From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.
Robert Frost – The Sound of the Trees
I sometimes wonder what Archbishop Sigeric ate during his journey from Canterbury to Rome and back in 990 AD.
It may have been a variation on the cheese and ham sandwiches which were my staple lunchtime fare while walking in France. I am less sure about pickled carrot slices or tinned cassoulet. One thing is for sure though, he wouldn’t have eaten 2 portions of microwaved spaghetti carbonara, as I did last night, and then raid the fridge and Presbytery larder for everything edible I could find there. The latter move proved a big mistake!
My raid on the larder and fridge yielded some pasta and a couple of small half empty pots of paste. One appeared to be pesto, the other chilli. Having cooked the pasta, I added the contents of both pots to the pan and stirred diligently for a few minutes. I then emptied the glutinous mixture onto a plate and dug into it with gusto.
As I consumed the first mouthfuls there was a sensation in my throat not dissimilar to a bunsen burner being turned on full blast! I was so hungry that I finished the contents of the saucepan anyway and then doused the roaring heat in my throat by drinking about two pints of water. Retrieving the pot of chilli paste from the bin, closer inspection showed that it was labelled ‘spicy chilli sauce – piment fort’, it had been made in Senegal and it had a ‘best before’ date of June 2016! Waking up this morning, my stomach was definitely feeling a bit on the delicate side!
The Romans founded a settlement in Orbe known as Urba in around 150 AD. In the 19th century a huge 100 room Roman villa was discovered. Mosaics dating from 200 – 230 AD decorated eight of the villa’s rooms and depict gods, trompe l’œil geometric shapes and figurative scenes of Greek mythology, such as the famous labyrinth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
I would love to have visited the mosaic museum, but the lady on the bike who I bumped into shortly after arrival in Orbe, assured me that the museum was closed.
So what differences have I noticed between France and Switzerland so far? The first thing is the prices! In Switzerland a pain au chocolat will cost more will cost you more than double the cost in France. I guess the simple answer to staying on an even keel over the next week is to eat half as much!
At this juncture, some of you may be wondering what happened to the Great Gaffer Tape Experiment with my boots which I initiated in Pontarlier. Well it didn’t go brilliantly well. I think the gaffer Tape must have fallen off after a couple of kilometres. The key question now is whether my boots will last until Martigny (130 km away) where I finish this year’s walk on Sunday. Looking at the state of them this morning, it is going to be ‘touch and go’!
Without any doubt, the highlight of the day’s walk was visiting the Cluniac Priory of Romainmôtier.
The first Cluniac monastery was founded by William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine in 910 AD at Cluny in Burgundy. 200 years later and Cluny was the head of over 1,400 sister houses across Europe. In the process the Cluniac became a driving force in the spiritual reform and renaissance of the Western Church.
The Cluniac brand of monasticism was distinguished by an elaborate liturgy and splendid buildings, but by the late eleventh century was criticised for its excesses. A new spirit pervaded monasticism with a desire for simplicity and austerity. The Cistercians emerged as the Cluniacs’ chief opponents
Renowned as one of “the most beautiful villages in Switzerland”, Romainmôtier is without doubt the most important Cluniac site in Switzerland.
The very first monastery in Romainmôtier monastery was founded around 450 AD by Saint Romain. A second monastery was erected at the beginning of the 7th century and was then rebuilt by Cluniac monks between 992 -1030 AD.
There was nobody else in the Priory when I entered. I was immediately struck by the simplicity of the architecture and also by the wonderful vaulted ceiling and 12th century paintings which adorned the walls.
It was a deeply peaceful place. I took my backpack off and sat in silence for a few minutes soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the tranquillity. It felt almost like a refuge from all the cares and worries of the modern world.
I preferred its elegant unadorned simplicity to the host of other churches, abbeys and cathedrals I had visited over the last months. Romainmôtier exuded a sense of peace that I hadn’t experienced elsewhere.
As to whether Romainmôtier is indeed one of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland, all I can say is that it seemed to tick most boxes on this regard.
It was still raining after lunch as I headed out of Romainmôtier towards La Serraz. Over the last 8 weeks I have been unbelievably lucky with the weather. It has been an Indian Summer that partially makes up for the wash out in July and August.
Outside Romainmôtier I came across a ‘Roulotte’ a word that has entered my French vocab since staying in the Gypsy Roulotte with Georges at Mormant-Leffonds. It looked like this one was used by local youth groups in the area.
Not long afterwards I passed what looked like an isolated refuge for youth groups and religious gatherings. The sign hanging outside the entrance was particularly eye catching. ‘Follow you dreams and they will show you the way’ it read. It could have been a leitmotif for my own pilgrimage.
By the time I reached La Serraz, the weather had cheered up considerably and the sun had put in an appearance. The name La Serraz derives from the Latin ‘serare’ which means tight or fortified and possibly refers to the town’s fortifications which were erected in the 11th century when it was founded on a strategic trade route from France to Italy. The castle was pretty impressive, that was for sure.
Built in 1049, unlike many other Swiss castles, it remained the residence of the barons of La Sarraz and never changed hands until the death of the last chatelaine in 1948.
Most of the afternoon was spent pleasantly ambling along the bank of the Ventoge river towards Cossonay. I passed a water mill with some caravans outside where the owners now live according to my host for the evening.
I discovered when I reached Cossonay that I had walked past my accommodation for the evening in the little village of Lussery-villars, some 2km outside Cossonay.
Before heading back to Lussery-villars, there was just enough time to look around Cossonay.
There is a definite English feel about the town. I passed a sign for the Hotel d’Angleterre and two pubs including the ‘Spike Pub’. Apparently Cossonay also boasts a cricket club which is the only one in the Vaud region of Switzerland.
I ventured into the church in Cossonay and as I entered I heard the most beautiful organ being played. Apparently the church is regularly used for organ recitals and concerts and I could quite understand why.
I was indebted to George’s for putting me in contact with Francine at Lussery-villars. Georges had met Francine while walking the Swiss section of the Via Francigena some years ago and they had remained friends ever since.
I shared a lovely evening with Francine and her neighbour Nicole eating raclette. I somehow doubt that most pilgrims on the Via Francigena get to sit down and enjoy a supper of raclette in convivial company. It marked a definite upgrade from my ‘pot luck’ gastronomic adventure of the previous night in the Presbytery house in Orbe!
As I lay in bed after completing another enjoyable day’s walking on the Via Francigena, I couldn’t help but dwell on the phrase on the notice board of the refuge outside Romainmôtier. ‘Suivez votre rêves. Ils connaissent le chemin’. It seemed the perfect advice for pilgrims striving to make sense of their place in an increasingly unstable world.