Where in the World is Jillo?

Day 9
Today we had a little time to revisit the grotto at Lourdes and then we departed for Albi. On a side note, pilgrims at Lourdes were evacuated due to the most rainfall and flooding in 40 years. Most of the area in the lower town was evacuated and the majority of the sanctuary of Lourdes was closed. This was reported by ABC News on Oct. 21. We were lucky to have been there when we were and it rained almost all the time we were there, the river which runs right beside the grotto was high, but not that high.
In Albi we visited a church that took a monk 17 years to paint the interior. It was different than the other churches in that the painting in the interior was very dark. It was intricate, but dark.  In the rear of the church was a museum that housed different aspects of the Catholic ritual items, vestments and such.  There was a caretaker that gave us a tour and explained the things in the museum.
From here we moved on to Notre Dame La Dreche, which was a very beautiful church and the grounds also were beautiful. After viewing the church we went down a hill to an old Roman well and a garden where we rested for a bit.  Some sat with their feet in the water of the well and relaxed and imagined those who came before us and what they might have talked about or thought at this beautiful spot. It was a very peaceful place.
This was the last day that Horst was with us. He had to leave on business late in the day. It would have been so wonderful to have experienced the rest of the trip with him, however, Nina continued with us the whole trip.
Day 10
Today we spent six hours on the road driving to Chartres.  Since there were nine of us in a van, someone had to sit in the middle in front… right where the shift and hump were located. Not a lot of room for your legs. We had taken turns riding up in front in the middle. Well, a couple of the people didn’t want to ride up there for one reason or another, so a couple of us had two turns.  I was asked if I would ride up front for the six hour drive to Chartres. I agreed because I love road trips and I love sitting in front and seeing everything that goes on and hassling the driver. Since the driver had requested my presence AND the other passengers insisted I sit there as they did not want a repeat of the hairpin ride going side to side up the mountain, I agreed. Oh, it’s lovely to be wanted. My leg was rather cramped by the end of that ride!! It was not an eventful ride. Everyone but Finbarr, Nina and myself were asleep almost the whole way. There was a method to their madness all right.
We walked to dinner that night past the beautiful Chartres Cathedral. It was mammoth. I thought it must be what Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris must look like. On the way we ran into Tim Wallace Murphy, the man who’d spoken to us on the first part of our trip. So, Finbarr invited him back to the hotel to talk to us again. He has about 15 books out and I bought his latest one from him, “Hidden Wisdom”. He is a wealth of knowledge on all the things we were learning on the tour.
Morning came and we all gathered at Chartres to walk the labyrinth. Before hand, there was a beautiful little garden adjacent to the Cathedral that we spied on the way by.  Finbarr and AhNa decided it would be a good place to have a meditation and prepare ourselves before we walked the labyrinth. They told us there would be a man there called EVE. Mary Magdalene appeared to him many years ago and ever since he has come to the cathedral every day and stays all day handing out flowers to whomever Mary Magdalene tells him. I found it fascinating, but would not realize how powerful the story is until we were actually in the center of the labyrinth.
I read a book about this labyrinth last spring that was given to me by a new friend I’d met who had been on this tour two years ago. She said it was one of the most awesome experiences she’d ever had when she walked it. The book is based on the prayer, The Our Father.  I loaned the book to someone and I can’t remember the name or the author.
We were told to think of a mantra to say as we walked the path and to ask a question we wanted answered. If you’d like to know more about the labyrinth, I suggest you look up Chartres Cathedral labyrinth so you understand its importance. Many of our group were one behind the other as we began the walk. As I neared the center I felt something and opened my eyes to see my friend, Coleen holding a huge bouquet of flowers and she was crying. I suddenly realized that EVE had been told to give her the whole bouquet.  She was overcome. Now the thing I need to mention is that there are hundreds and hundreds of people walking the labyrinth each Friday, so only a very few get a flower let alone the whole bouquet. Finbarr said it’s the first time in 11 years he’s ever seen it happen. EVE does not buy the flowers, he picks them and brings them.  After Coleen left the circle, he did ask for the bouquet back and gave her a flower so that he could continue giving out the flowers from his bouquet as he was directed.
My concentration was really strong on what I was doing as I neared the center. I had my hands out toward Nina who was in the center. As we stood there meditating, I felt something in between my thumb and forefinger. I opened my eyes to see a flower and then I looked at Nina and she had one too! It was unimaginable that three in our group got flowers. Our whole group was so excited for Coleen, for we knew she had something special before she even received the flowers. There is much more that happened in that labyrinth center, but that stays with the group.
It was here, in Chartres that we gathered for dinner in a very small upstairs part of a small café after our visit to Chartres Cathedral. Previous to walking to dinner, some of us gathered by the fireplace in the lobby of the hotel and decided to have a glass of wine. Interestingly enough, I found that the French only pour a small amount of wine into a glass where we are used to pouring much more. The wine was very good and as more of the group joined us, more glasses of wine were consumed. Now perhaps the amount of wine poured into the glass might have something to do with its potency, I would learn that this evening. Three glasses sitting with friends and awaiting our walk to the French café’ was a wonderful relaxing time. (I felt it really did wonders for my cramped leg from the six hour ride in the front middle seat, even though that was the day before.)
When our leader arrived, we all began the short trek to our destination. As we climbed the stairs to the “loft” we all remarked how intimate it was with only a few tables. The table I sat at had five chairs. When they decided to order wine by the bottle, Karen said we needed to order two bottles as you can’t get four glasses of wine out of a bottle. I thought this a great idea, even though I had no idea how many glasses one could get out of a bottle.  Karen poured the French amount in each glass. I saw Finbarr lean over to Karen and say something, but I did not know until later what that was. This wine seemed just as good as what we had consumed at the hotel, maybe even better.
With the laughing and talking and the amount of time it took them to bring our food, another glass was empty. Since the bottle was sitting beside me, I helped myself to an “American amount.” The laughter continued and the food tasted very good that night, although the food in France was not my favorite.
As everyone finished and began to leave, there were just a few of us walking back together. Finbarr had gone on ahead to get things ready for a discussion of our experiences at the cathedral. As we got out into the air, I felt very happy to be with my new friends enjoying the awesomeness of the day’s experience. I did not think that perhaps the “French amount” in a glass was there for a reason. I would learn that the next day as I sat in the lobby in the same chair where I had enjoyed the wine the night before, pondering why people were asking me how I was feeling this morning. I was feeling wonderful. Alas, those were the last glasses of wine I had in France.
Day 11
Today we boarded a bus to take us into Paris and the vans were left behind. This was the first day we all traveled in the same vehicle. It seemed rather odd, all of us riding together after all this time. This day was Finbarr’s birthday, so Peter began the bus ride by asking us all what special day it was and we all sang Happy Birthday to him.
As we drove into Paris, Peter and Finbarr pointed out different points of interest to us.  We could see the Eiffel Tower but they told us it was much farther away than it looked. It was not on our agenda due to time, but some of the group stayed an extra day in Paris and did go to see it, but did not go up as the wait was horribly long.
Our hotel was quite close to the Louvre and the River Seine and we walked to the Louvre to view as much as we wanted and then we had free time. The glass pyramid that one saw in the movie the “DaVinci Code” was a popular spot for photos and was the entrance to the museum. I elected to go to the Egyptian room after Finbarr had shown us some of the things on the tour. I have been drawn lately to things about Egypt, so I thought this would be the best place to visit for me.
Two of our group decided to go view Notre Dame Cathedral instead of touring the Louvre. They viewed the ordination of five transitional deacons. Neither of them were Catholic but they knew and felt it was a really important ceremony.
We viewed the Church of San Sulpice and learned more of the Magdalene Line. The Rose Line marker that we saw on our walk to the Louvre was also prominent in the church. There was a window where there was a small clear piece in the stained glass that when the sun shone through it lit up the golden line going across the church. The energy was tremendous there.
That evening we had our last dinner together. We celebrated Finbarr’s birthday and said goodbye to those we would not see in the morning.  Some of us decided to walk down to the River Seine. As we walked across the bridge we noticed that there were padlocks everywhere on the bridge. Finbarr told us that couples go there and put a padlock on the grids and write a date when they have committed to one another. It was wonderful to see young people on the bridge playing music, talking, having some wine and just enjoying life. They were not rowdy, just young and enjoying life.
France, you have followed me home. I hear you calling and know that one day I will return to your countryside to learn more. Carcassonne, I will walk your streets once more and hear your whispers of things that happened in your corridors.

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