Fra(i)ncia III – Monking Around I

(its fine!)

Woke up in the parking lot due to French people being french. Apparently this was also a place where some farmer sold his eggs on Saturday morning, its fine! I should have bought some eggs but didnt. Lucy scared the crap out of some lil french kid on a bike. Kids these days, used to nothing ITS FINE! His dad was a little bit dissapoint. Bro its fine, 21stcentury kids man!

I went in and recognized one of the nuns from 5 years ago, she didnt change a bit, still grey, still wearing the grey but the biggest old lady smile you can imagine.

I explained to her that Ive been here 5 years ago and that I looked for a place to sleep, she ran me through the usuals of dogs not allowed inside to which I gave my auto reply, I understand! I got a tent! She guided me through the beautiful gardens in full autumn mode with a thicc stack of leaves covering the ground. I put up my tent and couldnt help but shed a small tear. 
Last time I was here it was beautiful and they took really good care of me and the German (whom I basically forced to go to the place). I had no interest in Reims this time around since I already knew what the place was about, just a biggerish city in the North of France, beautiful cathedral though..

No I was going to chill and spend a couple of days here to wait out the rain. The sun even treated me to a little attention which was just perfect. 

The nun also showed me a shower room with heating and toilets. Yea tent? Thats not gonna happen! I still put it up for show though. So theres 4 services over the day, the first one was just about to start as I put my tent up and did a little installing of stuffs here and there. I went there as dirty as I was. Last time around the German and me got into a little monastrouble because we were kind of mooching off them or so they felt. We didnt went to the services, hitchhiked to the city 2 days in a row and then coming home just in time for fine meals.. They had the hardest time confronting us about it at the end of the 2ndday which was just heartbreaking and sweet at the same time. We already planned but were extra determined to attend services on the last day and also the donation that we gave at the end left a smile on the hospitaliere’s face. That aint gonna happen this time, I mean the smile from the donation is but theres not going to be any nunfrontation. Smelly and all – I went to the first service! I would rate myself 3/10 stars on the scale of stank so its fine!

The service itself was every bit as beautiful as I remembered although the herd got culled quite a bit since last time I was there. I saw some familiar faces and some that I had forgotten, none of them seem to remember me though. ITS FINE!

Afterwards I went back to the shower complex and I discovered a little kitchen area as well. Thats good, were making progress.

I took a long and hot shower, absolutely blowing the mind of this bigass spider that was all winter ready in this cold ass shower/kitchen/toilet building and now he had to deal with my ass warming the place up.. I could just see it contemplating its revenge..
By now I was so fucking hungry since all I ate was a friggin’ croissant and a little bag of candy last night before I walked another 7km. Should have really bought those eggs earlier. I went to the little monastery store where they sold overpriced biscuits and stuff. Made from the hair of angels and the tears of the Most High himself so the government taxes it heavily.. ITS Fine..

There was supposed to be a cafe in the town over and since I already walked there last night in my hunt for water, I thought I just go there. Apparently the whole place is a wasteland and everybody does their shopping/eating/drinking in Reims, which was about 12km away which is a little far for a baguette. Its fine, I still had some angel hair biscuits.

I went back to the monastery and there was a service, afterwards dinner! Last time around we got pretty great meals, prepared fresh by some nun whos duty it was to cook this year. What I got was the opposite and it resembled something my grandmother would used to get in the oldfolks home, peas, potatoes, some sausage and some mashed apples, its fine! This machine can run on fumes. I realized that maybe because most fresh produce is in springtime and monasteries like this rely heavily on local farmers giving them a part of their harvest and since its autumn now, not that big a harvest left. I did my dishes like a good choirboy and stole some cookies and breakfast crackers in the meantime. Say it with me, its fine! Feels good ey?

The first night I slept reasonably well, was able to take out the light of the emergency exit to make it really dark and even though the floor was hard and cold, Lucy was soft and warm.

interlude

Something I really like to do when Im in a shitty place – uncomfortable or cold – is wake up in the middle of the night and just roll myself a nice fat cigaret. Now youre going to think, wauw thats really unhealthy and maybe it is, I dont know. Its just a really nice relief and believe me, wether youre on top of the Pyrenees freezing your ass off or you just ate a car with the back of your head, smoking is glorious! Mental state is one of the most important things and happiness in the form of a little cancer stick is worth the downside. So in this case..yes..its fucking fine!

What WASNT FINE was that mr. showerspider made his move just around that time, not sure if he got attracted by the warmth but I caught the little sneak with one leg on my blanket. I kept cool even though I have a deep primal fear of spiders and I took a glass and put it over it. Now spiders that size actually cant really handle cold all that well (which is also why spiders go up in corners). So it wasnt all too happy with me putting it in a glass prison on the cold floor.


The next day it was still alive and I let it out near a shed somewhere, more suited to his liking. Its fine mr. SS, no hard feels.. We part as friends.

Monastery life is really really sober, breakfast is something called petit dejeuner in France which in a monastery means a cracker with some jam and butter, after inhaling 8 of those I felt like I could handle things a little bit better but I was glad that I nicked some more for during the day. The tea was nice though. Took a long walk around the monastery grounds before returning to stuff me and Lucy’s face with some crackers I hid in the kitchen area. One of the nuns suddenly popped up at my lair, sleeping mat still on the ground, sleeping bag hanging from a door, looking like a damn chipmunk with crackers in my face I was kind of startled. But you guessed it, its fine! She told me to come with her and as we walked through the garden I could see she was taking me to a big room where all the nuns were eating, now this was going to be good. She sat me down (ofcourse) across from the youngest nun in the room, which looked good in comparison but still..a nun.. what was even better was that she invited me over for lunch. There was a nun reading some philosophical book through a microphone and it was a pretty weird experience. Sitting between 20-odd pinguins that all kind of glanced at you every now and then. I could notice my movements being more deliberate and I could I totally forgot this about monasteries in general. All of em that I visited, every movement is deliberate, everything is done thoughtfully and focussed. A weird sense of settling into the situation came over me. 
They offered me some wine but I declined respectfully. I have a tendency to explore religious topics and since this engine is running on fumes most of the time, I could see an apocalyptic sequence of events unfolding where Im actually discussing God with someone who chose to live her life behind bars in His name. Nah, water IS FINE! Its FINE damnit!

The lunch was sober as expected, it had everything but nothing more, no indulgence whatsoever. It tasted great but then again I had like 1500 calories in the last couple of days, thats including all the other spiders that I didnt catch in my midnight smoke sesh. Its fine!

That evening I ate with several other people staying in the monastery and the nuns brought out the big guns that I remembered. Big ass pasta meal with all kinds of goodness. I did have a wine then and the atmosphere was nice. Its always nice to eat with French people in my opinion (its nice to eat with anybody when youre doing sandwiches on the road mainly). Also got a big bowl of ravioli for Lucy and she absolutely murdered it when I got back to my lair.

The next day I was slow as hell. Went to the final service there, everybody bowed at several points which I found very thoughtful of them to allow me to take a photograph unseen. I took a final stroll through the garden and sprinkled some tobacco seeds around on the thick leaves covering the ground. What can I say, I like to spread invasive seed in places where it doesnt belong! ITS FINE!
I was well rested all in all and these were a really good couple of days. Didnt eat much but thats also part of the cleansing experience I guess. The singing of 35 something people that make that their day job is just really soothing for the soul. I went to get a stamp of the monastery just like last time and gave a donation for all the expenses (which according to my calculations was about 3,23 € xD), I gave a little bit more than that though. Your paying for the experience! Its fine! All was fine!

Im writing this in a bit of a joking way but it actually was all fine, it was good seeing all the people again and I didnt list half of the interactions I had with them on a personal level. Also being in a place that was built ages ago to house 100’s of people is just overwhelming, especially now that the herd is dwindling. It would have been a sight to behold in its hayday but those days were long gone and the place, still grand, was a shimmer of its former self. The vineyards surrounding the complex are commercially owned now (used to be worked by monks), the gardens are tended to less, ruins dotted the still impressive gardens and things were slowly falling into disrepair. A realization that this is most likely the last time Ill ever visit this place makes me a little sad, but like I said before, its fine. Things are supposed to die in this world.


Like a thief in the night I left through some hole in the fence towards Reims that I could already see from a distance. Nothing like a little city smudge to muck up the sinuses.

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