A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Day 23: Châteauvillain To Saint-Loup-Sur-Aujon (2)

The craft brewery, Brasserie de Vauclair, halfway between Arc-en-Barrois and Giey-sur-Aujon. I stopped here for a rest at 2 o'clock and drank a beer. On tap were —in order of strength — Choue Blonde, Choue Brune and Choue Rousse. I chose the Choue Brune. It was excellent — malty and chocolatey and spicy. I'm really enthused about this microbrewery. The French are very proud of their regional, artisan food and drink, and this beer shows why.

Inside the brewhouse.

Stainless steel beer vats.

Choue — an award-winning beer.

I love these blue shutters.

The delightful Aujon valley. What country scene could be more peaceful, more archetypal, more perfect than this? Warm sun on green grass, trees casting their shadows, cows grazing in the fields, a lazy winding stream, a red-roofed village half-hidden in the woods . . .  

In the village of Giey-sur-Aujon was one of the prettiest lavoirs I'd seen yet . . .

And, talking of archetypal scenes, doesn't this shout 'France' to you? Or rather, not 'shout', but 'murmur seductively' . . ? 

Nearing Saint-Loup, I came across this sign. Evidently rewilding and the proposed reintroduction of the lynx and the wolf are not a popular ideas here; farmers may be worried about the threat to their livestock. 

Despite getting lost in the morning, the day had turned out well, and was to get even better. I'd crossed birch and pine woods, I'd seen comma and white admiral butterflies, I'd watched jays and buzzards. And now I was walking through the lovely valley of the river Aujon in the late afternoon sun. The scenery recalled parts of England, with its smaller farms and mixed agriculture — some cereal production, but also grass and hay, and pasture for cattle. Soon I was to enter the convent at Saint-Loup (pictured above), home to the Tyburn nuns, Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre. There are only six nuns based here, plus a Mother Superior, who was in London the night I stayed. An oblate, Evelyne, greeted me, showed me round the garden, explained the history of the convent (which at one time was an orphanage) and took me up to my room — a big double with all mod cons. Later I had dinner with Père Olivier and Mariette, a lady on retreat. After Vespers I talked with Dominica, a sister from the Philippines; Marilla, a mother of Chinese origin from Australia; and Narcissa, a mother from Ecuador (most of the Tyburn nuns are known as 'mothers' not 'sisters'). Narcissa was young, and completely charming, with an intelligent, innocent face, sparkling eyes which looked directly into your own, an infectious smile and a bubbling sense of humour. As I recounted my adventures on the road, her eyes became even larger and her smile even wider. The Benedictine rules on silence are not as rigid here. After all, it's the nuns' duty to welcome strangers, and give hospitality, so you need to talk, don't you? And our conversation was animated and far-ranging. I was wistful when she finally stamped my créanciale, whispered good night and softly closed the chapel door . . .


George said...

This appears to be one of your best days thus far. The Aujon valley looks delightful, and it sounds like you had a lovely, engaging evening with the "mothers" at the convent.

am said...

With this post, it is occurring to me that walking is a meditation that brings the mind home.

Your photos of Aujon valley and your experience with the nuns there made me think of this:

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 6
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (1998)

The valley spirit never dies
Call it the mystery, the woman.

The mystery,
the Door of the Woman,
is the root
of earth and heaven.

Forever this endures, forever.
And all its uses are easy.


The Solitary Walker said...

It was a great day, George.

Thanks for this, Am. I always appreciate and am stimulated by your thoughts and the interesting and relevant connections you make.

I have a connection for you too, for the 'mothers' made me think of Goethe's Faust:


Ruth Mowry said...

One father and five mothers playing host, how utterly comforting! Narcissa must have been completely captivating, and I suspect she found you so, too. These are encounters for a lifetime of memories.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, many memories... It was so stimulating not to know how each day would turn out and where I would end up by nightfall. Each day was different.