Monday, February 23, 2009

My Cut-Rate Grand Tour: Day Sixteen

Wednesday, 21 December 1988
Dijon to Autun and back to Dijon

Last night as I was getting ready for bed a scene from Hector’s L’Enfance du Christ kept running through my head. It’s the part in the Flight into Egypt section where Joseph is trying to find lodging for the Holy Family in the town of Sais.

"Ouvrez, ouvrez, secourez-nous!
Laissez-nous reposer chez vous!
Que l’hospitalité sainte soit accordée
À la mère, à l’enfant!
Hélas! De la Judée, nous arrivons à pied!"

Mon Dieu! did that fit! I about felt like I had come all the way from Paris on foot!

Train to Autun this morning. Was onboard and rolling before it occurred to me to see when I’d have to return.

Oh, great. I had just under two hours there, total, or else not be back in Dijon till 10:00 PM. Not quite.

Day was acting rather like the one when I went to Conques, but the fog settled into Autun and stayed. Meaning I couldn’t follow the steeple to St. Lazare because I couldn’t see it. And the signage wasn’t as good as in some other towns I’ve visited. I knew where the cathedral was supposed to be, generally, and kept walking up and up through the fog. I soon knew I was in trouble--I was exhausted and it was not my arms or back, it was my legs. First sign of rebellion there.

Finally made it and thought I’d come to the wrong church. Hadn’t realized how Gothicized the exterior is, especially the east end. But I proceeded around and down to the west front and, fanfare, please! there it was: Gislebertus hoc fecit. Good.

I was able to spend seventy minutes or so, only, with Maitre Gislebertus’ work, and of course there was no way I could absorb or commit to memory all of it. It must be fun sitting there on Sunday mornings, contemplating those capitals during Mass. Though of course the best ones are towards the side aisles.

Climbed up the tower stairs to the Salle Capitulaires to see the originals of many downstairs. I love that Adoration of the Magi, with the Baby Jesus reaching out to touch the one gift. It’s sweet in all the best ways.

And of course there is the wonderful tympanum, with the otherworldly Christ disposing all and the angels sheltering and aiding the little saved souls, who hide in their skirts like children.

What must it be like to live in a town that has such things in it?!

Milk run back to Dijon. Beaucoup des estudiants again. So odd looking at them. Miniskirts on the girls, long hair on the boys; they could be my crowd sixteen years ago. I feel as if I were caught in a time warp.

Back in Dijon, I found that the train I wanted to take Friday to Bern is booked solid. And that the only possibility of my getting there before 11:00 PM is to get up for one that leaves at 5:58 AM. Ouch.

And that the train and bus connections to Cluny are impossible, considering how eartly I’ll have to get to bed tomorrow night. Never mind the way to Vezelay. It’s only by bus and I could never discover which ones.

So regrettable as it may be, I think tomorrow we are going to punt. We do not want to be the world’s worst bitch with Lukas’s* family.

Took myself to dinner this evening. First time I’d sat down for a meal since Toulouse; about time I did. After wandering around a bit, I came back and ate at the restaurant across the street from the hotel, the St. Jean.‡

75F menu. Had escargot for the first time ever; I recalled Miss Manners says you order escargot for the sake of the garlic butter, but the butter for these had parsley. Oh well. I learned it is expected that one will dip bits of bread into the melted butter and thus get it all.

As for the little boogers themselves, in that juice they’re just another mollusk. I prefer oysters but they’re good enough.

The entree was trout in a wine sauce with whole mustard grains. Waitress did a decent job of deboning the fish, though of course eating trout is always an ossic adventure-- which I always forget.

Service was attentive, almost too much so. Server kept wanting to talk but I disliked feeling that my eating habits were being inspected.

Ordered a demi bottle of white wine with the meal, of the same sort as was in the fish sauce. An aligote, I think it was called. I probably didn’t need 35cl of wine but I drank it anyway. I can’t say I was drunk thereafter but I was glad I only had to cross the street to return to my hotel.

Dessert was pears in cassis juice, aka the omnipresent blackcurrent. Pretty and nice.

So. There, I have Dined.

Back to the room and wrote postcards, including one to Prof. Kay [my Medieval history professor] at KU.

And listened to French radio. They played a new cut of The Band’s "The Weight," which I’ve been singing in my head, among other songs, since Moissac:

"I pulled into Nazareth,
I was feelin’ 'bout half past dead.
Just needed a place where I could lay my head.
‘Hey, mister, can you tell me
Where a man might find a bed?’
He just grinned, shook my hand,
‘No’ was all he said."

Sounds familiar!
†Roughly translated, "Please open the door! Help us! Let us come in and rest in your house! For holy hospitality's sake, be kind to a mother and her infant child! Alas! all the way from Judea we have come on foot!"
‡This establishment continued with a good reputation presumably till sometime after the turn of the millenium, and was reopened in 2007 as "Pourquoi Pas?"

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