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Power Places Tours

Power Places Tours

A special newsletter. Describing the wonderful adventures of an American group, visiting the South of France. Six people, two men and four women, staying in France for eleven days. With me as the driver, the driver of a minibus seating eight passengers, as the tour guide and the lovely Lillis as the tour leader. It is basically a funny story, but also a story with some interesting aspects. The places we visited were really impressive. Power places, special places, lovely places. So people were very enthusiastic. And showed it, and said so. So much so that I once called this tour should be called “The Wow and Gosh Tour”. A great title for a new book. So enjoy my friends!

Day 1

The group came directly from the USA via London at Marignane Airport, Marseille. I stood there waiting at the gate. But no Americans. Almost an hour after the last passengers came out, the group finally appeared. What happened? One piece of luggage got lost. Luckily I was still there, even though I had not received a telephone call and no one had come out to tell me that they would be late. We went to the parking place and tried to get all the luggage in. That was no easy job. Why is it that many Americans need so much luggage? I don’t know. Okay, so went on our way to the hotel. But now it was Friday evening, rush hour in Marseille. My poor passengers. After flying directly from the USA to France, with a belly full of jetlag, we were in a queue for almost two hours. But they bravely faced it. We drove through Aix-en-Provence and St Maximin la Ste Baume to Plan d’Aups where we arrived at hotel Lou Pebre d’Al. A wonderful hotel. Just in time for dinner, which is served in France from 19.30 onwards. Here a picture of the group in front of the Massif de la Baume {PIC 01}.

Day 2

First we visited the chapel of Mary Magdalene in the Hostellerie La Ste Baume. A lovely chapel, with magnificent fresco’s {PIC 02}. Then onward to the Three Oaks. Well it is more the place of one and a half oak, for there is only one oak standing now and the other oak is very dead. Then walking up the Chemin des Roys, the road of the kings, to the Cave of Mary Magdalene in the Baume Massif. Normally a pilgrimage of half an hour. But it took us a bit longer. Some of the ladies were not in good shape and they needed all the manpower in the group to get up to the cave. Which we happily provided. Dear friends, please know that we have no elevators, motorways or other ways of mechanical transport to most of the sacred places in France. We have to walk. But it was worthwhile. The cave is always special {PIC 03}. And the view, with this Pieta, is breath taking {PIC 04}.

Then back to the oaks and lunch in the auberge next to the Hostellerie. Please, dear friends, know that eating in France

can be a bit of a problem. We don’t have many vegetarian restaurants in France and not every restaurant is equipped to deal with special diets. Fortunately most of my friends carried their own medicines and food supplements with them.

Next we drove to St Maximin la Ste Baume. To visit the basilica Ste Marie Madeleine {PIC 05}. Here is one more thing to remember. If you want, as a tour guide, to tell the people about the place you are visiting, then do so in the bus. Where you have a ‘captive’ audience. For the moment you stop, at any place, and especially at special places, two things will happen. First of all most of your passengers will immediately disperse in different directions. And secondly the cameras will start clicking. Like here in the crypt {PIC 06}. Why not take some time to get the feel of the place. And absorb the energy?

The basilica is an impressive site. It always is. And the various paintings, stained glass windows and statues are very moving. More so because they are in such a bad shape. But fortunately renovations were being carried out. Here a powerful Mary Magdalene {PIC 07}. And next a little, golden statue, found in the Sacristie {PIC 08}. Then back to the hotel, where people had to wait until 19.30 before going to dinner. A long wait, for most Americans are used to eat around 1800 hours, or even earlier. But that’s how it is in France.

Day 3

Sunday. Checking out. Fortunately the lost luggage was found and delivered to the hotel. So fully loaded we drove to Les-Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camarque. Here another issue had to be addressed. It concerns the toilet, or restroom as the Americans calls it. Restrooms in the USA are everywhere. In restaurants, in shops, even bookshops, at gas stations, literally everywhere. Not so in France. There are of course restaurants, but they are only open from 1200 to 1400. And if you go inside to pee, you have to order something. Also most shops are closed between 1200 and 1400. And many gas stations are closed as well, although you can, in most cases, get some gas by using your credit card. Fortunately France has a lot of nature and people here are not so ‘disturbed’ by other people going behind bushes. As they are in the USA, where you can get huge fines for peeing in public. Nevertheless it is good if the passengers warn the driver, well in advance, of their intention to go to a toilet. And, I must say, if they really have to, they will use the ‘natural’ toilet, which is often much cleaner then the traditional French toilets.

Driving through the Camarque, the Rhone Delta, is a pleasure. So beautiful. With ‘wild’ white horses, black cows, rice, saltpans, lakes, flamingos. We visited the church dedicated to the Notre Dame de la Mer, with the beautiful statue of Sarah in the crypt. It was magic, even though most people couldn’t stay long in that area {PIC 09}.

I took some pictures in the church and there were Orbs on them. And in one of the Orbs, enlarged, I could clearly see the face of a woman {PIC 10}. Mary Magdalene? Wow! We had lunch amidst hundreds of other tourists. Most of them elderly people. People who like to visit all the special places outside the summer holiday season, July and August. When these places are often packed full with tourists and noisy children. Then driving on to La Source/Les Labadous in Rennes-le-Chateau. Checking in. Getting the feel of the place, this special place. Welcoming the people to our place and serving them a complimentary dinner offered by both Power Places Tours and La Source/Les Labadous. Here Joke had to get used to the special wishes concerning dinner and breakfast. Which she did.

Day 4

Monday. Slowly our guests are recovering from their jetlag. La Source is such a healthy and such a healing place. It works wonders. First we are going to the Source of the Mother Goddess in Campagne-les-Bains. Where wonderful pictures can be taken {PIC 11}. Then we visit the lovely church of Brenac, the village of flowers. That church has something, something special. It is always open, which is unusual for France. And the inhabitants take much a pride in their church. You can feel it. It is wonderful. There are always fresh flowers in the church.

Then walking the labyrinth of Nebias, the ‘short tour of  roughly 2 hours. A special experience. We touched some very special, powerful places {PIC 12}. Some people, when walking, see their whole life passing in front of them. I was surprised to see how little attention was paid to the energy places. I have guided many groups in the labyrinth and elsewhere in this area. And most of the groups would stay for hours at special sources, special caves, rock formations. But not this time. We never stayed longer than 10 minutes. Does the energy of the places not reach their heart? Can they no longer enjoy the magic of the place, absorb the energy, and hear the voices? I don’t know. Anyway we had a wonderful packed lunch at the mill {PIC 13}.

Next we went to the castle of the Troubadours in Puivert. The castle gets more and more beautiful every day {PIC 14}. With new, ancient musical instruments, beautiful tapestries {PIC 15} and even a model of what Puivert looked like in the Middle Ages.

Then going to the city of Limoux. Trying to change dollars in euros at the bank, my bank. The CIC. One of the largest banks in France. But forget it dear friends, no way. The bank could not change dollars in euros. So I later, from my own treasury, had to change dollars into euro whereby I lost a lot of money by using too friendly an exchange rate.

Next we visited the church of St Martin in Limoux {PIC 16}. With stained glass windows showing how Jesus proposed to Mary Magdalene, although the Church says that this is the ‘Raising of Jairus daughter.’ But Jairus daughter happens to be Mary Magdalene! And the famous stained glass window where Jesus and Mary Magdalene are sitting, side by side, at equal height. Although the Church says that it is Jesus with his mother Mary. But then, this is a very young Mary. Finally back to La Source/Les Labadous. Where after being in Limoux, the city of the Blanquette de Limoux and of Carnival, we drank a few glasses of the famous Blanquette de Limoux. Sitting outside and enjoying the wonderful view.

Day 5

Tuesday. Breakfast. We have a buffet service where we had to  supply more of their favourite foods, like eggs and croissants and less of fruit. Today we are going west to the city of Mirepoix. That lively, lovely, artistic city. Visiting the marketplace with the house with sculpted faces {PIC 17}. Unfortunately all the shops were closed on Tuesday. Or maybe it was a good thing, for there are so many lovely things for sale that my friends might have run out of euros. But, and maybe they didn’t know it, but you can pay in France almost anywhere with your credit card. Only the American Express cards are not very popular, but VISA and MasterCard are. Then going to the cathedral dedicated to St Maurice {PIC 18}. Impressive, with its magnificent Stations of the Cross. The church is being renovated, so many of the statues, including those of Mary Magdalene, Martha and Lazarus, were taken to safety to some other place.

Then to the Rock Church of Vals {PIC 19}. With its incredible wall paintings, dating, so they told me, from the 10th and 11th century. And showing a clear Catalonian influence. Very rare.

Next to Tarascon-sur-Ariege. Visiting the magical Cave of Lombrives, the largest cave in Europe. Well there is one cave larger now, in Slovakia, but at the time when the signs along the road were posted, that country was not yet part of Europe! The tour lasted 3 hours. We went up in a little red train {PIC 20}. And enjoyed a beautiful view on the sacred mountain with the Cathar caves {PIC 21}.The guide spoke French and I translated as well as I could, even though it appeared that our guide could also speak English. It was a magic tour, but we had to be very careful for the bottom was slippery, uneven and only poorly lit. One of our ladies slipped and fell, but fortunately with no serious after effects. Then back to La Source/Les Labadous.

Day 6

Wednesday. Going south to Quillan. Visiting Joke’s shop La Renaissance {PIC 22}. Then shopping in the supermarket Carrefour. For some women in our group wanted to prepare their own food. Next via Couiza and Rennes-les-Bains to Bugarach. Admiring the sacred mountain. The male mountain. The mountain that looks totally different when viewed from different angles.

Then to the Gorges de Galamus, that awesome road hacked out of the rocks in the 19th century {PIC 23}.  With the Cave of Mary Magdalene, the Hermitage of St Antoine and the church built into the rock. A truly sacred place {PIC 24}.

Next via St Paul de Fenouillet and Maury to the Cathar castles of Queribus and Peyrepertuse. We didn’t climb the castles, but enjoyed the view. Majestic, with the blue sky, the white clouds and the green hills {PIC 25} and {PIC 26}. Finally, on the way back, we visited the Source in Duilhac s/Peyrepertuse with water that makes you amorous, And in spite of my warnings, we all drank from it. Then, passing the Bugarach mountain again, strangely illuminated by the setting sun {PIC 27}, back to La Source/Les Labadous. It was quite a day.

Day 7

The days are slowly beginning to count on me. It is quite a job to drive and guide a group of Americans for 8 to 10 hours each day. But never mind. There is still much to be seen. Driving north to the Abbey of St Polycarpe. With that beautiful portrait of Mary Magdalene, with a halo around her face and tears rolling down her cheek. So moving {PIC 28}. With on the right side three empty crosses and on the left the two Maries that came with her to France, Mary Jacoba and Mary Salome. We were lucky that the woman who takes care of the church was there. She could explain a lot. And she showed us, I had never seen this before, painted on a beam, the story of the life of Jesus {PIC 29}.

Next to the basilica of the Notre Dame de Marceille in Limoux, with its new black Madonna {PIC 30} and the source with healing waters for the eyes {PIC 31}. Where we stayed for a short while. Then up to the Cite of Carcassonne, a Unesco World Heritage site. One of the highlights of the tour. It was the only day that it had been raining a little and it was cold {PIC 32}. Most of the group went to the Castle located inside the Cite. And did some shopping. The shops are admirably tuned to the wishes of American tourists! I always go to the basilica, where this time, again, the Doros group was singing. That is pure magic. Four to five men from Siberia, singing a capello, with powerful voices, in an imposing basilica with wonderful acoustics. This was truly a “Wow” experience, for me this time {PIC 33}.

Then to the Notre Dame du Cros with its Black Madonna {PIC 34} and its sacred spring. It is such a beautiful church. And such a beautiful place. Located in the middle of the area where the famous red marble is mined. The marble used in many churches. Finally we went to the 5.000 year old Dolmen de Fades {PIC 35}. Located on a special hill. With a wonderful, ancient energy. And rocks that were made for making strange faces {PIC 36}

Day 8

Friday. Going to Alet-les-Bains. Visiting the market place, the house of the grandparents of Nostradamus, the palace of the bishop, now a B&B and restaurant and the beautiful abbey ruins in the magnificent garden. It is such a wonderful place {PIC 37}. Then up the mountain east of Alet to the enigmatic church of St Salvayre {PIC 38}. Where we did a wonderful ceremony. Each year they beautify that little church a bit more. This time  there was a new portrait of Mary Magdalene {PIC 39}. From there we walked to the Pierre Dressee, a sacred standing stone. Part of the sacred geometry of the area. A 20 minutes walk. And a great place to take pictures as you have seen in my last newsletter. And also in this one {PIC 40}.

Back to Alet-les-Bains for a visit to the beautiful Galeries des Anges. A place that is truly special, very special. Feel the magic of all the different angels. Each one of us had his or her special angel {PIC 41}.

Then back to La Source/Les Labadous where I promised the group to teach them to make real Thai food. They were very enthusiastic, but alas, most of them went to sleep. Probably exhausted after seeing so much and doing so much. If I were to organize a tour in the south of France, a tour of ten days or two weeks, walking in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene, or visiting the most powerful power places, or following the life and fate of the Cathars, I would insert one day of doing nothing. With no scheduled program. A day where the people are free to do what they want or go where they want. Anyway some people were doing a great job of helping me prepare this Thai buffet and we had a wonderful time. They all enjoyed the dinner {PIC 42}.

Day 9

Saturday. Again beautiful weather. We have been so lucky these ten days. Only one day with a bit of rain. Going west. First to the Notre Dame du Val d’Amour in Belesta. With its black, or rather brown Madonna and its sacred spring {PIC 43}. The church was open, which was again a special treat to us. Then to the Fontestorbes. A source with every half hour rising and falling water. And finally to the Montsegur. The other highlight of the visit to the South of France.

In the village we met Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris {PIC 44}. Wonderful people. They live in the village of Montsegur and are very knowledgeable. They know all the secrets of the place. Richard will guide us up the mountain. It is a beautiful pilgrimage. We stop at the monument {PIC 45}. Richard is telling many interesting stories. Especially about the famous ‘White Lady’, Esclarmonde of Foix. In the castle we met the two Russian Ladies who were staying at La Source/Les Labadous. They were standing outside the castle wall and singing beautiful songs, singing to the vast land west of the Montsegur {PIC 46}. Magic, magic, magic.

Here I am sitting in the castle, relaxing and enjoying myself {PIC 47}. Back in the village we enjoy a late lunch and view the mountain from a special viewpoint {PIC 48}. Then back to La Source/Les Labadous. The people were so full of their Montsegur experience that there was no time, no energy for anything else. Only absorbing the love, the power and the energy of the day. Which is good.

Day 10

October 13th. The day in 1307 that the Knights Templar were apprehended in France. It is a Sunday. Beautiful weather again. Some people call it an Indian summer. We are going to the market in Esperaza. That market has become a real tourist attraction. It is so nice, so easy, so lovely and so gentle. So old fashioned. People meet each other, exchange news, drink a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine or a pastis. And buy all the wonderful, homemade products. Sausages, wine, olives, cheese, vegetables, and ready made dishes like this paella {PIC 49}. It smells wonderful and there is music playing. You feel at home. And you are happy.

Lunch at La Source/Les Labadous. Then past La Pique and Le Pas de la Roque to Rennes-les-Bains. The twin village of Rennes-le-Chateau. Going first to the Benitier, the place where the River Sals from Sougraigne meets the River Blanque from Bugarach. A special place. With little stone monuments in the water {PIC50}. Next to the Fontaine des Amours. Another special place. You can feel the love embedded in this place. And see the water flowing {PIC 51}. It is all love and beauty. Next we climb the hill south of Rennes-les-Bains to Le Fauteuil du Diable, also called the Seat of Isis. This seat is located next to the source La Cercle. Then a short visit to the place where once, until 1982, the Tomb of Poussin stood and past les Capitelles on the Camp Grand back to Rennes-le-Chateau. Where we first visit the church, the enigmatic church, with its 96 anomalies of what is normal in a small catholic church in the south of France. Anomalies ordered by the million dollar priest Berenger Sauniere. Anomalies that have a meaning, a special meaning. See the dark Asmodeus next to this blond Russian {PIC 52}.

Then finally, late in the afternoon, going to a concert of Ani Williams in the Jardin de Marie. She is such a wonderful singer and she plays the harp so well. It is magic listening to her voice, to hear her sing and play the harp on top of that magic hill in Rennes-le-Chateau {PIC 53}. Finally a farewell dinner, offered by Power Places Tours. Then people have to start packing and will go to bed early.

Day 11

Not a very special day, but it is the day of departure. Getting up at 0500 in the morning. Packing the last items. aving a short breakfastHaving a short breakfast, a cup of coffee and some croissants. And now the famous stowing operation. But we get all the luggage in our minibus. Finally we made it. The minibus is full. Mud full. I can’t see through the rear view mirror, but fortunately we have two side mirrors.

Up to Toulouse. In the dense early morning traffic. The Monday morning traffic. How strange the times of arrival and departure for this tour. Arrival on Friday afternoon in Marseille and departure on Monday morning in Toulouse. And road works everywhere. At some parts we were really crawling to the airport. Fortunately we left early so we had plenty of time. Nevertheless we arrived only one hour before departure. But that’s okay for flights within Europe. Some people were so anxious and so stressed that they left the minibus, without even saying goodbye to me. Well, let me say goodbye to you, dear friends. Maybe till next year?

October 2013
Newsletter September/October 2013

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Wednesday, 19 February 2020

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