I know. I just wrote two newsletters, one about the Spring of 2017, mainly about Friesland and the other about my trip to Cambodia. But recently things have happened that I would like to share with you.
It was a trip to France, a ten day trip, by car.
A trip for many reasons. First of all Joke and Franklin had been here in Exmorra, looking through my grocery stores where they had selected a nice variety of interesting items from the supply that is still filling my attic. And because Joke and Franklin run a wonderful borocante called “Renaissance’ in Quillan and have many Dutch and English customers, some of these goods were in high demand.
Also in great demand was the Van Nelle Zware Shag for Axel. Considerably cheaper in Luxembourg as anywhere else.
And the new booksshop in Rennes-le-Chateau, run by Helene, had asked Joke several times for more of my books. They are selling well in her shop to mainly Dutch, Belgian, English and American customers.
So I had a full load to carry to France.
And apart from that I wanted to visit some special places on the way to France and on the way back and to meet old friends and also to see for myself what crazy things had happened in the church in Rennes-le-Chateau.
And finally Door would come over for a few days. She was to drive back with me to the Netherlands and show me where she had been working in Vittel.
Incredible how much can be seen, how much can be done and how much can happen in just a few days. You’ll see!
On the road to France, April 27th
A few years ago, when I was still working in the Netherlands, I used to drive to the south of France in one day. A little over 1300 kilometers. But those times are past. Now it takes two days and I enjoy visiting, or revisiting special places en route.
First to Luxembourg. Taking the road from Bastogne to Arlon passing the city of Martelange. On the west side of the road is Belgium and on the left side Luxembourg. That side has several big gasstations, where fuel prices are 30% lower than elsewhere, and all those stations also have huge supermarkets where alcohol and tabacco are much cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. So Van Nelle Zware Shag for Axel and my favorite whisky (Talisker) and a bottle of campari for me.
Then to one of my favorite areas in the south of Belgium and the north of France. First Stenay, where I check in at the Moulin le Signe, run by Dutch people. It is an old watermill and a wonderful place to stay. Then to the crypte of Dagobert II, Saint Dagobert II, also in Stenay, one of the last, great Merovingian kings. Look at a copy of his skull, split by a sword. The original skull is in Mons (Bergen) in Belgium. Here I had a long and very interesting conversation with the conservator, who told me a rather different story, different from what people tell you in Rennes-le-Chateau, of what happened to Dagobert II and to his son Sigisbert IV.
Then a quick trip to the immense fortress of Malmedy where I found a nice picture of Madonna and child in the basilic on top of the hill. Next, a few kilometres north, to the impressive Basilic Notre-Dame d’Avioth. With a beautiful wooden statue in the chapel in front of the basilic and inside some very moving stations of the cross and my absolute favorite the Black Madonna of Avioth. Painted white, but that doesn’t matter. You can still feel her power. From there to the famous abbey of Orval, just across the border in Belgium. Well worth a visit with its lake, its beautiful buildings, its huge trees and it museum.
Back to Stenay, enjoying the beautiful, secondary roads, the landscape, the clouds, the magnificent villages and the huge fields of bright, yellow coleseed.
Ending my day with a good French dinner in the Taverne Le Cygne next to my B & B and opposite the newly established European Beer Museum.
On the road to Quillan, April 28th
It is a long way, almost 1000 kilometres. The first part is travelling on secundary roads, following the Meuse upstream. A beautiful road, a beautiful countryside. I stop in Genicourt at the church dedicated to Ste Marie Madeleine. It is closed and outside is a sign stating: ‘For reason of new vandalism activities the church is closed.’ So sad.
Near Verdun are several huge cemetaries, with thousands of white crosses all neatly lined up. There has been some terrible fighting in this area during the First World War. How can people be so cruel to each other? Following the Meuse further south I come at a place called St-Mihiel. There are some huge stone rock formations next to the road. In one of them is a chapel, with the body of Christ. A sacred place. In the city itself is a mighty church, abbaye Eglise Saint-Michel. And it is open. There are phantastic stained glass windows. One side is has six stained glass windows all depicting female saints! Like Ste Germaine, Ste Therese, Ste Barbara, Ste Fornari, Ste Odila, Ste Clothilda, Ste Martha, Ste Cecile and of course Ste Marie Madaleine. She is everywhere. Also Anna teaching Mary. Beautiful statues, paintings and stained glass windows, things that are sadly missing in Protestant churches.
And surprise, in Domremy-la-Pucelle I come to the house where Joan of Arc is born. A place with a nice, little chapel, a large museum and a lovely garden full of tulips.
Driving through the country is wonderful, but it is slow. 50 km/hour in every village, markets, people shopping and traffic lights. In Contrexeville I join the Autoroute to Dijon, Lyon, Orange, Montpellier and Toulouse. Still 800 kilometres to go.
Quillan, Rennes-le-Chateau, Collioure, April 29th
I stay in the house of my lovely ex Joke and her partner Franklin. A big house with a brocante on the ground floor, their living quarters on the first floor and guests on the second floor.
First we travel to Les Labadous, the ‘new’ Les Labadous. To see Axel with the horse of Anne, to admire the new kitchen and to look at the black poplar trees that have been severely cut back. But it was necessary for the branches were getting too heavy.
Then up to Rennes–le-Chateau where just a couple of days ago some crazy damage had been done to the church of Marie Magdalene. The head of the statue of Asmodeus had been cut off, just as it had been cut off in 1996 and the face of Mary Magdalene in the panel below the altar had been cut out. Done by a young Muslima, who had left a copy of the Koran on the altar. The woman has been apprehended. Nothing is known up till now about her motives.
I deliver my books to the bookshop of Helene, visit the new museum between the Villa Bethania and the Presbytere, I had a good look at all the work done in Le Jardin du Marie and then on my way to Peter and Anneke, dear friends, to bring them some goodies from Holland.
We talked a lot. Life has not been easy for these two wonderful people. Anneke was slowly recovering from some very serious illnesses and nasty legal procedures was keeping the family down.
When I said that I wanted to go to Spain to do some shopping, Anneke jumped up and asked if she could come with me. Well, of course, with pleasure.
Just across the border on the road to Barcelona is the city of La Jonquera. It is in fact a huge supermarket. With cheap alcohol and cigarettes and a huge assotment of fantastic goodies. One wall, over 50 meters long, was filled with all kinds of whisky bottles! The French, tough lovers of wine, will not walk away from a good whisky. I always buy there my beloved Magno soap and shampoo.
Then up to Collioure in France. Another of my favorite places. Look at the church, the huge castle and lovely Anneke. We had a good time.
Esperaza, the market, April 30rd
The market in Esperaza has become a real tourist attraction. It has grown bigger and bigger. Wonderful clothes for men and women are being sold for 1,- to 5,- euro’s each. There is always fresh fruit and vegetables. There is wine, paella, roasted chicken, olives, cheese, music, you name it, it is there. It is also a good place to meet old friends like Erik, who will be renting an appartement in Caderonne. And Marie-France Lebailly who just bought a lovely little house in Esperaza. With a magic garden. Magic because when I wanted to take some pictures in the garden, my camera refused to focus. Probably because the whole garden was filled with energy and with Orbs. Only when I took a picture of Marie-France herself did the camera focus. But not with the pictures before and after. I bought a lovely painting from her, called “Time is passing by.” It really spoke to me.
We had lunch in the wonderful restaurant with the hilarious name ‘La Poule et Bicyclette,’ located outside St-Ferriol.
What a wonderful setting. And the two brothers running the place, with their sister, are making it more beautiful every year. The road to the place is bad but the food is good!
The 1st of May, a national holiday
And what a day it would be. I left early and first visited the Source of the Mother Goddess in Campagne-les-Bains. Another magic place. Then I went north past Limoux to Pomas, to a local Vide Grenier, a garage sale. There was not much to be seen, or for sale. People are still very poor in this area. I took a small back road to Limoux for I love this huge plane tree. So impressive.
Then an accident struck. Driving on a small road a French car was coming towards me at a pretty high speed. Too late we both realised that we could not evade each other, for on both sides of the road were deep ditches. So we struck each other. With a mighty ‘bang.’ My side mirror was hit so forcefully that it slammed into my front window which skatterend in a thousand pieces. Glass particles and splintes flew all over the place. In my car, in my face and in my clothes. Fortunately I was wearing glasses otherwise my eyes might have been hurt. What a bloody mess. Fortunately the man and I both managed to be civil to each other. He said that he was insured, I said that I was insured, we exchanged addresses, shook hands and, after cleaning the car as good as could be done, were on our way.
For I had a lunch date with my old friend Elizabeth. Still a bit shaky we arrived at my favorite restaurant La Pierre Lys in Quillan and toasted to life and to my good luck. It could have been far worse. I am sure that some-one will say that this was meant to happen, that it is a lesson for me, but I haven’t figured out what, yet.
And being the 1st of May everything was closed in France. I called my Dutch insurance company and told them about the accideny.
Toulouse/Carcassonne, May 2nd
First of all I went, early in the morning, to the Peugeot garage in Quillan. They referred me to a special carrosserie garage, also in Quillan. They would do their best to get the car repaired within two days, for on May 3rd Door and I had to leave for the Netherlands.
I was kindly offered the use of the car of my dear ex, a Toyota 4WD. She and Franklin each have a car, so she could spare her’s for a few days. That was wonderful, for I had promised to pick up Door from the airport in Toulouse. She would come over for just a few days, to see me, Les labadous and Rennes-le-Chateau.
In Carcassonne I parked the car next to an ancient chapel with a lovely Black Madonna, located at the foot of the old bridge over the Aude. A bridge for pedestrians, leading from the new Carcassonne to the old Carcassonne, the Cite.
Then we walked across the big square to the Musée des beaux-arts. There was a special exhibition, from February 24th to May 24th, about Mary Magdalene. Called ‘Marie Madeleine, la Passion Révélée.’
What a feast. As you know I have been taking pictures of Mary Magdalene and Black Madonna’s from chapels, caves, churches, crypts, basilica’s and even cathedrals all over France. Brought together in my book “Mary Magdalene in France” or in Dutch “Maria Magdalena in Frankrijk.” Hundreds of pictures. Mary Magdalene in every mindset. And I very often remarked how sad I was with respect to the condition of these pictures, especially in the first pilgrim site of Mary Magdalene in France, the basilica of St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume. But here, in the museum, things were different. Foir now all the pictures came from musea. And they were all in perfect condition.
I was allowed to take pictures but without flash. So some of them are a bit hazy. But here are some of the most striking pictures and statues.
Fortunately the museum had a wonderful catalogue with all the pictures in full color for sale.
Afterwards we walked around in the new city. Door was finally able to buy her favorite eau de toilette. And we paid a visit to the ancient church of the Carmelites with a statue of the Notre Dame de la Salette. And we had a look at the wonderful Canal du Midi.
The day of ceremonies, May 3rd
Agnes van de Beek and her friend Keith had been for some time in France. In a lovely house in Montazels, close to Rennes-le-Chateau.
Agnes wanted, on this day, to hold some special ceremonies. At Les Labadous, in Rennes-le-Chateau and in the cave of Perillos. So we first went to Les Labadous where Door and I were greeted enthousistically by Ruah, our old dog. Still lively but getting older and getting grey. Agnes immediately went to a place near the River of Colors, close to the old well, were she said, using her pendulum, that a treasure was buried there. Funny, but it was almost the same spot where other people, psychic people like Agnes, had told us the same. We had even dug out the old well, but found nothing. But treasure need not be gold or diamonds, it could just as well be something immaterial. We, Joke and I, considered Les Labadous itself being a treasure. The treasure, she said, would come out when the time was ripe.
Then to Rennes-le-Chateau, where we were confronted again with the headless Asmodeus and Mary Magdalene. So sad, and why? Why? Agnes wanted to go to the cemetary. It is normally closed, because too many people had been cutting off pieces of stone from the graves, especially the tomb of Berenger Sauniere and Marie Denarnaud, as souvenir, but my good contacts within the community provided me with a key. In a deserted place on a zero energy spot, a nice ceremony was performed, using gold, silver and a tree of life discs.
Then we drove past the impressive male mountain Bugarach to the just as impressive Gorges de Galamus. We did not go to the Hermitage, with the well of Mary Magdalene, built into the rock but just enjoyed the magnificent view. Then to the east, past Tautavel where they discovered a very ancient cave, like Lascaux in France, a place where people lived 450.000 years ago. The cave itself is closed, but an exact replica has been built in the village of Tautavel. It now is a wonderful museum.
Then on to the village of Perillos, in a bit eery, deserted area, where on January 11th 1963 a Constellation had crashed. Some say as a result of secret military experiments that were, and still are, going on in the area. In the garden of the only occupied house in the area we found two very strange pieces of debris. Half rock, half iron. Maybe from the plane, no-one knows.
Then on to the cave. The entrance is difficult to find, it is at the north side of a flat rock formation formation. The cave itself is a beauty. There are ancient signs on some of the rocks, but they have almost disappeared. Everything can be seen in the shapes of the stones; a baby elephant, a frog, dragons, human faces. And the light, the ligth is incredible. I have taken the most wonderful pictures there. Of special light effects, of people covered in light like a halo, transforming them in beautiful angels or in lovely saints.
On the way back we made one stop at the foot of the famous Cathar castle of Peyrepertuse. Visiting a special source, with an inscription above the water pipes saying: ‘whoever will drink the water from this source will become amorous!’
Finally, as we drove back to Quillan and Montazels I heard that my car had been repaired. What a relief.
On the way back, Lyon, Contrexeville, May 4th
It was a very short stay in France, but very intens. After thanking Joke and Franklin for their hospitality and Joke’s car, we drove away, up north to Lyon. We wanted to visit the impressive basilic Notre-Dame de Fourvière, on top of a hill in the center of Lyon. Not an easy place to find in the middle of the dense traffic and the confusing traffic signs or no signs at all. But we found it.
Lyon is the second largest city in France with 1,5 inhabitants. In Roman time it was called Lugdunum. The sacred hill, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is an ancient pilgrim site. The present basilica was built in 1870 when the Prussians threatened to invade the city. It is indredibly luxurious. Gold everywhere. A bit too much for my taste.
Next to the basilic is the chapel of St Thomas, Thomas à Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in 1170 by four knights of king Henry II, who was supposed to have said: “will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” But here are other interpretations. In this chapel are two beautiful Black Madonna’s. On top of the chapel is a huge golden statue of the Virgin Mary, apparently to canonize the power of the Black Madonna’s.
Most intersting is the crypt under the basilic. Here seen with a clear Orb. In the crypt various statues and paintings of famous Madonna’s from all over the world can be found. Such as La Vierge de La Naval from the Philippines, the ND de Vailankanni from India, the ND de Częstochowa from Poland, Fatima from Portugal and the ND de Guadeloupe from Mexico. Wonderful.
At the end of the day we arrived in Contrexeville where we stayed in my favorite hotel Cosmos. It is close to a big casino so I took Door, who never had been to a casino and didn’t know how it ‘worked,’ inside. And guess what, at the Black Jack table, on a stake of 50 euro’s, she got back 125 euro’s, winning 75 euro’s! Beginner’s luck.
The last day, Vittel, Vaudémont, ND de Sion, May 7th
The last day Door wanted me to see where she had spent part of her early life in France in the Club Mediterranée, now called ‘Vittel Spa.’ What a beautiful place. With a huge hotel, a house for personnel, tennis courts, a golf course, swimming pools, baths, beauty parlors, lots of magnificent trees and green, green grass everywhere Everything a modern, well to do family might desire.
Then on to our last destination, La Colline Inspirée, the sacred Hill of Sion, near Vaudémont. On our way up we met this beautiful statue, Jesus on the Cross, with Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene.
The hill of Sion has been a sacred place for ages. The Celts honoured there Rosmertha, the Goddess of Fecundity and Wothan the God of ar. The Romans venerated Mercury, the god of trade. Christians have lived there from the fifth century. It is a pilgrims place, a place of peace. In the middle of the hill stands the basilic. Inside the basilic is a beautiful statue of a Black Madonna, the Notre Dame de Sion, called “very good Mother, treasure of the country, queen of the peace and guardian of the Lorraine.”
On top of the basilic, as expected, is a statue of the Virgin Mary.
We walk around this beautiful, peacefull hill. It feels good. A worthy end to a special trip.
Jaap W. Rameijer
8759 LE Exmorra
tel: +31 515 85 65 64
mobile: +31 06 26 28 77 99
Copyright 2008 - Jaap-Adventures (Jaap Rameijer)
All rights reserved
Design and Development Atol Solutions