Thanks much to everyone who has given me feedback on these posts. (Elaine, I just found your comments! No one else has figured out how to do it!) It is a labor of love, but still, it is nice to know someone is reading all this!
First, since some of you have asked, here is my current schedule. Back up to Paris on Thursday (the 31st). Then in Paris until Nov. 11, when I return to Santa Fe. In Santa Fe until Nov. 15, when I go to Marin County (CA) to visit my sister and brother-in-law. Staying in Marin until Nov. 29 or 30. Then back to Santa Fe until the CSL Zion Retreat (De. 6-9) where I hope to see some of you. Then, finally, back to Santa Fe to try and find a new home. I must admit I am really looking forward to that possibility.
Back to the present, or at least the last few days. On Friday, Coral and I headed south and west, where we found our long lost friend the sun! Hooray! We drove through a large area along the southern edge of France called the Camargue, a large, flat area of delta and marshland. It is famous for, among other things, French cowboys who raise bulls for the still popular bullfights (we saw a field of bulls in the grassland) and their white horses, one of the most ancient breed of horses around. Flamingoes, too, tho we did not see any, and gypsies, and those Lakota descendants, wherever they are.
Then we started winding up into the hills of Provence, much greener, but with plant life and trees that sometimes felt like the northern CA coast. Then, a serious up hill climb into the mist covered mountains--more hairpin turns (Coral is doing most of the driving) and fantastic views into the valleys and gorges. Finally, we arrive at the small town of Plan D'Aups, which I think largely exists to support visitors to the nearby grotto (La Baume Ste. Marie), a famous place of pilgrimage for popes, kings and the rest of us, over many centuries.
We had an amazing lunch (as usual), simple food cooked brilliantly. The waitress brought us a tiny but delicious serving of soup, which Coral told me is called an "amuse bouche." I love that idea.
Then, on the grotto. As we approached, we saw a simple structure, built into the mountain, high above us. Mist moved in an around the peaks. Beautiful and mysterious. We walked through a green field and entered the wonderful woods. We walked a wide, well-maintained path up and up through woods exquisitely autumn, leaves just turning, falling and dancing in the breeze.Deep silence and magic. Our path, called the The King;sWay" was originally constructed for popes and kings to make this pilgrimage. It felt so good just to be hiking in the woods. Then we came to the structure, climbing many stairs to reach the grotto. The story is that Mary Magdalene, whom nearly everyone in France believes came to France after the death of Christ, carrying his teachings here, (many also believe carrying his children here) spent her last years here (some say thirty years) and is buried here. A relic of her remains was found here (or the finder believed this was hers) and is housed in the "church." Thus it became a famous pilgrimage site.
I use quotes around the word "church," because the main structure is an enormous cave, with a water source. And most of you know how I love caves! It is huge. The Dominicans, 4 of whom live up here, maintain the place and conduct mass, etc., have constructed an altar and pews and put some stairs in to create a "bottom floor." Any number of people could have lived here comfortably. The place is so sacred and silent and beautiful. I loved it. Wonderful meditation there, and a monk with the sweetest smile and a lovely voice chanting in French. I highly recommend that you put it on your must do list, should you ever come to France. I was so happy there. Peaceful, silent walk down through the woods, listening to the trees whisper and the autumn breeze tell of the winter to come. Then down through the mountains, driving once again on twisting roads through richly wooded country and on to Aix-en-Provence.
This was not my favorite place, tho I enjoyed the sunshine and Coral enjoyed one last shopping spree. I was glad to leave.
Saturday, mid-afternoon, we drove to the coast to Ste. Marie de la Mer, where Mary Magdalene is believed to have landed with Mary Jacobine, Mary Salome. Maximin and, some believe, her children, as well as Sara, an Egyptian servant, honored here as the black madonna, and much beloved by the large gypsy community. The sea air alone was worth the journey. It is a funky, seaside town, dedicated to tourism, with a wonderful beach and fantastic air. There is a finality about reaching the coast, in terms of journeys. An ancient church, too, of course, where Mary Jacobine and Mary Salome are believed to be buried. It doesn't really matter whether these things are true or not. Centuries of people coming to pray has made the places beautiful and sacred. At any rate, I found my own answers to these things when I meditated in the church, and that is good enough for me.
A long drive home. Greeted by rain in Anduze.
Today, was about laundry and domestics and surrendering to the sleepiness in this ancient land.