24 February 2009

L’air en dehors de Paris

I’m at the point now where writing this in French would probably be plus facile [easier] and certainly more natural. For the sake of my Anglophone readers, however, I will do my best with my limited English vocabulary and warped, French-tinged syntax.

I was about to compose this blog as a list of all the milliers [thousands] of wonderful things that I did this weekend, but I realized that I have been listing a lot recently.

So I’ll skip the myriad ways I have been profiting from Paris and focus on my après-midi [afternoon] which was spent 88 kilometers from the city. Two friends and I decided to benefit from our semi-vacances [vacation] by visiting the charming town of Chartres and its famed cathedral.

For me, the train ride from Gare Montparnasse southwest through the banlieues [suburbs] and subsequent quaint towns and fields was as rewarding as the visit of Chartres itself. To leave the hubbub of Paris for the open skies – même si [even if] they were sad and cloud-filled on this sunless day – always fills me with such happiness. I love remembering that there is a France outside of Paris, even if Parisians themselves have trouble with this concept. The massive, open expanses of fields and the beautiful tree-lined creeks only add to this child-like joy.

After passing our hour-long ride in a silence that was a mixture of awe, paresse [laziness] and repose [rest], we had arrived at our destination. Already, the town’s massive cathedral was hard to miss. We headed straight there and marveled at its ancient façade. We marveled too at the expansive vista of the town of Chartres visible from behind the architectural wonder. I wouldn’t say that the view of the town was particularly beautiful, but it was undeniably pleasant to stand at such a precipice and take in the fresh air of la campagne [the country]. It’s a bit hard to understand and probably irrational, but for some reason, each breath seems different away from Paris.

When we finally entered the cathedral, we were not disappointed. Its vibrant stained glass was beautiful, and its sheer échelle [scale] was breathtaking.

After leisurely taking in the magic of the cathedral, we strolled about the tiny streets of Chartres and eventually found a local brasserie where we warmed up with some boissons chauds [hot drinks]. It was so pleasant to observe the regulars prennent leur bière [drink their beers] at the counter and the mothers bring their children in for an afterschool treat.

Before hopping on our train, we grabbed some pâtisseries to hold us over until dinner. Waving good-bye to Chartres and its lovely cathedral, we sped back to Paris.

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