We left Paris at 7:30 am, taking a taxi to the Bercy Gare and, doubtless because of only getting three hours of sleep, I failed to pack my camera although I did not realize it until Saturday. Train stations in Europe are much more palatable than in the US; we got croissants and I had tea at the Gare, then we jumped on our train to Auxerre St Gervais, which took about two hours. Despite warnings about showing our printed tickets, no conductor showed his or her face so we couldn’t ask about the next leg, so I was surprised to find out we were to transfer to a bus to Sermizelles Vézelay. Those who know my mother's desire to always arrive early will understand why I did not tell her we only had 8 minutes to switch trains. Admittedly, it was challenging to (a) find out we actually were not looking for a train but a bus and (b) get up the stairs with our luggage and outside the train station to find said bus in a timely manner. Still, all’s well that ends well, and our reward at the end of the hour-long bus ride was to find a shuttle bus waiting to take us the last few kilometers to Vézelay. I had been quite sure we would be let off in a field of sunflowers with no humans in sight and two misbehaving iPhones!
Next, we went to the Abbey. The rain had mostly stopped while we were eating and the town was filling up with tourists or pilgrims, all of whom seemed to be French or German. The Abbey was definitely magnificent but not what I expected – no stained glass windows, for example, and only one tower although most churches are symmetrical. We liked it very much, however, although maybe were less impressed by the relics in the crypt attributed to Mary Magdalene. I texted my brother to find out if he believed the story on the Abbey wall that she spent her latter years in France but he did not respond. I sent him a video of the relics as well. He wanted to name his daughter Mary Magdalene but. fortunately. my sister-in-law declined and that niece is named after the Little Flower instead (I just asked my mother why we didn’t include a jaunt to Lisieux and she said it’s in Normandy – wrong part of France. Well, you can’t do everything!). We went back to the Abbey at 6 pm for Vespers. The singers were two men (priests? Brothers?) and mostly nuns (some very old and some fairly young) wearing shapeless habits, head coverings that looked vaguely eastern, and sneakers! The music was good but it was hard to follow in the French prayer books because I am not good at deciphering French numbers so was always flipping pages trying to find the right hymn. Finally, I gave up and just listened. There were about 40 or so in attendance.
Some guidebook had warned me to book dinner before reaching Vezelay and I had secured a reservation at a restaurant affiliated with our hotel. This was very satisfying because they’d put up a sign saying they were full! In good weather, the outdoor tables are almost sacrilegiously touching distance of the Abbey but it was really chilly so we ate inside. After showing our Covid cards, they let us inside. It was a very nice restaurant and we looked a bit worse for wear after our day in the rain but we held our heads high. I had Boeuf Bourguignon and my mother had a ham and mushroom special with pretty orange sauce. I also ordered a chocolate and raspberry dessert that was good but not as good as one my sister Andrea makes!
|We almost missed the back view of the Abbey!|
|The narrow stairs to my loft|