Saturday, July 01, 2006



Abbè de Fontenay.

Uuygh. Getting here was not easy. Not so much because the Christians just loooove to build monasteries and abbeys on top of mountains and in the middle of secluded forests, but simply because although the Abbey of Fontenay is only about 30 kms from Avallon, which I'm using as base of operations to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites Fontenay and Vézelay (14 kms away from Avallon), there is no easy way to get there using public transport. Consider this: to get to Fontenay from Avallon, you first need to take the bus to Montbard (7 Euros), which is the closest village. The abbey is 6 kms away from there, which you can walk, uphill, for about 2 hours in the 32° humid summer heat, or take a taxi (10 Euros). If you're lucky, you'll find another tourist or two to share the cab with, but there were none today. Then, the entrance fee to the Abbey is 8.50 Euros. So a not so small investment---one way (double up the transportation costs for the return trip). And to top it off, the busses to Montbard from Avallon leave at either 6 a.m. (too early!) or 11 a.m. (acceptable but not ideal), and return only at 9 a.m. (too early), 1 p.m. (too early if you arrive at 12:34 from the 11 a.m. Avallon bus), or 7 p.m. (acceptable but not ideal). Which basically means that it will take you all day to make a visit, given that the Abbey can be seen in about 45 minutes, that would take you at most 2 or 3 hours by car.

Oh well, I deserve it for losing the driver's license with the wallet back in Spain. Still, I couldn't help thinking, that it rather sucks a bit that the California DMV requires you to show up in person to get a replacement. Given that they already have your picture on file (they do not require you to take another), and the replacement fee could be easily paid online through their website (credit card, for instance), it is a bit beyond me why it is that they need you to be there at all. The last time I was there to get a replacement a few months back (I tend to lose my wallet a lot, nothing unusual there) they didn't even ask for a signature. Oh well.

Anyway, one of the cool things in the abbey here is the forge. Built in 1220, it was the first metallurgical factory in Europe and the site of invention of the hydraulic hammer (if you're just as clueless as I was on what in the world a hydraulic hammer is and how it works or what it does, you can find out for instance here or here). Cool, huh? The other neat thing is the fact that the abbey is now in private hands which is probably a very good part of the reason why it is so well kept. {shrug}

After arriving back in Avallon, I went and listened to a local recital, violin and piano, with a program of some sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. It was not bad, the playing very expressive (though a bit perhaps too sentimental on the Mozart--it exasperates me quite a bit when people add fermatas and ritardandos where there aren't any...), and with excellent sound quality from both of the musicians, which I thought was quite good/impressive for a little village-town of only 8,500 inhabitants, and quite a contrast from Silicon Valley, where I once managed to convince 3 friends to tag along to a cello and piano recital, and was completely embarassed when it turned out that the playing was such a disaster, that we even had to walk out in a huff well before intermission, so bad it was. Why professionals who call themselves "musicians" would even have the gall to submit themselves and the poor audience to such poor playing is beyond me. If it were me, I would be mortified, and would rather cancel a concert, than play like I've never even looked at the score or tuned a cello before in my lifetime. But tonight's playing was rather satisfying, and convinced me that I need to get me a recording of the absolutely beautiful Sonata in E minor, K.304 of Mozart.

While the concert was going on, of course, France was busily advancing onto World Cup semis, so in the evening after the game there was quite a racket going on right outside my hotel window (I'm right by the main town square and it truly looked like the whole of the village had showed up to celebrate) that seemed so much fun, I promptly joined in by waving around the closest thing I had to a blue white and red item: my blue white and turquoise European socks, which the passing cars seemed to appreciate, for I was promptly greeted by shouts of "Allez les bleus" by the celebrators below. Heh. I like it, when people are happy. :)

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Hey Elisa - I've been reading your blog and am planning a similar trip! Can't find anywhere to contact you though, get in touch if you don't mind providing a bit of advice? Thanks so much!

Shawn

shawn_at_home@hotmail.com