19 November 2007

So many shrines, so little time

Lest you think that my brother's visit was all bad, I have to spill the beans. I am planning to visit him next spring. Plans are all VERY tentative, but I'm already excited. I think it will be just me and my son. Finances are tight, so I'm lucky we are even talking about me going :) I did find 250 Euro and about 25 Swiss Francs in my coin tin left over from prior trips, so that will take a little of the sting out of things.

And, my reformed Type A personality is suffering a relapse.

I've already gotten out my books on places to go, things to do and people to see. I'm torn between so many things since I have genealogical interests that pull in one direction and religious interests that pull in another! I probably have three dozen "must sees" on my short list. Before I present my ideas to my brother, I think I need to scrub this a bit.

I think my top place to go is Mont Saint Michel. My husband and I had bought tickets to Normandy to see MSM and the Normandy beaches, but we were supposed to leave days after 9/11 and all the airports were closed. We were allowed either a refund or to reschedule. We rescheduled...to the Scottish Highlands (and England and Wales). Figured the chances of terrorists finding us in the Highlands were pretty slim. A few years later we had a trip to Germany (and Belgium/Netherlands) planned to visit the small town where my German branch was from. That time I was too sick with hyperemesis gravida to travel. Hopefully, this time I will actually get off the ground.

Home base is Geneva, which puts me on the eastern border of central France. Not a bad place to be in the scheme of things. I have two books, Catholic Shrines of Western Europe and Europe's Monastery and Convent Guesthouses, both by Kevin J. Wright. If I was travelling with just my husband, I would love to stay at some monasteries, but my travelling companions this time aren't religious/Catholic and there may be three young boys in tow. Not something I would inflict on anyone, especially the religious! So, I'll cross off staying at any monasteries. But, that leaves some great shrines.

My plan is to drive from Geneva to Mont Saint Michel, which requires driving completely across the country from east to west. Here are the places I have on my list to see, driving from east to west. If anyone has been to these places, I would love to hear your stories and suggestions or any "must do's" while at the shrines or in the area. It seems that some of these shrines don't have webpages, so any advice on them would be very helpful. Since my travelling companions will probably go nuts with visiting all these shrines, any advice on which ones are "must sees" and which ones can wait for another trip?

Ars-sur-Formans - St. John Vianney

Doray-le-Monial - Sacred Heart of Jesus & St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Nevers - St. Bernadette Soubirous

Chartres and Versailles (possibly Disneyland Paris)

Pontmain - Our Lady of Pontmain

Mont Saint Michel

Normandy beaches and cemeteries

Lisieux - St. Therese of Lisieux

I also plan to visit Essen in northern Germany, near the North Sea and the Netherlands where my German branch is from, and to the small town in Canton Graubunden where my Swiss family is from.

In Geneva, I'm only about an hour or two from La Salette and the Monastère de la Grande Chartreuse so would consider driving here for a day trip by myself. Has anyone been to these places to give me any insight? Especially Monastère de la Grande Chartreuse. My book says you can't see much so don't bother going, but I don't think this is the case. Some areas are off limits, but not the entire monastery. Is it worth the drive?

By the way, I only plan to stay for a maximum of two weeks...


Divine Mercy said...

i will pray that your trip goes well!

Sanctus Belle said...

Definately get to the Shrine of La Salette if you get a chance! Can't wait to here what its like!

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the prayers...it's still very tentative but I am pretty jazzed about going.

I KNEW from your blog you would recommend La Salette. I checked out their website and the shrine location looks incredible and the shrine is enormous, on top a mountain in the French alps. Am spending part of the day reading up on it since it is high on my list of things to do. Travelling in France is hard for me since I don't speak any French (want to be my translator?!!) and only speak enough German to get around (not much help in France, but when things are either presented in French or German, not English, I can usually muddle through with the German). Maybe I should learn some French travel basics.

Ma Beck said...

Sounds like a great time!
Hope everything works out.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to a full report when you return! If I can't go myself I will live through your experiences!

swissmiss said...

Guys, if I get to go you won't be able to shut me up! My husband and I used to do a lot of traveling before we had kids. In fact, the last time I traveled we took my aunt to Ireland with us and came home with a wonderful souvenir of the trip...I was pregnant with our son :) I haven't traveled since then, so it's been about five years. Since I've been a stay-at-home mom, we don't have the money to do much traveling, but my brother has repeatedly asked me to visit and is now getting irritated that I haven't. Even hubby thinks I better go just to keep the peace!

gemoftheocean said...

I'm excited for you. YOU HAVE TO GO TO LISIEUX. capisce? My mom and I went on a day trip and I still consider that one of the best days of my life. If I could pick 10 days to relive, that would be one of them.

More later, I gotta get to bed, I should have gone hours ago.


swissmiss said...

My top three are Mont Saint Michel, Nevers (St. Bernadette) and Lisieux. I don't know what my brother is going to think about the whole driving deal, but I think, if it comes to it, I could get a train from Geneva to Paris and then make it to Lisieux, but I don't know if any trains go to St. Malo (MSM). Nevers could be a day trip from Geneva, same with Ars and La Salette. This is really cutting into my genealogy pursuits though. I might not even get to the Swiss archives. I know my brother and SIL won't care for any shrines and will think I'm a Jesus freak, but so be it!

I can't believe the costs for a passport. It's almost a $100 for my kid! Mine expires in 2010, so have some time left of it.

Let me know about your experiences Lisieux. My book says to see the family home (Les Buissonets), is this within walking distance? What about the St. Therese Chapel and St. Peter's Cathedral? My books says the train station is a 10 minute walk to Lisieux, so am estimating it's kind of a hike to the other places (cathedral, house, etc). I'm not adverse to walking, however!

Sanctus Belle said...

Hey, about learning French: try your library! I just checked out a CD called "Drive time French" and its totally by hearing and speaking and designed to be listened to in the car. Its the best such program I've tried and I've tried several! Best of all I borrowed it for a month for FREE.

swissmiss said...

Good idea. I'll have to see if they have tapes. I just requested a book that I was kind of surprised they had, "How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization" and planned to pick it up tonight. Will have to check on their website and see if anything is available in French, so I could pick it up when I'm there.

French is probably the only hindrance I have to really striking out on my own. I don't have a problem doing a day trip drive to La Salette, or taking trains here and there, but to arrange lodging and meals is hard if you don't speak the language. Of all the countries, getting around in France has been the hardest just because of the language! (Oh, and Scotland, I can't understand a think Scottish brogue to save my life!) If my brother doesn't mind going with me by car or train all the way across the country, then no worries since he speaks enough to get by. My SIL speaks French as a first language and several other languages, so if she went we would be totally set. I always like to have a back up plan though in case I need to fend for myself.