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

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Day 32: Pontarlier To Sainte-Croix

It was Sunday, but in Pontarlier the youth hostel's reception desk closed on Sunday afternoons, so we called at the presbytery opposite the church. Pierre was very good at charming his way in (remember yesterday's episode with the bread?) He managed to blag his way past the priest's henchman and gain an audience with the priest, Père François, who served us excellent Darjeeling tea in an impressive cast-iron teapot, then offered us plums and toffees. He was a cultivated man, with a sharp and ironic sense of humour. Afterwards he showed us to our quarters in the Salle de Saint-Bénigne — a nearby parish hall. It was modern, with kitchen, sink, toilets, showers etc. Pontarlier was a pleasant town, but absolutely dead on Sundays. After a carafe of cheap, local wine at a brasserie and a Turkish kebab washed down with Dutch beer, we slept soundly in our sleeping bags on the floor of the hall's main meeting room.

  The photo shows a Black Madonna in the Église Saint-Bénigne. (I've written before about Black Madonnas here.) 

The Château de Joux in the Doubs valley south of Pontarlier. The castle is 1000 years old and houses a collection of rare weapons. 

The wayside Chapelle Saint-Léger in the hamlet of Le Frambourg — such an elegant (and oversized) roof for a small and humble building. 

Cow with a very big cowbell. I had been hearing cow bells for days. Sometimes you see them strung up in bars, cafés and house porches.

15 km from Pontarlier lies the border between France and Switzerland. Here's the customs post. There was no one about, so I walked right through. Note the two Swiss flags. The national flag is on view everywhere in Switzerland.

Around Les Fourgs the landscape changed and became very wild and open — with expanses of tussocky grassland and swathes of conifers. I was told this was a rare and special kind of scenery, unique to the Jura uplands. So I took a photo of it . . .

. . . and then another.

Switzerland is full of curious, idiosyncratic museums — such as the Museum of Mechanical Music at L'Auberson.

The road from L'Auberson To Sainte-Croix.

My first sight of the Alps! The photo was taken on entering Sainte-Croix, which is known as 'The Balcony of the Jura'.

The man in the Sainte-Croix tourist office patiently rang a list of telephone numbers for us in search of accommodation, and eventually struck lucky with a nearby address. Administrative nurse Caroline and her daughter Deborah were used to putting up pilgrims, and had a whole wall devoted to the spiritual graffiti posted there by previous guests. This was a fun evening, with lots of laughter, as we all tucked into marrow stuffed with rice and cheese at their round table. The next morning we reluctantly left this vibrant, artistic, happy home. The weather had broken and it was raining hard. Caroline absolutely refused to take any money, insisting that acting as hospitalière to pilgrims was an important part of her life, and she did it freely and willingly; she also liked walking the pilgrims' ways vicariously, through hearing their stories. On our departure she gave us all a postcard. On mine she wrote: 'God gave you the language to communicate His love. Enjoy it! Thank you, Robert, for staying in our house. Have a good trip!' My eyes misted over when I read this. After she had gone to work we bought her flowers and left them on her doorstep.


George said...

Amazing that there are spirits like Caroline in this world. It lifts the heart and gives me hope.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I have always felt sorry for any cow having to wear such a large cow bell - it must be so irritating. Presumably it is to help the farmer locate the cows at milking time.

Ruth Mowry said...

Wonderful photos.

Beautiful description of your time with Caroline and her daughter, her open heart, and the postcard.

am said...

On this walk, I've had a hard time keeping up with your pace. Just caught up this morning!

Of all your walks, this one seems to be the least solitary. So many more wonderful connections with people and villages and churches this time, along with your equally sustaining connections with the landscape and sky.

Funny about the cow with the big bell. I just finished reading Another Side of Bob Dylan co-written (cow-ritten) by Jacob Maymudes, son of Victor Maymudes who worked for Bob Dylan for many years. Didn't want to buy it, but borrowed it from the public library out of curiosity. Victor tells several wild concert stories that involve Bob and a cowbell.
I have mixed feelings about the book. My heart goes out to Jacob Maymudes.

Will try to keep up for the rest of this walk!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks George, Pat, Ruth and Am.

Am — yes, this walk was a nice mix of alone and together.

Bob Dylan and a cowbell! Good grief! I'll have to borrow the book myself, now, as I'm intrigued.

Anonymous said...

Hello Robert!
Thank You so much for these warmly chosen words and your wonderful humour you use to talk about your experiences. Where are you now? And how's the weather?

The Solitary Walker said...

Been back home for quite a few weeks now...