"April 16: The Sixteenth Day before the Kalends of May.... At Nevers also in France, Saint Marie Bernarde Soubirous, virgin, who was born to a very poor family in the town of Lourdes, and while still a girl experienced the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate. Afterward, having taken the religious habit, she lived a hidden and humble life. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins."
We're now on the train for Torino, left on time at 6:15 am. Due to arrive at 11:03. But that's just a transfer. Adventure awaits.
Sailing backwards, the rising sun to my left.
It took us an hour and a half to get to Florence.
Oh, look, there's another one.
8:40. Bologna. It's getting more crowded, Frater & I have to sit next to each other now.
9:45. Milano. Most people get off
No internet on the train.
Arrived on time in Torino 11 am. Porta Susa.
But where's the bus which we're s'posed to take to Lyon? That way. I can't see anything that way, except city bus stops. We walk in circles. We wend our way back to the train station. There's a help desk. The Pullman for Lyon? To the right, past the taxis. We come, we find a little sign, extraurbane. That must be it. It's really right next to the taxi stops. It looks like any other city bus stop. A few francophones converge on our position. Is this the Pullman for Lyon? they ask. Speriamo di si.
The bus fills with those who've paid full price tickets. We have to wait for them. What if there's not room for us? Then we'll be stuck in Torino. Oh sweet angel. There's barely room. A Frenchman moves to another single to allow us to sit together. Very kind. Merci. You're welcome. 1 pm.
If there hadn't been room on this coach,we'd have had the next 24 hours to go and see the basilica of the shroud. There're always pros and cons.
Crowded bus. Pranzo of warm panini and water. Clear vision of mountains ahead. Tunnel. Mountains. Tunnel. Valleys. Tunnel. Mountains. The border of France at 2:30 pm. A Gendarme inspects passports. We're in. Down into the valleys of southern France. By the clear blue skies, modern paved roads, brush covered hills, we could be back in southern California. I guess I can stop speaking Italian now.
17:10 on the nose we're at the bus station in Lyon Part Dieu. The railway station is obvious across the road. The railway station is rationally organized. I can see where the ticket booths are, where the help desk is. Do I need a reservation; does this schedule count as one? No, no, your Eurail pass is sufficient, just board the train. We buy fresh sandwiches parisien for our supper on the train. A prompt departure at 6:25 pm. Bound for Avignon.
Another power outlet on this train, but no internet. I wonder when I'll be able to post this?
South. The afternoon sun is not in my face this leg. The locomotive's shadow rustles through the brush.
The almost full moon rolls along the crest of the hills, trying to keep pace with the train, until it hits a thicket of windmills. Valier-sur-Rhone. 7:20 pm. A little girl in a pink coat holds her mother's hand and skips.
Montelimar, 8:07 pm.
The sandwiches are made of ham and butter. The bread is good. Is all bread here french bread? If you get french bread here, it's french french bread, says Frater Alan, and at McDonald's they serve french french fries.
I can now say I've been to the other Orange. For all of two minutes. Didn't even get off the train.
The train is almost empty by the time we reach Avignon at 9:10 pm. It's dark. Frigolet said they'd send someone to fetch us from the station. A handful of teenagers is loitering in front of the station, talking and laughing. They seem friendly enough. Don't kids have anything better to do on a Saturday night than hang out in front of the train station? Better leave well enough alone. Right in front of us is the gate of the wall surrounding old Avignon. If we were to walk straight ahead, we'd soon see the palace of the popes. Let's wait for our ride, we don't want to miss him.
A car drives up at 9:30. Father Patrice is delighted to see us, etc. He wants to show us the palace of the popes by night before driving down to the Abbey, and we're happy enough.
Every street is Avignon seems to be one way, and many are only as wide as the car itself. Every parking spot is taken. It's a beautiful little city. At 10 we finally park next to the palace, and walk up the stairs. There it is. Big and beautiful and papal and closed for the night. But I've seen and touched it. What's with the elephant standing on its nose? A small dog fetches a ball, a kid sails by on a bike.
Through the forest to the Abbey, I can't see much of it. Into the guest house; keys, schedule, directions.
To bed at about 11.
Abbey bells. Breakfast of bread and butter and coffee. 8:30.
Do you have a hot iron for me to press my habit? The confrères don't do their own laundry, but they find an old contraption in a closet. A metal pedestal covered with switches and lights and cables and tubes, with a hand iron attached to the top. I'm sorry, this machine is very Italian. We laugh. Ironing on a bedsheet-draped sacristy table.
Could you two help to serve the conventual Mass this morning at 11? Of course, we're acolytes.
We end up being pontifical attendants. Liturgy: French, with Latin Sanctus & Agnus. A full church. Today is Olive-Branch Sunday. I don't see any palms.
Oh, yes, you can use the internet in the library. Merci!