Researching our 2017 trip (Dennis Aubrey)


PJ and I are now a mere 10 weeks from leaving for Europe and the excitement mounts as the preparations intensify. We have been diligently researching our target areas for the Romanesque gems that delight us. There are many places on the internet, both amateur and official Patrimony sites, where we glean the information. How do we collate it all? Since the very beginning of the Via Lucis project in 2007 we have used Google Earth as the repository of information. Except for a few glitches, it has worked beautifully – as you can see from this map, we are able to track both the churches that we intend to photograph (with the orange icons) and the ones that we have photographed (red icons).

Google Earth database of churches

Google Earth database of churches

Each individual marker contains information on the churches that is important for our research – descriptions from the sponsoring Patrimony organization (in France, this would be the Patrimoine de France), relevant descriptions from expert sources (like the famed Éditions Zodiaque), links to other sites, and photographs. We often include address information (even though the icons are precisely placed over the chancel crossing of every church, if possible) and hours and rules of visitation.

Google Earth entry detail

Google Earth entry detail

We have also been developing the same database for Romanesque churches in England, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Those are, of course, much less exhaustive than the French database. Our French Gothic database is also under early stages of construction. If these seem like exhaustive databases, consider the real numbers. Our French database consists of about 1080 Romanesque churches, which represents less than 25% of the total number found in the country.

Based on these maps, we plan our itinerary for each trip. There are a couple of provisos – we must always stop in Lacave in the Lot to stay (and eat) at the Pont de l’Ouysse. As I have mentioned before, this is my omphalos, the center of my spiritual universe and I have gone there every trip since 1986. The Pont de l’Ouysse is always our “splurge” place but it is worth every penny. Second, we must stay at the Crispol in Vézelay. Vézelay is critical, of course, because of the presence of the magnificent Basilique Sainte Madeleine on top of the hill. But we must also go because across the valley is the Crispol hotel, run by the equally magnificent Paule Schori. She is a force of nature and has become a dear friend. We are so delighted to be spending three days with her again this year.

Hotel Crispol

Hotel Crispol

Finally, we are making one small two-day detour that has nothing to do with Romanesque churches at all. We are going to drive from Sisteron in the Provence through the old Alpine roads to the tiny Italian town of Chiomonte. Why would we do this? Part of it is to drive the old roads that I remember from my childhood. Chiomonte is known for the seven old fountains that adorned the chemin royal of the country. But our reason to visit is the Ristorante e Affittacamere Al Cantoun. The restaurant is a small building in an old private square. The young chef is Paolo Aiello and his Piemontese cooking is spectacular. We stayed there on our way into Italy in 2015 and again on our way back to France – we can get as excited about finding a great new restaurant as an old Romanesque church!

Ristorante Al Cantoun, Chiomonte

Ristorante Al Cantoun, Chiomonte

So the trip is planned, the lodging all booked, car reserved, airplane tickets purchased. We land in Paris on April 19 and go directly to Chartres, where we will spend two days photographing the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres. More on that in the next post!

18 responses to “Researching our 2017 trip (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. Ah, food! Restaurants, and more food. Having dined at your table, we know how exquisite your tastes are. Wish we could join you for the churches, inns, and restaurants. If only . . . . Looks like a wonderful trip!

    • Yuri, it is so nice to hear from you again. One of the things I missed the most from the inactivity associated with our move to Ohio was the conversations with our Via Lucis correspondents.

  2. Dennis, Nine years ago I battled cancer of the throat, and the radiation treatments greatly compromised my ability to tolerate solid food. I live on Ensure, and am now very healthy, although I miss enjoying the finer things in the food arena. Reading your accounts of restaurants is almost as enjoyable for me as reading about the magnificent churches. Please keep them coming. Vicariously, I eat right along with you and enjoy every morsel Thank you, and Bon Voyage… Vann Helms

    • Vann, so glad that you came through the battle successfully. Will try to elicit sympathetic food responses and not jealousy! Nice to hear from you again. Such a pleasure to be posting again.

  3. Bon yoyage and bon appetite! I look forward to joining you on this promising adventure, via my little laptop, of course, but definitely in high spirit. All the best!

  4. What a promise of a wonderful harvest of pictures ,encounters…../Chiomonte,is it anywhere near the Mercantour..?
    I’ll follow you in thoughts and whatever you post in your blog.Have a very good trip!Forget about the problems on earth.
    Ivette Bauthiere

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