part one | part two | part three
As I said before, France has not afforded me much dignity. No sophisticated chats over coffee or wine along the Seine. The closest I got to that was a $10 cappuccino outside a lovely restaurant on the Seine. 50degrees F, cloudy, and rain coming in. In May.
The long walks in Paris were grand really but I probably would not have ruined my back if I had brought a backpack to lug the heavy museum books I purchased. Seriously. One minor operation and three cortisone injections in the next year. The Cluny? C’est magnifique. The Louvre? Oh la la. My hotel? Tres charme.
Standing at the base of the incredibly studly, gorgeous statue of Vercingetorix on the hilltop of his last stand? Priceless. Really. It was in the 20F’s (my second visit was over the Yule/New Year’s holiday) and on the top of that hill cold as hell with the wind chill factor. But the scene was very dramatic, clouds scudding across the sky, the sun breaking through illuminating the scene. Incroyable.
Vercingetorix was “chieftain of the Arverni, originating from the Arvernian city of Gergovia and known as the man who led the Gauls in their ultimately unsuccessful war against Roman rule under Julius Caesar.” When he was captured after something like 6 years on the top of the hill surrounded by the Romans on all sides (there are tons of ruins there too), he was taken back to Rome, paraded around and murdered.
There is no doubt in my mind that this fellow, Vercingetorix, was an amazing man. Standing at the foot of his statue that day I felt this incredible power flowing around the site. My brother and I had the place to ourselves (it really was frikking cold). I stood alone looking out over the valley, planting my feet firmly, and grounded with the Mama. I felt this very strong sense of righteousness and eventually overwhelming sadness.
Me and the man.
The details on this statue are pretty awesome. Having a good knowledge of historical western European clothing, they did a pretty darned good job even though it is probably a bit past his time. This statue is very studly. Yum. Vercingetorix. Kind of rolls off your tongue, no? You almost want it to.
This was the trip where I visited the Basilica of Mary Magdalene in Vezelay. Vezelay is where the folks gathered in 1146 to get started on the Second Crusade and rape the Middle East the second time. Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the whole gang turned up for that one. How many times is it now? But I digress… The basilica sits on the top of a very high, very steep hill. The road on the walk up is embedded with brass scallops, Coquille St. Jacque. You can see the main road in this shot.
I finally got to go in my first church crypt where they say Mary’s bones are housed. Another church in the south of France says the same thing. While there is a hollow cut into the wall with a wrought iron gate and there is a gold and red velvet reliquary in there, I didn’t feel her in the crypt. Why would I? All the benches were facing away from her towards a crucified Christ. This was a pilgrimage and I brought home holy water, incense, and soil from the basilica. I’m thinking the south of France might have the rights of it as folks are now saying that Jesus and Mary M. did make it to the south of France. Jeshua says it’s true. Who knows.
Deity lives where deity is venerated. She was there for certain. Just like She is in my home too. She was upstairs where her candles and flowers were.
This trip was also a longer trip and more family visit oriented. My brother and I and sometimes our folks went out on day trips mostly. I visited the place, Flavigny Sur Ozerain, where the abbey there makes le bonbon a l’Anis. We had a lovely chat with the woman running their shop, she was charming. The shop was a smallish room about 15 x 15 but the ceiling must have been 20′ high. Very old, very cool shop. This is the town where Chocolat with Johnny Depp was filmed. Told you it was a pilgrimage. A religious experience even. *wink*
Our New Year’s Day dinner (that is what the French celebrate, the day not the eve before, at least in the country where we were) was the most amazing meal I’ve ever eaten in my life. Patience: a tall, skinny, little glass with a potato foam over a pate. Gelee with fois gras, beans, carrots. Wild venison with fig sauce. When I didn’t understand the French word for venison, I asked my SIL’s brother what it was. He thought for a moment and said “Bambi.” Oh. I had to choose between Bambi and Thumper, the rabbit Dad selected. Scallops in phillo with a wild mushroom sauce. Ice cream with a crisp waffle and chocolate torte. 5 hour meal, the chef stopped at every table to talk to the guests. They took enough reservations to fill the restaurant and closed the doors. None of that American business of getting them in and out as fast as possible crap. That was the meal that we shared with the Prime Minister of Luxembourg’s Assistant. He and his wife had just purchased the lovely home that we stayed in on our first trip, the pants around the ankles trip. He was a hoot and had much to say about his visit with our illustrious President Bush II.
Another favorite, especially of my sister in law is Raclette. A delicous ooey gooey cheese melted and poured over potatoes and meats. One of the meats used is Saucisson. A very dry, very tasty sausage, native to the Chamonix area of France.
Our last night in Commarin before leaving at 6am for a train, plane, and plane adventure was Raclette. I can barely type it or think of it without feelings of doom.
I ate my fill that night. I had heard her talk of Raclette with dreamy eyes but had never had it before. You slice up the meats and cheese, bake the potatoes, set out the condiments. In the center of the table sits a Raclette machine.
The cheese goes on the little trays. It sits in the center slots of the machine, which have a mini broiler in there that melts the cheese which you then pour all over your potatoes and whatever else you want to mix it up with. It was amazing. Very good. Very rustic.
Around 2am I woke up with a very grumbly stomach. I spent the next 4 hours half in bed half in the bathroom, mostly out of fear and in state of preparation. When it was time to go I was feeling very decidedly nauseous but still no evidence of illness. We got the car packed and trundled off to Dijon, 30 miles away where our train station was. I’m clutching a huge bottle of water, taking tiny sips to keep my nausea down hoping I don’t throw up on my Dad’s head. I kept myself very contained.
We got to the train station with minutes to spare and everyone is running with their luggage to the loading dock (what is that called???). I’m trying to run but I’m also trying to remain very contained, very clamped down, trying not to jostle myself too much all the while calling out, don’t leave me! I can’t keep up. They knew I was not feeling well.
I don’t think they understood exactly how bad it was for me. The train arrived, we got on what we thought was the right car and had our luggage on board. I’m standing at the foot of the stairs with my parents behind me and my brother on the dock. He says “That’s not the right car!”
And all my hatches opened. Yes. All. Fore and aft. Bro was so lucky he wasn’t right in front of me and I’m lucky I am wearing a very long coat. We grab our luggage, get off the car while Bro goes to talk to the station master. I find a bench and sit down. That is not a good experience. Sitting in your own, well, you know. And I can tell you of my father’s astonishment.
What, I ask you, would YOUR reaction be if your loved one, daughter, sister, lover, friend, projectile vomited at the train station?
“Wow. I’ve never seen it go that far! That was AWESOME!”
I didn’t think so but that is indeed what my father said.
So we’re back on the train, this is the right car, then “Wait! Wrong car!” and we’re back on the platform (that’s the word!) and I’m still throwing up. Thankfully aft closed down but fore is still in motion. And I throw up right in front of the station master. Right there.
My brother grabs my suitcase, throws it and me on the train, while we’re tip toeing around the mess that is now littering the platform. By the bench, at the train, down by the station master… For about 25-30 feet. Swear to God may Hekate call me a liar. Remember too it’s now January. Cold as hell. And everything is freezing up. Poor station master. I hide my face in shame that he might recognize me if I show my face there again.
On the train my stomach is completely empty which helps me feel better but I discover that there are not only no towels in the ladies room but there is no water either. Thank all that is holy that I had that huge bottle of water and we still had our suitcases. I had towels and toiletries and a change of clothing so I was able to pull myself together. I didn’t throw up again but all was not right with me or my world. I wouldn’t be completely empty for hours yet.
2.5 hour train ride to Paris, 2 hour wait at Paris airport, 2 hour flight to Copenhagen, 3 hour wait at Copenhagen airport, 9 hour flight home to Seattle. 1.5 hours for customs and for our ride to arrive. .5 hours home. 20.5 hours. They had oversold the Seattle flight and offered to put me up in a hotel in Copenhagen for free and I seriously thought about it. I needed a bed and hot shower but what I really wanted was just to get home.
I spent most of the trip with either my coat over my head (it survived amazingly enough although it was the only garment that did) or with my head on the food tray. Sipping water, eating some crackers. That last flight was full, some of the bathrooms were out of order, and I felt like criminal when I passed off the loo to the next person in line.
I got home and went straight to bed. And stayed there, shivering, shaking, only keeping water down for three days. I finally went to emergency and the doctor said they’d never seen anyone this sick come out of western Europe.
We had all eaten exactly the same food the night before. I was the only one who got sick.
It had been a stressful visit. I had just quit my job from the Horrible Shit Boss #1. I had no job to come home to. I think my body said “we just ain’t bringing any of this back with us! It’s over.” My High Priestess said the same thing. A total purge.
The thought of eating Raclette makes me nauseous immediately. The thought of getting on a long plane ride makes me ill. I want to go back. I want to visit my bro and his. But when I think about it, really think about it, I get dizzy. After writing, reading, and editing this post, after eating my potato salad lunch, I suddenly don’t feel too good.
Brutal. No dignity for me in France.
Oh, what a rough ending to what sounded like an amazing meal!
You had me at figs. I’m a fig freak and eat dried ones daily if possible (despite my attempts to stay local, this is one of my exceptions).
The statue sounds incredible (and yeah, definitely some hotness there), and thanks for sharing the bits about the Divine Miss M, especially how she’s as present in your home as she is in her formal temples. A fantastic point and reminder that there is no separation between sacred and profane.
You really should try it sometime.
That fig and venison was amazing. I expected it to be sweet but it was much more savory. Little bits of sauce here, none of that American smother everything. Which was almost too bad. I’ve could have eaten that dinner twice. The Scallops.
The venison was wild venison too which of course would be different from raised venison. I understand the Frency are more into venison than beef.
I do remember seeing a photo of you on your blog. At the stove. In a chef’s apron. Nothing else. A dedicated cook. 😉