Fra(i)ncia XII – Monking Around II

Vezelay is a touristic town by all means, underneath is a layer of ancient history however. Legend has it that the bones of Mary Magdalene were brought here from the Holy Land by the towns founder but this is debatable. Nonetheless they worship the Holy Virgin here and that has its reflection in the basilisk as well as the town. Beautiful Romanesque archways inside and outside of the church. Perfect lighting and even though the basilisk doesnt look that big from the outside, its fucking massive on the inside. Its mostly nuns here but there are a few monks as well and just like in St. Thierry, the flock had been culled a little bit. No matter..

The reason why I visit all the services and the church itself is not because I think that this is a Christian thing to do, for me its endlessly interesting to see how people practice their religion. Besides that I think the singing and the incense are pretty nice, especially in the morning. I dont do all the rituals like receiving the blessing or going up for a cookie and a zip of wine. I mentioned 5 years ago in one of my blogs that NO FUCKING WONDER the black plague got around so fast in medieval times. Everybody was religious in that time, so that means that the churches were the movie theaters of today and I dont see how drinking from the same cup or trusting the priest washed his hands before he broke the cookie has anything to do with hygiene. Not to mention I dont read that stuff anywhere in the Bible. So to me its manmade and I can barely get my ass up from the seat when the rest of the room does. THAT>BEING>SAID – I do like attending services and I dont mean any disrespect.

My temporary apartment on the edge of town gave me a perfect base of operations from which to walk and explore the town. The whole town is in the shape of a raindrop where I slept at the “tail” end of the city and it was a pretty steep climb, through the town, up to the basilisk. The whole hill is a UNESCO world heritage site and still very beautiful. I remember last time being here, I slept on the campsite thats about 4 km away from the city center. Not ideal for exploration. This however was smack dab in the middle of it all and warm, and free, and warm and water..

Most bars closed early and there is a little supermarket being run by a muslim that charged exorbitant prices which is funny because after a 1000 years, Vezelay is still being plundered by muslims in a sense..

I made an effort to visit most of the services and they “varied” enormously in quality, the place certainly has a weird energy about it and it being a site for pilgrims for so long really shows and makes the place feel different.

The basilisk this time around was in rafters which was some conciliation for yesterdays fog soup. Who wants to look at some rafters. I planned on staying there for only a night, maybe 2, but this ended up being a little bit longer.

The first day I woke up to late for the first church service of the day but decided to walk through town anyway, up the rampart leading up to the basilisk gave a great view of the surrounding valley. Another dog came towards us and the owner was jumpy as fuck, this triggered me to pull Lucy back just in time as the dog lunged in to attack Lucy, nipping just her ear. Motherfucker. Lucy was whining and the lady I met later said that normally the dog has a muzzle, WELL WHY THE FUCK NOT NOW? I downplayed it so Lucy would do the same and it worked, she had her tail up and was running around happy again within minutes. Just let it wash off, be like water. I bought some breakfast and some disinfectant to clean her ear. Easy peasy and now I also have some disinfectant with me. Very handy indeed.

I did a nap after my outrageous breakfast and went to look for the house of the people I met 5 years ago, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. 5 years ago I practically only had a compass, no internet connection on my phone and the guy who invited me came across me when driving his quad. Having a phone this time around kind of complicated things because I was looking around constantly, guessing on where to go. Not to mention the fact that in 5 years, several things have changed. Soon I decided to go back home and attend the evening service. Also went by the nice woman (Sylvie (who put me in my temp home the previous night)) to give her a little gift, some sunflower seeds. She was thankful and I didnt dare to ask her to stay another night as then I might get no for an answer, later on I did come across some monks though that I talked to and I steered it towards a miscommunication that I was going to stay several nights.. Its fine damnit!

My family back home was celebrating Sinterklaas/Saint Nicolas and I felt kind of lonely although very content with my room and the luck that seemed to be on my side once again. I mean I got tickbites and still on antibiotics at this point but things are working out pretty well and I could have been outside in the cold.

Instead now I have everything I could ever need + instant coffee.

My parents also dug around in some memorabilia box that I had back home and found a paper of the people living in the area – Roland & Josiane. Looks like I was somewhat close in my estimates of where they lived but I still wouldnt have found it by a long shot. I decided to drop them a message saying I was in the neighborhood and they got back to me almost immediately asking if I would like to come by on Sunday (day after tomorrow). Exactly what I hoped for but Im really not taking this kindness for granted just like that.

The next day I was too late for the early service (AGAIN) and I still had to find a place to stay for the night. During the 2ndservice of the day I had a short chat with one of the brothers and he invited me to stay another day, since it was raining like there wouldnt even be a tomorrow. 

I went by the office and there was a sister there instead of my savior Sylvie from 2 nights ago. She was a little bit more..erm…stern? Pious? Whats the word here.. But because I could name a brother who already invited me for another night, it wasnt a problem, I hope…I think. Nobody came to kick me out at least..

During the evening service I came across a woman who talked to me called Valerie, she told me she also did the camino, in November..From Vezelay..Hmm pretty cool to meet another crazy person, who also did it in the winter and we talked a bit. When we left the church she lit a cigaret, fucking glorious I tell you.

After the last service I decided to walk back down the hill to the Swallow bar I was at before going to Vezelay. Friendly people, good tea, good wifi and power outlets and the music was like they put on one of my playlist. I dont swallow though. A great workplace if only a little bit of a walk away from where I stayed. The people behind the bar still recognized me and the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming. Really cool place. The next day I was determined to go to the early service (Laudes) so I only had 1 wine (je me sens aventureux).

Today was Sunday and the whole congregation was as tired as I was, they were a off tune, off beat hot mess. One of the nuns that pointed me in the right direction on my first night did play a Lyre. A fascinating instrument resembling a cross between a guitar and a harp. It was angelic, especially because of the early morning with the lighting in the church, not to mention a priest throwing around incense like a boss.

After the service I said my goodbyes to some people and went to make a final sandwich in the normal pilgrim hostel. Now this was the third time I was here and all the other times it was no problem for Lucy to be inside, nor was it for me to smoke outside, nor was it for me to make a sandwich. They just let me be and I left the place exactly how I found it, even leaving a small donation for the items that I used.

This time around however there was a nun and just as I was finished eating my lunch, she came inside and told me that Lucy couldnt be inside. I didnt argue..I put Lucy outside in the rain under a small roof covered by my jacket.. Then when I walked outside with a cigaret, she said that I couldnt smoke it here.. AGAIN I did not argue with her, shes the boss and Im the guest and if she takes pleasure shoving me around then by God, please act out your vengeance..Be like water. I walked a bit further down the street to make sure the smoke didnt blow in and by the time I came back she was also doing my dishes.. I told her that I was going to do that and thats when she actually seemed surprised. By this time I had no humor left in me so I didnt try to make her like me or anything but I did make it very clear that Im not some freeloader, not doing anything, avoiding responsibility and she seemed as sorry as she was surprised. Its fine. Be like water.

No time to dillydally on useless shit now, I cleaned everything, left a donation in the box and grabbed my bag and took off, the people only lived 5km away and I was aiming to arrive there before dinner.