Today we left Chambray for central France. Thursday night our hostess, Sophie, knocked on our door waving a huge skeleton key and announcing that this was the key to the church next door. She had called the President of the church restoration committee and obtained permission for us to visit l’eglise Saint Martin de Chambray. This church has kept us company with its bells all week. It is very picturesque.
Inside I found an active church and ongoing restoration. Vandals continue to break windows and scrawl graffiti on the doors, but inside the work progresses. Like most other French churches, this one suffered greatly during the revolution in the 19th century. Churches and their windows, icons, statues, etc. were destroyed and the buildings given to “the people.” Later these churches were returned to the church. L’eglise Saint Martin shares a priest with five other churches in neighboring villages. Therefore, services are held here only once a month or so. Sophie showed me the various new statues, stations of the cross, and restored paintings. She explained that the bells are controlled electronically by satellite! The pews are arranged in closed boxes, with a place for the family name next to each box. Families can pay for such a private pew. Public pews line the outer walls of the sanctuary. Of course this is all a bit hazy because Sophie was explaining it in French!
We then entered the bell tower. First she showed me the lower room where the rope bell pulls used to come down through holes in the ceiling for someone to pull. Then we went around the outside to a small bridge over the moat-like ditch that surrounds the church and into the mid-level room. This is where the stairs began to climb to the tower. The first two flights of stairs are now replaced by aluminum ladders. The rotted wood stringers still cling to the walls. The first ladder leads to a wood platform clinging tenaciously to the wall. The second ladder rises from there to another wood platform that is the base for the wooden ladders above. It is a precarious setup and we did not attempt it. Thus you can see my photos from below. Sophie returned Friday evening and offered Jean the same tour.
Thursday night our house was thrashed by a great storm. Lightening flashed like strobe lights and the thunder rolled continuously for over an hour. There were no bolts and no single thunder claps, just a continuous light show and loud roar. It most reminded me of a Wisconsin tornado. Sophie’s house next to ours is in a low spot and she had 2-3 inches of water inside. She spent 3 hours mopping up during the night.
Friday we spent painting and packing. Today we hit the road toward the Dordogne Valley. Tonight we are in a charming hotel in Chanoneaux, La Roseraie, recommended by none other than Rick Steves.
Our Renault Diesel is getting over 35 mpg and running well. I misnamed it in my original post about car rental. It is a Renault Megane. Why can’t we have efficient diesels like this in the US? Anyway, our next post will be from points further south.