By Katrina (Brink) Billard
Are you a tourist coming to Chartres and the area called Eure et Loir in France this September?
This is a beautiful region of France full of rich history and charming villages to visit. Plus it’s all within 2 hours of Paris, so it’s super easily accessible. Escape the chaos of the city and enjoy a relaxing respite in the countryside. You’ll be so glad you got out and experienced more of France than just Paris! There’s way more to see than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
If you’re coming from Paris or Versailles, a visit to the Maintenon Castle is a must! It’s a renaissance period castle that was owned for a time by Madame de Maintenon, who happened to be the second wife of King Louis the XIV. She led an extraordinarily-intriguing life that you’ll enjoy learning about at the castle. A woman of humble beginnings who became widowed and then took care of the king’s illegitimate children, to later become his mistress and then his wife. The king was apparently very devoted to her and never took another mistress after marrying her. While at the castle, make sure to take a walk along the imposing old aqueduct and learn about even more sordid history of the making of the aqueduct, which was never finished.
After exploring this intriguing place, continue your journey south to the beautiful, small city of Chartres. First of all, you must visit the Chartres Cathedral, or the cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres. It’s a gorgeous gothic cathedral in the center of the town and is worth a visit, simply to see the stunning stained glass windows and look up at the mind bogglingly high vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses. It’s a sight to behold, and nestled all around it are typical charming French bistros and high quality restaurants. If you happen to be there on a Friday morning, you could even have a chance to see the famous labyrinth that’s on the cathedral floor. Make sure this is on your list.
Right behind the cathedral is the Musee des Beaux Arts (Art Museum) that’s a must visit and has an Auguste Rodin sculpture exhibition through October 2nd. Take the time to wander around and soak in this beautiful setting. Maybe even sit and have a picnic out on the lawn.
While in Chartres make sure to walk around the lovely “basse-ville” or “low city”, which is a part of the city which dates from the middle ages and figures along the lovely Eure river. Take a stroll in this area of charming old architecture and stop along at one of the beautiful and delicious “gastronomique” restaurants overlooking the river. A romantic spot if there ever was one.
If you’re there in the evening, you absolutely must watch the incredible light show that illuminates sites throughout the city and is set to music. It’s a sight to behold, especially the show illuminating the cathedral, which I forgot to mention is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It really is worth the visit to Chartres just for this. The whole family will be mesmerized.
Leaving Chartres I’d suggest you continue your sojourn south to Bonneval, also known as the Little Venice of this area. Meander through the town on the river in one of their electric boats you can rent. If you go in the evening, you can even see the light show they put on their bridges and historic sites throughout this charming medieval village. It’s absolutely worth a visit. Speaking of these boat rides, the highlight of September in this region is a relaxing culinary and well-being retreat at the Chateau de Bouthonvilliers with moi. Come experience France like you never have before.
I’d love to have you join me from September 13th-17th on The French Countryside Retreat where you’ll get the full French cooking experience in this beautiful old chateau. Learn how to cook restaurant quality, plant-forward meals in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with only the best fresh products from local farms and gardens. Techniques will take the flavor of your food to the next level, while being practical dishes you can actually recreate everyday in your home kitchen. We’ll focus on flavors and cuisines from around the Mediterranean, so you’ll enjoy herbs, lots of fresh vegetables, some light meats and a few lovely spices. Come expand your palate and cooking horizons!
We’re going to have a wonderful, renewing time cooking, enjoying wine, and taking time to relax on the expansive grounds of a very quiet and remote old estate. You’ll get to kick back, get a full hour massage, enjoy being served delicious catered meals with local specialties, and have three fun, interactive cooking lessons with Katrina Billard of The Empowered Kitchen (that’s me!).
We’ll even go on a boat ride through those picturesque streets of Bonneval I mentioned above. You’ll take your cooking skills up a notch or three, take part in a wine tasting with a local wine expert, and tour my husband’s honey farm where I’ll walk you through a private honey pairing. He happens to be a very handsome beekeeper. Then we’ll go to Chartres to see the stunning Gothic cathedral and you’ll have an afternoon to tour around on your own. That evening we’ll regroup for a fancy dinner covered by the retreat, and stay to take in the light show.
You’ll get to stay in a charming cottage and have another lovely French breakfast the next day before the taxis take you to the Montparnasse train station in Paris. Oh, did I mention those same taxis will bring you from Montparnasse to the chateau the first morning of the retreat? Ya, it’s all-inclusive, and I’ll take care of you from start to finish.
If you’ve been wanting a break, or just really need to clear your mind after the wild ride we’ve all been on over the last few years, this is the perfect way to get away from it all. Escape to another time in this very special place where you’ll learn skills that will last a lifetime, make you healthier in body and soul, and have memories of a beautiful vacation in France.
Seriously. I want you to come. It’s going to be awesome and you’ll make new friends, meet new folks from around the world and become a better cook while you’re at it. Let’s all go unplug for a little while and get back to doing something real with real food in a real old French chateau. Book for you and a spouse or a friend here! We already have men and women signed up, so all are welcome!
Much love and good food,
Katrina Billard (Brink)