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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

France 2010 - Day 8, Part 2 - Normandy: Lisieux, Mont-St-Michel by night

"There is no moral precept that does not have something inconvenient about it." - Denis Diderot

***

France 2010
Day 8 - 10th October - Normandy: Lisieux, Mont-St-Michel by night
(Part 2)

The next stop was Lisieux, home to the cult of Sainte-Thérèse (Lisieux is second only to Lourdes as a place of pilgrimage). Sainte-Thérèse, a 24 year-old Carmelite nun when she died, is the youngest Doctor of the Church (and one of three women), because she wrote a very popular book.

Here is an extract from a poem she wrote, "Pourquou je t'aime, Ô Marie" ("Why do I love you, O Mary":

"Oh ! Je voudrais chanter, Marie, pourquoi je t'aime
Pourquoi ton nom si doux fait tressaillir mon cœur
Et pourquoi la pensée de ta grandeur suprême
Ne saurait à mon âme inspirer de frayeur
Si je te contemplais dans ta sublime gloire
Et surpassant l'éclat de tous les bienheureux
Que je suis ton enfant, je ne pourrais le croire
O Marie, devant toi, je baisserais les yeux"

("Oh ! I would sing, Mary, because I love you
Why does your sweet name make my heart tremble
And why does the thought of your supreme grandeur
Not inspire fear in my soul
If I contemplate you in your sublime glory
And surpassing the brightness of all the blissful
That I am your child, I cannot believe it
Oh Mary, before you, I lower my eyes")

Sappy, but at least it beats Deepak Chopra.

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Basilica of St. Thérèse, 1954. This was the last major building to be built by public subscription - because after that people stopped being religious.

As you can tell, it was modelled after Sacré-Cœur in Paris, ergo the Gondor feel. The difference is that this basilica is HUGE.

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Tour group with orange scarves

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The immensity of the basilica is evident

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I can't remember why I took this

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Gallery and tower at side

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Dramatic Nave

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Dome mega-stitch (I wasn't intending to do this [or it'd be a more complete stitch], but since I had enough appropriate pictures why not)

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Altar

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Chapel, and proof that the Holy Spirit was in the Basilica that day

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Chapel with her relic (her right arm bone).

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Modern stained glass - which at least is not the most hideous I've seen

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Altar from side

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Photographs of, quotes from and partial timeline of the Saint

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This was one of the basilica's ostensibly international shrines. This was the Chapel of Great Britain, and all the chapels were dedicated to other countries. Yet all chapels also not-so-subtly promoted Sainte-Thérèse as well

The basilica also had a 'crypt' which was not interesting (except inasmuch as it was less vulgar than the basilica above) - usually crypts are archaeological, but this one was purely architectural since the basilica was so new. Though there I learnt that her parents have also been beatified for some reason, and they had relics there.

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"Thank you for participating at the maintenance of the sanitary installation"
Lost in translation

There were a few interesting things in the gift shop.

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This sign seems to say "Don't be like Christ" or "Don't be like Jesus". I was told that it meant "No Entry" (from that side).

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Christian Manga
I thought it was shameful for Christian men to have long hair - go figure

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This was a hilarious passage in a [Catholic] magazine, "Simples questions sur la vie" (Simple questions in life), on the pressing issue of sex and gender. Not so simple after all:

"Peut-on remplacer les << sexes >> par les << genres >> ?

Dans leur souci compréhensible de défendre les femmes, des courants féministes en sont venus à batir une théorie qui nie l'importance de la différence corporelle entre hommes et femmes, appelée sexe. Ces courants soutiennent que les rôles et les missions afféctés aux femmes sont uniquement l'effet d'un conditionnement historique et culturel. La masculinité et la féminité ne correspondraient qu’à une construction sociale, appelée « genre <<, et non plus à une donnée biologique imposée par les sexes. Conséquences : pour les défenseurs de cette théorie, chaque personne peut donc s’affranchir des données biologiques de son sexe de naissance, pour choisir le genre qui lui convient à travers le modèle d'une sexualité «à la carte » : concrètement, homosexualité, hétérosexualité et transexualité sont mis sur le même plan, et la famille n'a plus à être nécessairement fondée par un homme et une femme.

Séduisante dans un monde avide de liberté et de choix, cette théorie contredit pourtant l'expérience qui montrent bien que la sexualité marque l'ensemble de la personne, à la fois sur le plan physique, psychologique et spirituel. Même s'il faut reconnaître que les conditionnements culturels ont fortement pesé sur les rôles féminins et masculins, on ne peut balayer ou nier l‘existence d'une différence réelle à la fois psychique et corporelle ! « S'il y a bien une différence que je ne veux plus nier dans ma vie privée, c‘est la différence sexuelle. Je suis une femme, radicalement différente de l’homme dans mon désir et dans mon plaisir », déclarait dans une revue (*) Marika, 53 ans, ancienne militante des droits de la femme dans les années 1970. « Je mesure à quel point on a pu confondre égalité et ressemblance entre hommes et femmes » ajoutait-elle.

* Psychologies, Hors-Série Vivre en couple, art. « Sexuaité : un accord imparfait »."

"Can we replace "sexes" with "genders"?

In their understandable concenrn to protect women, feminist waves have come to build a theory which denies the importance of physical differences between men and women, called 'sex'. These waves provide support for the claim that the roles assigned to women are solely the effect of historical and cultural conditioning. Masculinity and femininity are merely social constructions, called "gender", and not a biological fact imposed by one's sex. The results: for proponents of this theory, everyone can overcome the biological facts of their birth gender, and choose the gender which suits him from anywhere in the model of sexuality à la carte: in particular, homosexuality, heterosexuality and transsexuality are in the same map, and the family is no longer necessarily founded on there being one man and one woman.

While seductive in a world greedy for freedomand choice, this theory contradicts experience which shows that sexuality marks the entirety of a person physically, psychologically and spiritually - sinultaneously. Even if one must recognise that cultural conditioning affects gender roles, one cannot pretend that real differences - both psychological and physical - exist! "If there is one difference that I do not want to deny in my personal life, it's sexual difference. I am a woman, radically different from man in my desires and pleasure", declared Marika, 53, a former militant activist for women's rights in the 70s, in a magazine. "I see how one can confuse equality and identicalness between men and women", added she."

We also visited a gift shop down the road from the Basilica.

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Sinful cider container

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"The Dog's Prayer"
This is very touching

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"The Cat's Prayer"
I was speculating that it would be "Feed me and leave me alone. I own you, you are beneath my contempt". Yet, it is noticeably less loving than the Dog's prayer (as expected)

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"Ideal gift. Hand towels. For hand-washing, it's enough to pull the skirt. Decorative and useful"
Right.

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This is a translation of the old Ages of a Woman joke:

"At 20, she's like Africa, sure to have deadly infectious diseases,
At 30, she's like India and won't shut up,
At 40 she's like America: too fat,
At 50 she's like Europe - too old,
At 60 she's like Siberia - frigid!"

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Postcards joking about butter, shit and Mont-St-Michel

There was a 24/7 boulangerie near Caen. Wah.

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I'm surprised the French allow the countryside to be ruined with such large wind turbines (power cables can't be helped, at least). Le syndrome Nimby is not unknown there. And nuclear power's a lot more efficient!

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Amusing bug in the GPS-radio, calling Classique "Class:-)". The radio station is Radio Classique, with the motto "Vie moderne, Radio Classique" ("Modern life, Classic Radio")

Along the highway there were frequent rest stops. One sign I saw had 3 symbols: a telephone with the letters "SOS" on the left; on the right, there was a tree. In the middle? Frites!

Driving at 5+ or 6+ was very irritating, as the sun was often in my eyes. Having a nice car did make me happier though - with the VERY useful GPS and a radio that told you what song was playing (sometimes). The traffic alert function didn't seem to work though.

There wee many billboards along the highway advertising villages and towns. They would say things like "La cité médiévale" ("Medieval town"). One read "les laitiers" ("dairy products"). Wth.

We checked in to an ultra-budget motel called "Formule 1" ("Formula 1"). At about 30€ for a room accommodating up to 3 people, it was great value, although spartan; in some ways they were more basic than youth hotels (the toilet had no sink - the sinks were in the rooms, the toilet and bathroom were separated [though this is not that uncommon in France]). And you need to drive to get to all the locations (AFAIK) since they are mostly in industrial estates (where land is cheap).

Very intelligently, right opposite the Formule 1 was a Hotel ibis, also run by Accor. So I'm guessing the way it works is if you don't like the super-basic accommodation you go across the parking lot and check into the more expensive joint. Ahh, market segmentation!

In the past Formule 1 hadn't been bilingual but now it was. Ah, globalization!

For dinner we went to a restaurant near the motel called Wood. It looked cheesy (and American) with a beaver cut out on the building, but was good. Surprisingly it wasn't a chain. Free wi-fi was nice too.

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Salad menu. All the salads - save one - were NOT vegetarian. And all came with either wine or cider - except the vegetarian one which offered apple juice (I'm guessing they think only ascetics are vegetarian).

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I was amused that the condiment packets were labelled in English

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Salade Terrine - with terrine, ham and egg

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Salade Fermier (Rustic Salad)

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Presumably this is how they head off industrial action and customers dumping shit on their doorstep: this mentions customer confidence and media shitstirring before proclaiming that salaries have gone up by 5%, they have hired one more guy, they have increased annual investment and they have chosen better suppliers
Note also the magic words: "La chaleur du bois" ("Wood Heat")

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Sausages

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Grilled Ham

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Scenic cow scene, with Mont-St-Michel

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"Portrait of the Cows of France"

After dinner we I drove to Mont-St-Michel, which was lit throughout the night (presumably the French taxpayer foots the bill for this).

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Lit up, it's amazing - like Disneyland.

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Artistic shot

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More gratuituous night shots of Mont-St-Michel. I've already deleted some.

The night sky was also beautiful. This being the middle of nowhere, with no city or even town lights to drown out the starlight, and no buildings to block the view, the night sky was amazing:

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Okay, just take my word for it. I don't know just how powerful a camera you need anyway. There were at least 2-3 times as many stars as I'd ever seen in a night sky.


You can vaguely see some Heavenly Bodies here

After this we got a car scare as I couldn't start the car. The battery and oil lights lit up and I didn't know what that meant (and couldn't find anything in the manual about that). I even called the breakdown line and probably had someone on his way down (and got complimented for my linguistic abilities, as usual) - until I discovered that you needed to push down hard on the brake pedal before starting the car (this one needed a particular amount of pressure; my normal car isn't as sensitive. I suspect it was partly the temperature, as it'd been okay earlier in the day). One disadvantage of taking Manual driving lessons!

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Mont-St-Michel from the causeway

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Unfortunately the reflection of the complex you see is not in the water but on my (slightly dusty) car roof.

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We were not the only ones here to see Disneyland by night.

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2 more gratuitous shots

On the way back we saw 2 hiao (vain) looking East Asian women walking the presumably long road back to their bus in the cold wind chill. I tried to attract their attention to offer them a lift but they ignored me. Too bad.
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