Tag Archives: travel

Abbey on the Mount

Brick by brick the steps were laid, each stone baring the mark of its mason. At least a hundred different craftsmen were represented in these stones, the project was so great. And slowly but surely, the abbey was built. Little did the masons know their symbols would long survive them – still watching over the crests of the waves even centuries later.

Stairs and ramps ascend to the clouds, narrow and winding. Walls protect the walkers of those paths from falling into the sea below and allow the gulls a perch to rest upon, weary from their day of fishing. (Surprisingly, they are as quiet as the monks that reside within.) Gates are mounted into these walls – great sturdy gates of iron and wood – though there is no great army to keep out and no great threat to keep within. The devil was slain upon this rock before memories began.

Despite the grandness of the construction itself, simplicity is the motto within. Plain chairs, tables, and pews of sturdy wood are the only furnishings. A few windows hold leaded glass, to hold a little of the heat from the fires in, but most are free and open to the sea breeze.

A great balcony overlooks the expanse of the sea to the north and the fields to the west. On a clear and sunny day, it feels as though you can see an eternity. Certainly this is a view meant only for angels – one is humbled by the privilege of its witness.

Inside, the tower extends to the heavens themselves. Openings at the top allow light to filter in, creating the effect as if Saint Michael himself was looking in upon the worshipers. Again, one is humbled.

Serenity flows through every molecule of this place, which is only augmented by the reverent passing of monks on their way to worship. Here, silence is not painful nor awkward; it is natural and worshipful. It is as if words have been an unknown burden throughout one’s life, and now the burden is lifted. You are free to simply… listen.

The frothy waves whisper at the sandy shore, the breeze gently stirs leaves and whistles softly through the corridors, and songbirds sing only the most beautiful of their melodies.

Gardens are tucked away in every nook and cranny that can be found, with trees to rest beneath, soft grass to lay upon, and flowers to scent the air. Vines of ivy even climb some portions of the wall, working their own way to the clouds above, and patches of tall grass defiantly spring up perhaps where they should not. All of it is tended with care and devotion, which shows in every fiber.

At the very top, above the walls and gardens, above the trees and towers, stands Michael, glinting in the sun and triumphantly thrusting his sword above his height. It is the reminder that this is where the devil met his end, where Satan was vanquished.

This is where good triumphed over evil.

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Coming Home

I was so tired in my writing last night that I completely forgot to create a title. What was supposed to be a five hour drive home today actually turned out to be more like 7.5 hours (yey traffic jams) and I am writing tired once again. Exhausted and home with my partner, the last thing I want to do right now is write my 500 words… but I’m doing it. I made the commitment to myself. I have to stick with it. And after twenty some-odd posts, I’m not going to break my streak for a little fatigue!

I did a little bit of writing in the car. I’ll start with that.

The end of a vacation is a return to reality. The closer we get to home, the more the conversation turns to work and home life (chores and the like) and away from the delicious foods, exciting new experiences and hilarious inside jokes that occurred during the trip. Each mile draws us nearer to the realization that tomorrow we won’t have a lie-in or stay out late; we won’t have cake for breakfast or beer for dinner; the day won’t be planned at our own leisure but by the demands of others. We will be fully immersed in our responsibilities once again and the leisurely pace will immediately pick up speed.

But the return also marks a return to routine, which can be comforting. Your own bed, own bathroom, own kitchen await you. Your pets eagerly await your return, even if they intend to punish you a while for your absence. Friends and family will be interested in the tales you have to tell of your adventure, allowing you to temporarily relive the moments. This will ease the transition back into normal life.

Even if there is no dog to greet you, no loved one to meet you, and a boss who could care less about the amazing food, drink, people, and adventures of your hiatus from normalcy… remember that this discomfort serves as the contrast to the wonder that was your holiday. Without dark there would be no light. Without the monotonous rigours of everyday life, vacation would not feel as indulgent or relaxing. Were every day to be as a holiday, we would soon take its sweetness for granted.

Instead, we should cherish the simplicity in our daily lives and enjoy them for what they are – the good along with the bad. For if we did not have the negatives to our daily lives, we wouldn’t seek vacations. Even a weekend trip to a neighbouring town can be an exciting and refreshing adventure! It can be the perfect break, if done right. So enjoy the day-to-day so that you can better savour the holidays. Don’t take for granted the potential of your own back yard. Look forward to your return home as much as you do to your next outing. Each will become better and better, I think.

And that’s how Justin Beiber lost his monkey.

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Adventuring

The air was clear and fresh, the smell of buttery mussels and escargot lingering in the table-crowded alleyways, and the sun was bright but without creating too much heat. The day was perfect for adventures.

Cobblestone streets that listed to one side, sometimes a stone dislodged or missing altogether. The buildings appeared ancient, yet filled with all the modern conveniences. Several accents and several languages blended together in a careful orchestra of white noise in the background. Don’t speak one language? Try another! It takes five to live and work in this town efficiently. People here must live proudly.

Shops line the streets. There are so many sales we wonder if they are actually 30-70% off, or if these “sales” exist all year so that the red tags attract foreign customers who can’t miss a deal. There are furniture and clothing, perfumes and chocolates, soaps and spas. There is something for everyone here. No one can go unhappy for too long.

We explored the Grande Place today. I bought a souvenir for a baby that will never remember the gift. It is, of course, more for his parents who will appreciate it and consider it one of the most amazing things ever. Maybe someday it will go into a box of keepsakes and be passed down to the recipient when he has children of his own. Perhaps it will be tossed the moment it becomes dirtied with baby sick.

I digress.

The city was covered with flea markets today. Tons of tented vendors line the streets and try to convince you to visit for a moment. While everything is amazing and beautiful in its own right, there are very few items that catch my eye as we wander.

We also visited no less than five chocolate shops. Samples were had at each. Some of them even treated their confectionery creations as jewelry, in terms of presentation. We learned the “proper” way to sample chocolate, but were too eager and ignored the freshly acquired knowledge in favor of devouring the sweet morsels placed in our palms.

Now I rest in a comfortable room, reclined on a comfortable bed, writing… and trying not to nod off. A documentary about the Tour de France plays on theĀ  television, completely in French. The air conditioner mounted high on the wall cycles between silence and the white noise created by the rapid blowing of air. I would open my window, but it opens into an alleyway that is not precisely attractive. I am comforted, however, in my undeniable ability to escape the building should it catch fire.

My eyelids are so heavy. I guess I’m not getting any reading done tonight…

I hope to find some fun trinkets at the market tomorrow and I hope we have time to visit one of the interesting attractions constructed for one of the World Fairs before we go. Regardless, this has been an excellent trip thus far.

Based on the context clues, can you guess where I am?

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