Saturday, March 10, 2012

Beaune to Saulieu

A gentle drive today to get to Saulieu, book into an hotel and then explore the Morvan.

The best way to use the TomTom is to program it to avoid tolls. In this way you stay on the secondary "D" roads and treat yourself to (mostly) more picturesque country-side. This I did today (Friday) as I headed west from Beaune. From the outset I was determined to let myself be distracted by sign pointing off to interesting monuments, natural wonders, ancient relics and the likes. I was not disappointed! Here are the Most Interesting:

Interesting Thing Number 1: The tiny village of Lusigny-sur-Ouche

This village was jaw-droppingly, heart reneringly gorgeous! Words are not enough, so there is only one thing for it - youse had all better come and have a look for yourselfs. The Ouche river runs right through the town. It's no bigger than a brook at this stage (the source of the Ouche is just up a track a-ways. I took a stroll along the banks, looking to see if there were fishies swimming around, and - blow me down - there were! I knew there were fish in the river because lots of signs said "No Fishing". The biggest I saw weren't quite 'pan-sized'. Closer to 1lb, rather than 1 1/2 lb. there were a few other strollers, but all was very quiet ... I checked out the cemetery, but no one there was making much noise either.

Interesting Thing Number 2: The Town with No One In It

Yes, incroyable as it might seem, the city (big town) of Arnay-Le-Duc, the town I had lined up for lunch, was absolutely deserted! Not a soul! It's not a ghost town. There are plenty of shops, but all of them ferme (shut). The chemist was open - I bought some lip stuff. One boulangerie was open - I bought a demi pin. But nothing else. Curious!

Interesting Thing Number 3: Roman Monument in Middle of Paddocks

You see in Australia we have Interesting Things that tempt drivers to slam on their brakes, pull over and pay money to go in and have a sticky beak. Things like Big Bananas, Halls of Fame, miniature villages and Leyland Brothers Nature Parks. There is not a plethora of Roman Ruins, that's for certain! So when I saw the sign to the Colonne Romaine I did not hesitate. Right foot off the accelerator and straight next door to the brakes. And of course there is nothing around this edifice! It's at the intersection of four hedgerows. Not a building within cooee. Magnificent! Understated, but powerful. You can keep your Big Cherry down at Glenrowan, I'll take the Colonne Romaine any day.

Interesting Thing Number 4: Dead badger by the side of the road

Interesting Thing Number 5: Evensong at Abbeye St Pierre

Yes folks, Groomby happened along to Evensong. It happened by chance, having set up digs in a little hotel in Saulieu, I decamped to the countryside to look around the Morvan. Again my foot headed brake-wise when I saw some signs off to the right to an 'Abbaye'. I assumed these to be ruins of an abbey, but HOW WRONG WAS I??!!!

The abbey turned out to be much more than a pile of old stones. In actual fact it was a fairly new construction right in the middle of the forest, along quite a narrow, winding road. I parked the car and headed towards the chapel round the back. The front looked as though it was the entrance of an hotel, and I think it is a place for religious types to dwell in for a little while. Whole there were two or three people headed towards the chapel, the place seemed to be largely deserted (a bit of a theme for the day, I suppose). Anyhow, I went into the chapel and sat down because it seemed as if something or other was about to take place in the very near future. And gradually it did.

By this time there were a few people in the congregation (about 25). Soon a monk-looking chap came in through a side door, dipped his fingers in a small font, crossed himself and sat down on one of the chairs in the choir. A second monk appeared dressed in a similar black robe, but this time with the pointy black hood on. This monk (by this time - 6:00pm, and getting darker) was also black. Very black. He was a black monk in a black cassock. You don't see much of that in downtown Wangaratta. Very soon, more monks came in one by one, each dipping, crossing and then sitting, till the choir was filled with about 50 monks - mostly old (some VERY old) - but some reasonably young ones.

Then the service began. This comprised lots of chanting, separated by periods of intense silence. Immediately prior to the next chant one of the monks blew a couple of notes on a flute to give the starting note. There were about seven chants in all, various ones with us all standing, some with us all sitting. I followed the chap in front of me who seemed to be on top of the standing/sitting regime. I drew the line at the raised arms one at the end, though.

The service ended after about 30 minutes, but here was an odd thing. While some of the congregation and some of the monks sloped off (it was getting close to dinner time), lots stayed around. In complete silence they just hung about. I sat there for about 8-10 minutes and then headed out, leaving the remaining lot sitting quietly in the church.

All-in-all it was quite a moving (not religious for me, I'm afraid) experience. This was not the first time these people had done this. It will not be the last (although the last will not be far off for one or two of the monks). It was very clear that THIS IS WHAT THEY DO! In the 21st Century! Quite astounding.

Anyhow, that's enough Interesting Things for now.

More later.

Interesting Thing Number 6: Rue du Merle (in Beaune)!


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1 comment:

  1. Keep up the makes me feel like I'm there