To begin with, last night ended in a bit of a rain storm, a bit of a cribbage slaughter and a bit of a crunk. The rain cooled everyone, the crib proved once again that experience beats beauty and the wine disappeared at a prodigious rate. No matter, because Sunday is market day and we stocked up readily.
Last year we missed every market day so today was our first. Rugs, antiques, monster paellas, dressed roosters with their heads on, wine, clothes, produce and breads unending and fruits of all description.
We loaded up on small fruit and bread and Carmen bought her third bunch of bananas in as many days (or so it seems…). Raspberry tarts for a late breakfast rounded of the purchases (and a couple bottles of wine of course, so we won’t have to raid our Spanish stock any further).
Returning to the boat we woke the Zakmeister, consumed the delicious ancestor of the poptart, and got ready to leave.
We walked back up through the market where a quilt seller caught our eye. Once again C proved she was capable of good taste even though it doesn’t extend to lamps. She picked up a gorgeous purple quilt to adorn her new place.
At the end of the market is the abbey St Pierre. Built from the 11 through 15 centuries it was part a large Benedictine Monastery. We toured the cloisters which were breathtaking and climbed to the belfry that overlooked the church proper.
The abbey is built on foundation that date from the 600s. Some of the nave and crypt have remains of these early bits while the church proper has an original structure of romanesque walls consecrated in 1065 with a 15 century gothic restoration. The interior has been painted with an elaborate geometric pattern to try and unify the architectural styles.
There was also a christian sarcophagus dating from the 500s making it the oldest thing outside of a museum that I have ever been in proximity to.
I truly love these old churches. They teach the meaning of scale and reverence and time. I will probably never have much use for the formal church but I think we need more edifices like these to remind us of our place in the larger scope and I am truly grateful for the role of the church in reminding us how small we are and how much we aspire to.
After we all got our fill of soaring architecture we headed back to the canal. Carmen and Leslie opted for a nap, Zak decided the boat would offer some solitude and I went for a walk. Moissac is a neat city with narrow twisty alleys and block upon block of old homes. As of now I sitting in a cafe, nursing a Stella and enjoying the afternoon.
Now, I guess, is the time to wax poetic. I am much more comfortable in France and certainly in the rural areas. Neither Leslie nor I enjoy crowds and I felt much better when I can relate, however poorly, to the language and the culture. I like Barcelona, but the experience didn’t differ substantially from New York or Paris. You follow the crowds, eat with the masses, line up at the ‘must see’ sights and generally spend a lot of time moving from one place to another in order to absorb as much as possible. And really in the end you have to. Unless you can move there, you owe it to yourself to experience all it has to offer.
Rural areas, on the other hand, have fewer tourists, and most of them are actually from France. The pace is slower because there is less to see, you spend tons of time ‘listening carefully’ to try an understand what you are seeing and generally have to engage to a larger degree. In the end, while I want to see Versailles, I am much more satisfied that I’ve seen Vezelay or Abbey St Pierre and haven’t gotten around to Notre Dame. I challenge anyone to experience a gothic cathedral properly being shuffled through with the crowds. Even the Picasso museum in Barcelona was hard to stomach with the frenetic pace of the tourists. Go to Clamecy, and be the only visitor in a tiny 14th century local church… And just breathe.
Tonight we have roast chicken from this morning’s market and apparently the abbey is lit up so we’ll take the time to visit.
Leslie and I took a turn around the town trying to really get a handle on the differences between a culture based on lots of people and lots of history crammed into Alberta. Everything is related to population and history when making infrastructure choices. Anyway we made it back to the canal and the hire boats are starting to appear, so we no longer feel like we are the only ones afloat.
Just talked to the portmaster; seems we have Poles, Russians, Spaniards and Englishmen in port tonight.
It also seems my website is down. I can’t log onto the blog nor vnc in so I’m guessing it’s the Internet connection. I emailed Doug so hopefully we will be up and posting soon.
Dinner was French bread, cucumbers, roast chicken sans tete and tomatoes with my .95 euro rose. Mmmmmmm.
After dinner we played a bit more crib but unfortunately they didn’t improve and just extended their losing streak. After we walked back to the Abbey and enjoyed the night air before retiring. One glass of red had us in our beds and ready for tomorrow.
Not sure about Internet for the next few days.