Sunday, 16 June 2013
L' Abbaye de Beauport
Today my Black Dog has appeared, snarling and snapping and sapping my energy. He's an occasional and very unwelcome visitor, he usually shows up when I've been working too hard and neglecting my needs, and no matter how much I try to tame him, when he's around it's always tough. So, while I'm wrestling with him, I'm going to write about a day in July 2007, partly to break the silence, and partly to remind myself that tomorrow the sun will shine again....
L'Abbey de Beauport
On Friday Brittany was treated to a dazzlingly sunny day brushed by the kind of bakingly hot wind that brings to mind Saharan dunes and the bleached bones of long-dead animals...
The heat in the village was intense, by midday it seemed as if the glare of the sun had leached the colour from the flowers in the tubs around the mairie, flies hovered and buzzed and a haze shimmered and danced above the road
My zen friend CG and I had been talking of taking a trip to visit the Abbaye de Beauport at Paimpol, so yesterday, to escape the heat, we headed north to the coast.
At this time of year, and when the sun shines, Brittany is intensely colourful.
There are thickly wooded valleys of rich shades of green through which the road winds under dappled shade. Grey-brown granite cottages or bright cream modern Breton villas, decorated with pots and tubs and boxes of tumbling red geraniums, sit in flower-filled, fragrant gardens.
Patchwork fields of maize, their leaves glossy green spears, mellow yellow stretches of rippling wheat and lush pastures with contented cows grazing and dozing and lazily tail-flicking flies.
Small villages clustered round a medieval church display brightly painted posters announcing their Fest Noz, a crèpe soirée, a concert of harp music or the exhibition of someone's artistic aspirations. And then, suddenly, like a jewel uncovered in the bottom of a box of brass buttons, there is the sea...
On such a day the sea is a brilliant azure blue.
Almost too blue to be real.
As we twisted and turned following the winding road, we kept catching tantalising glimpses of the distant sea and each time we called out excitedly, "It's SO blue!"
I thought that I had seen everything beautiful that Brittany has to offer during the drive to Paimpol but when we entered the abbey grounds we were met by this perfect picture...
The most beautiful flower meadow that I have ever seen outside of an impressionist painting
We sank to our knees and drank in the beauty of the flowers, the sound of bees buzzing, bird singing, the muted voices of other visitors.
And then we wandered off to explore...
Inside the abbey...
Probably the most beautiful and cherished 'ruin' that I have ever explored, and I have, trust me, explored my fair share of ruins!
Even without the vaulted roof, the soaring columns and stained glass windows my eyes were drawn to heaven
Even now, an empty shell, the abbey is filled with an intense feeling of spirituality, as if the prayers of hundreds of years had been absorbed and held by the solid stones.
Wandering, mostly in silence, we felt calm and soothed and at peace.
During the darkest, most desperate days of the Middle Ages, when famine was rife and pestilence stalked the land, when life was short, mean and hard, people sought safety and security in these abbeys and monasteries.
Today, when we are starved for Time and stress stalks us, when life is frenetic and unsatisfying, it seems that people again seek the safety and security of holy places.
Plus ça change...
We left the abbey and drove into Paimpol in search of refreshing drinks and ice cream at a table by the harbour.
An orange pressée, sweet, freshly-squeezed juice over clinking cubes of ice to quench our thirsts as we sat and watched the world pass by.
This is Brittany at her best...