Off to Europe: Southern France, Part Two

As promised, here is a second diary post in my effort to catch my diary of vacation through Europe to today!

Today was less eventful than previous days. We mainly visited the Saint-Michel de Canigou Abbey, which was lovely and took up most of the day, as getting to it requires a solid drive plus a hike. The abbey itself is perched on top of a hill, surrounded by mountains on all sides, with fog creeping over the mountaintops – very pretty, and reminded me of mornings in Silicon Valley. The abbey is really impressive, a compact structure with cloister, small church, and bell tower that resembles a mountaintop fortress more than a place of worship. Once we made the hike up (I resisted the urge to climb up some of the boulders), we went on a long tour of the abbey, led by Steven, an American from Chicago, who spoke French to communicate with the mostly French-speaking crowd (incidentally, the number of very young kids at this place was impressive, given the long forty minute hike up the hill!). Between Steven’s very clear French and a paper guide to the abbey, I managed to pick up most of what he was talking about. The gist is, the monastery was founded around 1000, did very well for itself throughout the middle ages, and then fell into disrepair during the French Revolution. It was very recently restored and taken over by the Beatitudes Christian community. I looked them up on-line, and their mission statement seems pretty inclusive and cool (for a Christian Evangelical community). Overall, it was definitely worth the visit, and gave me lots of mental imagery to play with for in-monastery settings of games and stories.

I thought it would be fitting to shoot a Name of the Rose movie here, but there already is one, shot in a much larger and more imposing monastery in Germany. I guess larger and more imposing is a better fit for all the dark themes in Name of the Rose, but Saint Michel de Canigou really looks like a fortress, set to protect hidden knowledge! I digress, however.

We spent the evening at a beach town, walking along the boardwalk, hanging out on the beach, reading, and ultimately eating really delicious rice in squid ink sauce (!). The food was very good, and our server was amazing. Now, I’m back in the hotel, and going to bed, looking forward to some Cathar castles tomorrow!

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