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The Secret of Shell Symbol You May Find in France

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Rolling into the seventh day of 2015, with a mind still on the fritz and a languid body battling  weakly against the post-holiday blues, I let myself sink into pages of The Times only to be shocked and appalled by the news. Another terror attack and more innocent people sacrificed but this time, in Paris. Against a magazine. A place and an industry that I truly care about. I’m sitting in London now but as I write this, scenes from the attack video, where the floundering policeman was shot dead to the ground, come gushing into my mind. It’s despicable, the massacre at the office of Charlie Hebdo. 

I’m not going to delve deeper into this issue here in AlexandraLuella. But my heart goes out to France and I will certainly be following the comments and opinions coming from important journalists these few days or even weeks. There are already a lot of voices concerning the attack vis-à-vis the weight of free speech spewed out all over the internet. “PARCE QUE LE CRAYON SERA TOUJOURS AU DESSUS DE LA BARBARIE…” (because the pencil will always be above the barbarity). It’s interesting to see how and where this will end. 

***

Anyhow. Blogging resumes.

When in France, you may encounter some religious buildings or institutions bearing the symbol of a scallop shell. If you haven’t known, it is not there for decorative purpose. It is the symbol of St. Jacques and the place where you see it is one of the stops along the Route of Santiago Compostela. 

This is a pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle of St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain. In simple words, the path which pious Christians travel by foot (some bicycle) in order to show their faith and devotion, and earn blessings from God. 

Paris is one of the traditional starting points and the pilgrims will carry a “credential”, also called the pilgrim’s passport, which they use to gain access to inexpensive or free accommodation during their spiritual journey to north-western Spain.

This pilgrimage may take up a span of time as short as two weeks or as long as a month. Due to individual commitments, there are some pilgrims today who separate their journey into a few parts – they would walk and stop at a certain point and return to continue at a later time.  

In case you are interested, The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho is a book based on his personal experience along this route to Santiago.

During my Christmas holiday, I visited the Abbaye de Fontcaude, a Roman abbey built in the 12 century in the department of Hérault, south of France. It was ruined after the Revolution, rebuilt today and the name Fontcaude was derived from the term “Fountaine chaude” which means hot spring. It is one of the pilgrimage stops located, more specifically, at a little town called Cazedarnes, which has a population below 500.

There was no one visitor at the peak of December. With the sky in shades of cyan, the grass stupendously green and flowers blooming in festive red, these photos below could have been easily passed off as spring/summer shots. There were a cloister, a sculpture museum, a mill ,a bell foundry and a garden.

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After a tour around the abbey, we then walked through the narrow lane down to a small vineyard, bald and temporarily deserted in the middle of December.

But to my great surprise we found a herb that smells like a mix of lemon-grass and liquorice, tiny footprints of wild little friends and some rose haw, enough to make a pot of jam! Perks of being at the countryside. 

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With love x

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