Today we headed to Iliers-Combray, the town in which young Proust spent his summers and the setting for most of book one of The Work. The NYSL article that's been serving as the giude for much of my peregrinations suggested it was quite near Chartres; conveniently, Time Out recommended it as a day trip and gave the correct station from which to depart. We made it in the 1215 train, but had an hour layover in Chartres. So in the cathedral we went. It's a funny thing, with its painfully mismatched spires looking like David Bowie's eyes. But when we walked in, POW! The Medieval Christian church experience hit full force, as the organ was going and the spookiest tenor was making the dark stone echo with his voice. Some freaks were walking the stone "labrinth" in the front of the church (I'm convinced it was some kind of DaVinci code thing). The walls were crazy with stained glass; some sign said it was the best collection of it in any church in Europe, and I could well believe it. Awesome!
Still, an hour was about enough, and after a quick trip to L'Atelier du Chocolate Bayonne, we were off to Iliers Combray.
First stop (after taking a picture of a map with the Route Proustienne marked on it) was the town church. Poor Eglise Sainte-Jacques! While it certainly couldn't compare to Chartres, it was just so run down! The front door could barely open and much of the paint was peeling off the walls. The stained glass windows were modern and plain; I couldn't imagine anyone in those flat images, much less the Countess Guermantes. The paintings on the beams overhead provided more room for the imagination, but I had my most fun visualizing the Proust family in the little stalls, waiting for church to start. (More tomorrow ...)