I’m back from my mini weekend vacation to Rocamadour and the neighbouring town, Padirac, and Lord have mercy, I’m so glad that the universe brought me there! I would have never, ever known of such a place and when visiting the South of France, I don’t think it would have been a place I considered. But from the moment the taxi drove me around the corner and pointed to a cliff-side that literally had buildings carved into it, my breath was stolen and I knew this would be an experience full of wonder.
Firstly, you know I’m a big hippie and I’ve got my spiritual connections and a lot of you probably think it’s a bunch of hoopla, so in order to not weird you out, I’ve written a big chunk of the spiritual aspect on a separate page and will link it, later. But to add a little spirituality to this post: Ravens/Crows are my spirit guides and the day that I was meant to take the train to Rocamadour, I woke up to crows outside my window, I passed two Ravens hopping alongside me as I walked to the station, and, unrelated to my bird friends, I met a woman who said Rocamadour changed her spiritual life, and she couldn’t believe I said I was going because most people don’t even know what it is.
Anyway! Let’s break down the days:
Technically it’s more like “night one” because my train arrived at 8:20pm. I’m grateful that the sun was just beginning to set and my first sights of Rocamadour was with the sun highlighting its beauty.
I was staying at “Lion D’or” which was an all-around amazing experience. Firstly, their administration desk for check-in is normally only open till 8pm. I contacted them and let them know that I would be arriving at the station after 8, and they were kind enough to inform me that only a single taxi runs in the entire town and that I needed to call to book ahead! My heroes! They then remained late for a very quick and easy check-in where they also said breakfast could be provided for an extra 8EUROS a day (and it was worth it – buffet of classic European breakfast with endless coffee) and told me I would be in their second building which was just outside of the medieval gate that begins the town.
Unfortunately, their free wireless internet doesn’t reach from the main building to the secondary building, but I never went to the desk to complain because the rest of my experience was too lovely. The young lady working there even gave me a “good morning” every time she saw me walking along the street. The rooms were small, but for the little time you spend in there, they were perfect: clean, newly renovated washrooms and floors, and it’s just such a convenient location and great price compared to other hotels in Rocamadour (my single room was 45EUROS a night).
After checking in, I quickly dropped off my extra bag and started to sprint through the town to get a feel for it before the sun set completely. Restaurants were bustling, streets felt safe, and I sprinted up all 216 steps to the Black Madonna to catch my first glimpse of this miracle-working woman. I arrived with very strange and perfect timing because just as I sat down, a group of priests dressed in very classic Orthodox robes walked in and began to sing for an evening liturgy. I followed along as best as I could with the little prayer booklets they gave me. It was magical and a beautiful way to end my first night! I actually returned the next night to try and catch another liturgy but it didn’t happen – I just got lucky.
Day two was an opportunity for me to wake up with this town. I got up extra early because I knew that this place can get rather “touristy” on weekends, and I’m so glad I did. I got to experience a practically empty Rocamadour.
Because this 10th-century town is built into a cliff, a lot of walking is required and the majority of it is up-hill (until you’re headed back down to your hotel, of course). This is another reason that I’m grateful I left early in the morning as it was still cool and the walk wasn’t as deadly as I anticipated.
When you’re walking through a small, ancient European town in the early hours of the morning when few are awake, every discovery you make and sight you see feels like it’s intimately yours. You feel like an explorer that has come across things that no one ever had the opportunity to see before; like the wonders you’re witnessing are for your eyes only. It’s beyond inspiring. Every corner had me gasping. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
I walked all the way up the cliff into the main “downtown” core of Rocamadour because I knew there was a grotto that I wanted to check out. I passed by but noticed it didn’t open till 10h30 and I still had an hour and a half to go. So, I just began to explore. And that’s when I discovered that the chateau (castle) that I noticed at the peak of Rocamadour was right in front of me! And there was no one there! Absolutely thrilling to stand on the very edge of a 10th-century castle, looking down at a city below, hearing just the sound of church bells and morning birds, all by one’s lonesome. It was like a dream.
By the time I walked back, I was able to visit the grotto in Rocamadour. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed as they said it wears away at the 20,000-year-old paintings that are on the wall. The grotto was very small but magical, nonetheless. The guide was enthusiastic to explain in French (it’s a good thing I understand a bit) but not so enthusiastic to translate for the English-speaking German tourist present (“I will only translate the main points, I don’t have time to tell you everything,”) and she got quite annoyed with me when I tried to whisper a little explanation to help the tourist out in understanding. Ah, the French. You have to laugh.
The grotto requires a bit of imagination, as the shapes they see with the paint are… curious, to say the least. But it’s still cool to think that man was here that long ago and wanted to leave messages to those who came afterward.
Following the grotto visit, I walked back down to Rocamadour and had a delicious and reasonably priced lunch (for a tourist destination!) at a restaurant in the middle of the town: 18EUROS for 1 half-pint of beer, a ginormous plate of Tagliatelle in a mushroom cream sauce, with warm goat cheese on bread, and then a coffee. And while eating, I wrote! Here’s what I wrote:
“Maybe I have been here before – walked these ancient streets. I wonder about this cobblestone beneath my feet. Has it been felt before? Could I have lived here? Could I live here, now? Could this small and sacred town be the home of my endless inspiration and my growth as a writer?
A wasp bumps into my carafe de l’eau and I feel the same confusion – searching in a reflection of reality, to far away places for what feels most right, most like home. Waiting for a miracle that reveals my soul-purpose.
I don’t know that it’s Ontario. I don’t know that it’s teaching. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know – but I don’t feel that it is…
Has my gut ever lead me astray before? No. It has been my greatest guide. Wiser than my mind, than my heart. Both having me be a slave to emotion… and yet, is not inspiration driven by emotion?
I am so confused.
People come to the Black Madonna seeking answers, miracles. I come to her with the same:
With whom – I’m open, truly open, to just me. I am becoming immensely comfortable on my own. I love myself. I love the peace I bring myself. I will not settle for anyone who tries to shake up my relationship with myself. I am happy alone. And intimacy with just anyone – revealing all precious sides of myself to another – does scare me. But that is a topic for another day…
For now, I sit here at this table outside Le Bistrot Bar in Rocamadour, I look out and I see what I believe life is about:
SIMPLICITY AND LOVE.“
After a delicious lunch and some inspired writing, I decided to take a (long-ass) walk back up the cliff in the (god-damn) heat to the MONKEY FOREST! Yes, there is a Monkey Forest in Rocamadour. It’s an open-air space where you can feed monkeys popcorn and observe them – as my brother said, “Ah yes, popcorn, the food they’d eat in Africa”… hahahaha!
I’m freaked out by monkeys, to be honest with you. I don’t like that their feet are like hands. Something about that weirds me right out. I don’t usually find them cute, but I wanted something unique to do, so I headed in.
I’m totally glad I did! It was too, too funny feeding these little gentle-grabbing popcorn fiends. You can’t touch them, but it doesn’t matter, because their little hands in your hands make it all worthwhile. It was a wonderful, weird new experience to add to the list of my life!
I finished the day with a siesta, a sunset walk to a perfect writing spot (I wrote a lot but it gets really freaking hippie so I’ll link it here, instead – I warn you, if you don’t have an open mind, don’t even bother reading; it will just be a waste of your time), heading back to the Black Madonna, discovering my life purpose, and heading off to bed.
My soul-purpose is to write. To write in a way that inspires others to make changes in their lives. To write about truth and to write about Light. So that others may be inspired to follow their dreams, that direction always being towards the light. I must be a guide, a beacon of Truth, a coach of Light and Love.
On the third day of my mini spiritual vacation, I decided to take a trip to the Gouffre de Padirac which basically means “the Devil’s Pit”. It’s said that a Saint (I forget who) was dared by the devil to jump in (after he stomped his hooves and broke the ground) and you can see “hoof prints” on the walls of the pit.
Please note that if you’re planning to visit this, you can’t walk there – you’ll need a car or you’ll have to book a trip with the only taxi in the town, which I mentioned before! It’s about a half hour drive, and I recommend going in the morning when it’s far less busy (and you can take your time without line ups of people behind you, pushing you to move on) and to buy your tickets online, ahead of time, to skip the lines entirely (there are also machines to buy tickets at, just outside the actual hole in the ground).
Discovered in 1889 by Mr. Martel and his cousin, this pit stops at 70 meters deep, before you continue down a path 33meters further below where you hit this pristine blue river that apparently goes on for 20 kilometers! It quickly became a “tourist destination”, initially by candlelight before electricity was installed in 1910, at which point it became even more of an attraction to people.
The experience is amazing. I’ve never done anything quite like it. It begins as a walking (or lift) tour, and then turns into a boat tour (no pictures allowed on the boat :() for one kilometer, and then you’re back into a deeper, laked area before walking around taking the boat back. The whole experience comes with an audioguide that is automatically triggered by points in the walk, and the guide is available in multiple languages (but the boat ride is just in French by the person rowing).
It was a high-energy (vibrations from the crystals, people!), magical experience like nothing I’ve done before. The Gouffre de Padirac is also recognized as an UNESCO world heritage site. Going to the center of the earth was a spectacular way to end my mini vacation.
Then, it was back to the train station for a 5.5hour ride back to Paris (6 hours after a short stopover at one station). I’m glad to be back at the apartment, back home – which is hilarious to say!
My intentions for the day are to stay put. I need a lazy day, and I have 95 days left to explore my city, anyway. I have a bunch of work I want to get done on my computer, and I’d like to clean up/organize my apartment today. Tomorrow will likely be my first experience doing laundry in the city and other than a milk-run earlier this morning, I think I’m going to stay put. But it truly is a beautiful, sunny day in Paris, just so you know! Maybe a Shakespeare and Co visit is in the cards… I dunno. I’ll play it all by ear.
Before I complete my blog post with the photos from the Gouffre, I found that I wrote this in my notebook on one of the first days here, but I never actually wrote it in any of my blogs. So here’s something from my journal:
“There is an overwhelming wave of utter disbelief and surrealism when a dream years in the making manifests itself into completion. And you are walking streets no longer as a tourist, but as one who is another blood cell swimming through the veins of the city.
When all your idols spoke of this life and your eyes would water at the thought of making that your reality as well, and then in what feels like a blink of an eye, you are living that life…
And then the moments of self-doubt and isolation follow, because when God speaks, the devil wants you to doubt His beauty and triumph.
But I’ll overcome that as well. And I am endlessly grateful.
People credit hard work to this happening, but I credit God, the universe, everything greater than myself including my own willpower.
The universe presented me with the opportunity and I listened and leapt before I had a chance to test the waters.
Thank the heavens that I did.
I am swimming in bliss.”