Alsatian food but one night found a hole-in-the-wall pizza place with a good deal on a few slices and a small carafe of wine. The owner was from Rome and we all enjoyed chatting about how good Italian food is.
Given Strasbourg's years of being part of Germany, the architecture is decidedly Prussian. The city's masterpiece is, of course, its cathedral.
From Strasbourg it was TGV direct to Paris' CDG airport and the Ibis hotel, where we had an entire afternoon and evening to wander the terminals and find a place to eat. In Terminal 1 we saw some interesting staircases, giving me a chance to add more snaps to my Flickr staircase album.
There's more photos in the complete Flickr album: France Fall 2016. We're back in Fort Worth now, beginning to plan the last big trip of the year.