Yesterday I featured the labyrinth inside Chartres cathedral, and today I was back at the same place, this time to climb the 300 steps to the top of the bell tower. I knew that the view wasn’t going to be amazing, but there was something about those 300 old steps that drew me back to the cathedral.
While walking the labyrinth is free, anyone over the age of 26 has to pay 5.5€ to spend their own energy climbing the ancient spiral staircase. The steps have become polished by the thousands of feet that walked upon them over the years, so the climb isn’t without its perils. It also narrows as you near the top, making passing something of a tricky negotiation, especially if you meet a group of Texans, as I did.
I hugged the center pole like I was working for tips, as I squeezed past the well-fed folk from Houston, they told me. As we rubbed up against one another while avoiding eye contact, they commented that “Old-time France just wasn’t built with them in mind.” Honestly, I doubt even old-time Texas was built with them in mind, but I kept that thought to myself as I smiled and worked the pole.
At the top I was alone, but for a busload of Chinese tourists who were all taking the exact same pictures as one another. I nodded and said hello in Chinese which seemed to amuse them. I then told them, also in Chinese, that I was tired. This sent two Chinese ladies into something of a head spin, which led to me having to pose with many of them while they all spoke Chinese to me quickly. I nodded, hoping that they wouldn’t figure out that “Hello” and “I’m tired” are about the only things I can say in Chinese!
They left in a kind of aging oriental scrum, noisily disappearing into the spiral while trying not to hit one another with their selfie sticks. And then it was just me and the gargoyles.
The view was OK. Nothing that would sell a postcard, but nice enough to enjoy for a few minutes. I snapped a few pictures, if only because that’s what you’re supposed to do in a moment like this, then I started down the spiral staircase hoping that there were no more ‘God Bless Americans’ coming the other way.
About halfway down the slippery stairs I took today’s picture. Yes I know it looks a little like one from a few days ago, but if you were viewing this in a gallery, the plaque next to the frame would likely say something about stone and metal, time and juxtapositions, after all, artists do love their juxtapositions.
Look up at the towers using Google street view.