Seen from a distance, the mismatched spires and dazzling silhouette of Chartres cathedral burst out of the Beauce cornfields and dominate the skyline of this modest town some 90 kilometres (56 miles) south-west of Paris (accessible by car and train). The cathedral is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world: its doorways bristling with sculpture, along with its stained glass, embody a complete medieval world view. The west front, or ‘Royal Portal’, has three sculpted doorways. Inside, there’s another era of sculpture, represented in the 16th-century scenes of the life of Christ that surround the choir. The cathedral is famed, above all, for its stainedglass windows depicting biblical scenes, saints and medieval trades in brilliant ‘Chartres blue’, punctuated by rich reds. English language tours by lecturer Malcolm Miller – one of the world’s most knowledgeable and entertaining experts on the cathedral – take place twice daily for most of the year (noon & 2.45pm Mon-Sat, €10, €5 reductions). Audio-guides can also be hired.