Where in the World is Jillo?

Day 3
Today we visited the town of Avignon, an ancient city of Cathars and Popes.  We visited the 12th century Cathedral of Notre Dame de Doms which was the 14th century Papal palace. I didn’t even know the Papal palace had ever been anywhere besides Rome. So much history here that is still viewable and touchable. It is a great asset on my journey to find the truth.
I had not heard of the Cathars until last year. It is such an interesting story and makes much more sense when viewed first hand where it all happened. Cathars were a religion unto themselves. There was an attempt to unite the Cathars and the Catholic Church, but it failed and wars were fought with the Cathars in their impenetrable strongholds such as Montsegur, a seminary and citadel of their last resistance.
We viewed the Catholic churches and the artwork within and without. There were many hidden symbols in the churches which were explained as we toured them. There were symbols of the Templars in concrete blocks in the floor, in artwork painted on walls, some which had just been uncovered before we arrived. Also in the churches we found statues and artwork and eagles, another symbol which is not present in Catholic churches in the states. Another one, the many representations of X, which is a symbol for Mary Magdelene. It was almost like walking through the pages of “The Davinci Code.”
Day 4
Up and into the Mercedes vans for a trek to Minerve, the place of Cathar burning where 150 ‘Parfaits’ (purists) were burned as heretics on the feast day of Mary Magdelene in 1210. There was a huge stone with a dove chiseled out of it that held the date. It was still all in tact. Finbarr guided us down to the dry river bottom (in May it had been full) where the Cathars walked voluntarily into the fire rather than renounce their beliefs. It was quite an experience to stand in the same spot where these people who believed so strongly gave their lives. It truly was a sacred spot and all of us could feel it. There was a well nearby which also was said to have curative powers. As we did our meditation for the day on this ground, standing in a circle and holding hands there was no wind. But all at once it felt as if a horse ran past us inside the circle. It was really a vibrant feeling. One of my fellow travelers was moving her toe in the sandy ground and uncovered a perfect heart shaped rock. Now there was a sign for all of us. As we climbed back up the hillside to the street, the view of life was breathtaking and beautiful. The truth will not be silenced.
When we were finished there we spent time in the beautiful art colony at Aigne. It was here that something interesting happened to me. Finbarr took us to a little tiny shop where an older lady made jewelry and painted. I had no thought of buying anything, in fact I didn’t even have money with me. As I looked in a little shelf I saw a unique ring which I picked up and tried on… to my amazement it fit perfectly. Rings are always too small for me.
Peter, one of the facilitators, came by me and stopped suddenly. He said, “Do you know what that is?” I replied that I didn’t. He proceeded to tell me that it was a star ruby and that the significance of it was Divine Grace. He told me that considering the message I had received earlier, this ring was meant for me to find. As I listened to him give me more information, the rest of the group began to gather around and all nodded that is was definitely meant for me.
When I said I had no money, Horst, a man from Austria in our group produced the money for the ring. I said, “Does this mean we’re engaged?  I’d love to adopt Nina,” his daughter who was also on the tour. We all had a good laugh as Nina said she’d love to have a second mom. When I approached Finbarr with what Peter had told me, he said that yes it was connected to the message I’d gotten. So now I have a ring of Divine Grace. Things are beginning to piece together.
Day 5
Today was very special as we explored the Old City of Carcassonne, the still intact fortified medieval city of the Cathars. In 600 BC, Carcassonne was a major commercial and ceremonial center for the Celts/Druids and the Phoenicians. I was in love with this place from the moment I saw it from the balcony of my hotel! We walked up a long ways to reach it and it was worth every step.
A city within a castle wall, within a wall. Wow!  Carcassonne, I believe I loved you lifetimes ago and spent hours wandering your twisty, winding corridors of activity. The place was full of people and it was a welcoming experience which I did so enjoy. We all had dinner in a small café… well, all the places we went in France had small cafés… they are so intimate and fun.
It was in Carcassonne in the old city that I enjoyed the shops. I purchased an amethest pendant and immediately put it on to wear close to my heart. It was also here that I spotted a cross, a cross I had never seen before until the night before coming to France. I did not actually see the cross, but I envisioned it. So, as I fingered the cross and marveled at the fact that here was one right in my hand, I asked what it was.  It was the Cathar cross.  I had to have one. In fact, one of the other travelers bought one for me too after hearing me tell the story. I didn’t know what it meant, but perhaps it would be revealed later in my journey.
We traveled through the Black Mountains later that day on a beautiful winding drive. There was a bit of tension in our van and I volunteered to drive, but was told I was not on the insurance, so I couldn’t. I’d have loved to have stomped on the gas (it was a diesel) and swung wildly around the hairpin curves throwing passengers left, then right to relieve the tension but there was only one person that got to do that.
Somehow, the others weren’t nearly as thrilled with the ride as I was. I’d have been even happier if I’d been allowed to drive. Finbarr alone got to feel the thrill of being in control of the nine passenger, loaded to the gills, screaming machine. Later he told me with a smile, maybe he’d let me drive next year. The two vans following went the normal speed.
And so we ended our day in a quiet little village called Quillen.

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