Raymond's house

Chartres in France is perhaps best known for its massive Cathédrale Notre Dame. Built in the 13th century, it’s described as this country’s best preserved medieval cathedral (thanks Lonely Planet).  But this post is not about this building and its 172 stained glass windows which are mostly originals – or the old town centre with its timber medieval houses.

Yes, it’s all very pretty, very impressive and very historic, but I wanted to do a post about Maison Picassiette. And it’s also my last Paris-related write-up on the blog, so uhmmm, thanks for bearing with me.

Raymond Isidore, a road-mender and cemetery caretaker, built Maison Picassiette for his family and then started covering it with found pieces of pottery and glass, creating a mosaic masterpiece in the process. It took him about 30 years to complete (he died in 1964). He was apparently mocked during his lifetime (insert unhappy face) – the name Maison Picassiete even translates as picker or stealer of plates.

Chartres is about a two-hour or so’s journey from Paris and the train tickets were somewhat expensive. It was a Monday so many of the shops and restaurants were closed. It was also rainy and our umbrella had to be constantly fought into submission by Robin, The Best-est Husband.

But the visit to this small town turned out to be one of my most favourite days in Paris. We ate the nicest lunch at a small restaurant, checked out the church, wandered around the medieval village and had coffee and lemon cake in a cafe where a grandmother were helping her two grandkids with homework. Plus there was the occassional entertainment of Robin fighting the umbrella. The best was the mosaic house though.

I’ve got a big heart for naive art like this – Raymond’s house is quirky, crazy and genuine. It reminded me of Helen Martins' Owl House in Nieu-Bethesda in the Eastern Cape. Luckily for Robin, we have a body corporate to contend with and I have to work, because I felt inspired to go big too.

If you’re in Paris and want to do a day trip, visit Chartres and don’t forget to look at Raymond’s life’s work – 5.20 euros will get you in. For my other Paris posts, click here and here.

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