Looney Cluny

02.05.09

So, I am no longer the solo traveler, and I feel pretty ambivalent about that.  On the one hand, it’s nice to be reunited with some friends from home.  On the other hand, I sure loved traveling alone.  I had no idea it would be such an invigorating experience, that I would learn so much, and that I would be able to keep myself company, all the while making friends along the way.  I am truly filled with gratitude for the journey so far.

But phase two of my trip is upon me: I have met up with a group from back home in order for us to travel together to Taizé, France.  And, in preparation for that experience, we have arrived in Cluny, a picturesque French town that is haunted with Christian history.  During the Middle Ages, it was the site of an enormous monastery, the largest Christian building in the world until St. Peter’s Basilica was built in Rome.  But during the French Revolution, the building was nearly entirely demolished, and visitors of the town can wander around the ruins and wonder at the enormity of the structure that used to exist.

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When I arrived yesterday after a harrowing train-bus-hike adventure, I checked into the beautiful hotel (thankfully, knowing I wasn’t footing the bill!) and took a luxurious shower in my hotel room, one of those showers that feels like a wall of water rushing over your body.  But of course, the SECOND I turned off the water, the phone rang.  My group was here to meet me.  I rushed to get ready (after figuring out how to turn off the automatic hair dryer!), and I went downstairs to greet everyone, happy to play the quasi-French hostess for the rest of the day.

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A few members of the group went to catch up on some jet-lag sleep, but the adventurous ones came along with me to explore the ruins and make the all-important patisserie run.  I don’t think I can ever look at food the same way after making this trip through France.  Patisserie, boulengerie, cafe, or restaurant– the French have a way of making even the simplest of fare into works of art!  A croissant?  Voilà, on a plate of fine china with a paper-lace doily beneath it.  A cup of coffee?  Voilà, in a fragile cup with a saucer, a cookie, a mini-pitcher for cream, and a delicate spoon for blending.  Even a simple breakfast is an indulgent experience: grapefruit, brie, ham, cheese, oranges, bread, jam, honey, croissants, coffee, tea, prunes, and elegance to boot!

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It really is the small stuff in life that matters, the details that make all the difference.  We kid ourselves thinking that we must have only that which is grandiose or large-scale.  We look to celebrity culture as something toward which to aspire.

If only we’d open our eyes to the beauty of simplicity…

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