As usual, PJ and I landed in Paris and headed straight for Vézelay to see the Basilique Sainte Madeleine and to stay at the welcoming Crispol hotel. We settled in Room 10, unpacked our gear, looked across the valley at the basilica, and then went to dinner. We immediately feel at home; Paule is our kind-hearted host and she never fails to make us feel like family. A bottle of Irancy wine and we were settled in France, ready for a good night’s sleep and then our adventure would begin.
We spent most of the day driving around in the countryside – at first we were going to photograph at the Église Notre Dame in Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay, but it was closed during the time we were there because it was getting a facelift. The restoration will take two years and we can’t wait to see the results.
We drove to nearby Asquins to get a photograph of the Église Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur with Sainte Madeleine in the distant background. We got the shot and will post that soon.
But since we were in Asquins, we went to the epicenter of town activity, the Cafe Les Hirondelles at the entrance to town. In the 45 minutes of so that we were there, the Hirondelles had a steady stream of customers. Two men men bought gas. Two more men came in and each had a beer. PJ had a Ricard and I had a beer.
As we enjoyed our afternoon libation, we played two games of fussball … I won, incidentally 9-3 and 10-2. PJ insists that I mention that it was the first time she ever played. As if that is any kind of excuse. After the game we each ordered a coffee while the customers continued to pour in. A kid about 12 years old sat at the bar and had a Fanta Orange, a man in his 40’s bought a lolly pop for 35 centimes and another man bought a tin of tobacco for rolling his own cigarettes. A young couple came in and she had a virgin kir (cassis and club soda) and he ordered a beer while they sat outside.
The woman who has owned the cafe for 18 years is Danish and previously owned a cafe in Paris. This just about sold us on living in Asquins. PJ said, “This is the pace of life I want.” There was not a cell phone to be seen, everyone was friendly. We walked down to the local pitch (adjacent to the pastures of Charollais cattle) and watched the AS Asquins team practicing for their next game.
Now it was time to pay our visit to the basilica atop the Vézelay hill, our favorite Romanesque church in the world. Madeleine was beautiful, but strangely enough, we did not shoot this year. We just sat inside and enjoyed the magnificence of the church.
Then we returned the the Crispol for a wonderful dinner (finished by two marcs each – we bought one and Paule sent us to our room with the second). The sun set behind the basilica and we felt that our first full day in France was quite productive and we are anxious to continue with our photography.
Today we left Vézelay, far too early and made our way down to the Ardeche. We stopped for lunch in Cluny at Le Rochefort where I had my favorite andouilette in the world, then made our way south. Wednesday we meet Nathan Mizrachi in Valence. More on that visit and the first of our churches in a later post.
Location: 47.466317° 3.749021°