So yes, a strange time to be travelling but it was becoming a necessity as my husband, Goulwen, had not seen his mum since December 2019. And it is just the 2 of them so it was important that we got there. Between lockdowns, new ways of working and schedules it took that time to get us on our first plane trip to Goulwens home since the start of the pandemic. I won't lie, I was a little nervous but with a little sitting and being still I knew we would be ok. I am now much more chilled out than I used to be when it came to things I cannot control. I think the yoga over the years has helped with this. I always pick a mantra before I set out anywhere and use that when I feel myself moving into a place of worry or anxiety. This time it was "Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out".
I got us some N95 masks on the recommendation of a fellow traveler and these gave me a bit of a sense of security (and buckets of hand sanitiser too). Mask, phone, passport! And off we went.
Arriving in Charles De Gaulle airport was an assault on the senses! It was people watching overload as we waited for our connecting train to Guingamp in Brittany. Le TGV moving at 300km per hour. All good. To be honest, you can only do what you can do and leave the rest up to the gods. Again, some things we cannot control and may have to surrender a little and trust.
The town where Goulwen is from is very picturesque. It is originates in the medieval era and some of the houses look like they are from a fairytale. But there is one place I always try to visit to light a candle and that is the cathedral in the centre - Basilica of Notre Dame de Bon Secours. More so because it is devoted to a statue of the Black Madonna which refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a black woman. There are a few of these statues in France but not so many in the rest of Europe. They reckon they are from Byzantium times. How we ended up thinking that a women from the Middle East was white is altogether strange. Anyway, it is a lovely statue and I always find the silence and stillness in the place where she resides almost palpable. And then! It turns out the book I am reading written by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter mentions the statues ( Travelling with Pomegranates) and in her other book The Secret Life of Bees also has the main characters as devotees to a Black Madonna too. Oh and there are more co-inky-dinks to come!!!
So, a great time was had catching up, eating amazing food (Armelle, G's mum is a great cook) and drinking even more amazing wine. We got to go to the seaside town of Paimpol and eat ice cream like kids, walk in forests, hike along the coast, meet up with friends and relatives.
Then onto Paris, back on the TGV - Lordy it goes fast but is so comfortable. As part of my never ending birthday celebrations we were spending a few days in Paris. It is one of my most favourites places to be. I love the area around Montmartre and we were lucky to stay on a quiet street just around the corner from the buzz of Abbesses.
We bought tickets online to go the Lourve. I had been before in my 20's but I had wanted Goulwen to experience the great sense of anti climax on seeing the Mona Lisa! Ha! It's small! But we had great conversations about it - is it Rembrant himself, was she his mistress etc etc. Still a great museum to visit and cooler than the heat outside.
Came across a new diety too - everyday is a school day as they say. We were in the Egyptian rooms ( how they managed and got away with transporting/plundering all the stuff back to Europe is a feat in itself) and noticed this fella - Bes. He is the ancient Egyptian god of childbirth, fertility, sexuality, humor, and war. A protector of pregnant women and children. He is regularly depicted as a little person with large ears, long-haired and bearded, with prominent genitals, and bow-legged. I mean what's not to love! Apparently he loves a good party too, with lots of music and dancing.
He was often positioned at gates for protection and almost always appears outside of birth houses. He was also a popular image used in household goods such as mirrors, cosmetic cases, on furniture, and as knife handles.
The area of Montmartre is steeped in history. It was the main hang out of many artists like Van Gogh and Degas to name but a few back in the day. It is close to the home of the Can-Can dance. And it was originally in the countryside with vineyards and windmills. There were 14 in total with 2 surviving. What a sight to see in the middle of the city.
So more great food and wine and meeting of friends in Paris too! You would think I would be tired and ready for home but no. Home for a couple of days to help celebrate a friends wedding that had been previously postponed and then off to Greece. That is for part 2!
While I appreciate this last 2 years has been extremely hard for a lot of people, I wanted to write this and let people know that it feels safe to travel, that it is important too. Not just to connect and see loved ones again but to help us embody being in different spaces, seeing and experiencing the wonders of life and culture.
Lots to tell you of the pomegranates next...