🇫🇷 Day 3 – Walk to Vézelay

The morning after another torrid sleep; Miss is not happy. But we’ll hopefully get there as the days go on. We awoke to glorious unblemished skies and promise of heat. Headed to the nearby town of Clamecy within which resides one of my favourite things in the world – the French Hypermarket. We have supermarkets, and good one’s at that, but the French do supermarkets like no other; everything you could ever want or need, under one lovely roof…and they call them Hypermarkets! The Clamecy version is an E. Leclerc and it’s a joyous thing; huge glulam wooden beams and trusses, large skylight windows, below which lie shop-wide LED strip lighting. It’s proper stuff. You enter into the shop via the various bicycle, barbecue and outside dining sets and head into the jewellery and electrical section. Then follows the kitchen sections, gardening, toys, fishing, cycling, motoring, swimming, hardware, household electrical, pet, utility and my favourite, the stationary sections. Oh boy can I spend hours in here.

Anyway, we let the bosses head off to get provisions and the gentlemen took the wee bullet around this plethora of stuff. I rarely buy anything, but just really enjoy looking at all the nice things you don’t seem to get in the UK; nicer cutlery and more elegant kettles and tea-pots. More varied backpacks and pencils. Fishing lines. Rugby balls. It’s great stuff. Once we had our bits and bobs we headed back home where everyone was still really fatigued from the journey down, so most went for shut-eye or a sun-lie. I decided to head up to Vézelay myself and have a good look around.

The long walk up to Vézelay from Asquins takes around 30 minutes at a pace that doesn’t result in catastrophic sweats. The hill starts off gradual but soon evolves in to a drastically steep incline all the way to the main street. Once there though, you’re halfway up towards the summit. I forgot water luckily, so after making moves towards the Abbey, I headed back down the hill to get some fluids – it was far too hot to go up and sit in that heat without some counter-water. A quick blast back up the hill saw me arrive at the most welcome sight: the Abbaye Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay.

Last year the Basilica was covered in sheets to protect the restoration work that was going on underneath. This year as I walked around the outside, the restoration work was done and the sheets are gone revealing what would have been the original condition of the stonework. It is a wonderful visual spectacle as the almost chalky white sandstone sits in stark contrast to the weathered un-restored facade. I can only imagine how spectacular the Abbey was when it was first constructed, and hopefully, eventually, the Basilica will be returned to its original glory. For now though the East side of the Abbey, or the Choir, is back to its former self. Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia entry on the English site is pretty much a stub, whereas the French Wiki has vastly more information on the Basilica. French one here, using Google translate.

I journey inside via a side entrance into Cloister and Chapter Room, which reminds me of the vastly smaller Iona Abbey we visited way back in 2011 or so. Beautiful architecture inside and out, and despite some unfortunate flash photography from a nearby excitable lady, it was a beautiful environment to be in, out of the pulsing midday sun.

Then it’s into the main Nave of the Basilica and with it the flash photo lady. I make my way around her and towards the refurbished Choir area and the interior refurbishments are as beautiful as the exterior; bright almost-white stonework with crisp edges and beautiful definition. There’s always a restful ambience in these kinds of high-vaulted buildings and it’s quiet even with the low din of chit chat. I can see the remnants of flash-lady off the stonework despite the midday sun beating down on the led-patterned glass. I work my way around the Choir to the north side of the Nave and walk all the way up towards what’s called the Central Portal, or the doorway to the Nave. I get some nice shots of the vast height within and make my way back towards the Cloisters via the organ. Then I head back around and there, in the same position as I left her, is the flasher taking multiple shots of the same part of the Abbey. I don’t know what she was up to but to take that many photos of the same part, with the flash on…it would be no surprise if all her photos are rubbish.  Just before heading back out to the heat, I walk down to the Crypt (the wrong way, soz) and see the rough stone floor, polished smooth by the centuries of footfall. It’s cool and damp smelling, with supporting columns, vaulted ceilings, illuminated shrine and what’s apparently remnants of Saint Mary Magdalene. The stairs up and down to the Crypt are worn over smooth which again reminds me of a place very much in absolute contrast to this; the stairs of Auschwitz.

I’m ready to go, so head outwards and around the outside of the Abbey, taking in the view, the gardens looking outwards to Vézelay’s vineyards, before heading back down through Vézelay’s side streets, listening to all the chatter from windows and tourists exclaiming in wonderment.  There’s so many lovely little nooks and funny shaped buildings here. Some ridiculously slim! It’s hot as a skillet now so I make moves to get back to sanctuary at the house. By the time I get back everyone is still snoozing so I get myself sorted and download my photos so see if there’s any good ones. A successful trip up the hill I’d say.