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

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Day 39: Saint-Maurice To Martigny

The Chapelle de Notre-Dame de Scex, built into the rock face above Saint-Maurice. I climbed 500 steps to reach it — you can see my backpack in the left-hand corner of the photo.

Station of the Cross on the steep path to the chapel.

Stained glass in the chapel porch.

Early morning view over Saint-Maurice and the Rhône valley.

Entrance to the Grotte des Fées — the Fairy Grotto — above Saint-Maurice. I arrived as soon as it opened and was the only visitor. You walk through a damp and dripping passageway to an underground waterfall and lake. I was not ecstatic about the experience, felt slightly claustrophobic, and did not see any fairies!

On leaving Saint-Maurice . . .

. . . I passed one of the new pillars commemorating the 1500th anniversary of the abbey's foundation — which I wrote about here.

The church at Evionnaz.

This window drew my attention . . .

. . . as did this house, with its colourful flower troughs and neatly-stacked logs of wood.

Purple shutters and limestone cliffs. Just after this village — and I'm not sure which village it was — I came across a waterfall called the Cascade de Pissevache which, if I'm not mistaken, means the Pissing Cow. The Swiss (and most other Europeans for that matter) are refreshingly direct and descriptively honest — unlike certain middle-class English folk, who have a penchant for circumlocution and do not call a spade a spade. (Naturally, I exclude myself from such namby-pambyism, since I share the no-nonsense, clear-minded Orwellian preference for unpretentious speech and saying what you mean in as few words as possible!)  

In Martigny I asked about pilgrim accommodation in the Paroisse Catholique, and was asked to come back at 6 pm — at which time a Christian couple took me in their car to a gîte adjoining a church in Martigny Bourg. The photo shows the lodging, which was free (though I left a small donation). Not bad, is it? I was the only pilgrim staying there that night. I relaxed, had a shower, wrote up my journal, and was more than content.

I also made a meal from ingredients I found in the kitchen store cupboards: tinned tomatoes, tinned tuna, tinned pork and dried pasta.  

My bed in the gîte. I fell asleep in a state of excitement at the prospect of the impending climb up to the Great Saint Bernard Pass.

I had three hours to spare in the afternoon while waiting for my hosts, so I went to the tourist office, sought out some of Martigny's Roman remains, then decided to visit an exhibition of Renoir's paintings being held at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda. (This is a superb museum, with a sculpture park in the grounds where you can find work by Henry Moore, Hans Arp, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi and Eduardo Chillida among others, and a courtyard of mosaics by Marc Chagall.)

To find so many paintings by Renoir in one place, and to have time to look at them properly, completely bowled me over. I realised, not for the first time, how important it was to see that painting, or to hear that piece of music, in reality, in the flesh — an altogether different, and more precious and profound experience than flicking through reproductions in a book, buying a postcard or poster, or listening to a recording of some sonata or symphony. There is quite simply nothing to beat the visceral, emotional and spiritual impact of the original artefact or live performance, whether it be a painting, a sculpture, a musical work or any other artwork. I was overwhelmed by the exhibition, particularly by Renoir's landscapes. To spend time with these was a rare experience, and I relished it. The colours and textures of these amazing works were nothing like the pale imitations reproduced in thousands of books, postcards and computer images. (I've written before about this kind of aesthetic experience here, in relation to a Chagall exhibition at the Liverpool Tate.)

From top to bottom: L'Abreuvoir, Femme à l'Ombrelle dans un Jardin, Les Moissonneurs and Femme s'Essuyant la Jambe Droite. All these paintings were in the Renoir exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny.


am said...

The air is so clear. It is like going back in time.

That's so true about seeing and hearing in-person rather than via reproductions or recordings. That museum sounds like a treasure.

Richard Hughes said...

You're having what for me would be the experience of a lifetime. I'm glad you're sharing it.

Ruth said...

The view of the Rhône valley, the colorful flower boxes, the Renoir paintings, your simple lodgings and meals, all of these details cheer me on.

The Solitary Walker said...

The museum was wonderful, Am — especially the Renoir and the sculpture garden. Even the collection of shiny, beautifully maintained vintage cars in the basement had a certain appeal!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, Richard — and welcome to my blog.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ruth — thanks so much for this and all your other recent comments. So glad you're walking with me along this cheering path.