JWG (jwg) wrote,

Arrangements for the trip to France all made

Everything is done. Plane reservations to Paris/CDG and return from Toulouse on AirFrance (with Delta flight number), TGV from CDG to Saint Pierre des Corps (a suburb of Tours). It is convenient that there is a train station in the airport terminal. Car rental at Saint Pierre des Corps and return at Toulouse (actually I have two of these - will cancel one after I do bit of location checking). Three nights each at Hotel Ibis Centre in Blois, Hotel Sainte Foy in Conques, and le Lion d'Or in Rocamadour.

We got a new french road atlas. It is too heavy to take, but since it is spiral bound we can remove the useful pages. My overall map of France is 35 years old and it doesn't all the highways on it so I might replace it. I also have a similar vintage map of Blois. It looks like our hotel had a different name then.

Blois has a pretty nice chateau close to the hotel and it is near many others; we haven't yet decided which ones to take in but we can be flexible. It is useful on these trips to have an approximate plan of what is to be done when.

The drive from Blois to Conques will be about 6 hours, probably not taking any side trips. This past sunday on the front page of the Boston Globe Travel section was a picture of the statue of Ste Foy and a long article about Conques. This was quite a surprise. This will be my fourth visit to Conques - it is popular among French tourists but I've never seen another American there but I've not gone in the summer.

Conques has attracted travelers for more than a thousand years, and not only for its views. It is an important stop along one of the great medieval pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the martyred Apostle St. James, Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain.

It was not always home to St. Foy, who was from the neighboring village of Agen. Foy, whose name means "faith," was only a girl when she was martyred in the fourth century by a Roman proconsul. In the 9th century, the saint's renown as a miracle worker attracted the jealousy of the Benedictine abbey in Conques. A monk from the abbey stole the saint's remains from Agen and brought them to Conques in a "small sack that was very clean," according to an account of the era. It was this theft of holy relics that put the village on the pilgrimage map.

Conques is dramatically set in an enclosure of mountains that resembles a conch shell, or so thought Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, when he named this place. Around every corner is a new view of mountain and gorge. The Abbey Church of St. Foy dominates the village. Not far from the church is an ancient fountain, mentioned in Liber Sancti Jacobi, a 12th-century travel guide in Latin that could be read by educated clergy. The guidebook recommends the fountain's waters to thirsty pilgrims.

I stroll past a "sechoir," a small stone storehouse of the type used for centuries to preserve vegetables. During the French Revolution, the villagers hid the abbey's reliquaries in their sechoirs, saving the holy objects from zealots who were raiding church treasuries and melting the metal into coins. Conques is distinguished from other medieval churches in France in that much of its treasury is intact instead of lost or consigned to a distant art museum.

RocamadourRocamadour has a small medieval village on the top of a hill. It is a popular tourist site. Nearby are some other spectacular villages that we'll vist and we'll go to some caves as well. It's only a couple of hours by car to get to the Toulouse airport from Rocamadour and probably about 3 hrs from Conques to Rocamadour. Some more pictures of Rocamadour

I've ordered extra memory and battery for my camera (Panasonic DMC-FZ7) that I bought late in February. I like it. It has 12x optical telephoto, cost under $400, is pretty fast and not too big or heavy. I'll have 1.5 gig of memory which should be good for 500-1000 pictures. I'm not taking a laptop but if I take too many pictures there is always conversion to CD-ROM at a photo store (although there won't be any such in Rocamadour or Conques).

Sadly, I don't remember much high school french - not uncommon for someone who is about to attend his 50th high school reunion. Knowing most of the lyrics from Carmen and a few Fauré songs won't be much help .

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