Corrinne's Musings - A singer-songwriter's life.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I write songs, I sing them... I play the piano and a little bit of the guitar.. I've released 5 albums of music, I love the scent of freshly fallen rain and the scent of lavender on bedsheets. I would drink tea all day long if the caffeine didn't keep me up at night. I hate driving in L.A traffic. I would love to one day catch the squirrel that steals the plums from my tree and make him a pet. I don't watch TV anymore. My 3 year old daughter is more entertaining than any TV show could ever be :)

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

France - Visiting the hometown of St. Therese of Lisieux

Recount of a trip taken on 10th Feb. 2008 to Lisieux, France


Woke up a little later than planned because Kavin's alarm clock was set to 8.15 PM instead of AM. Ah well, we still managed to get to Les Buissonets (St. Thérése's childhood home) on time around 10 a.m

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A senior lady with friendly grandmother glasses, a kind smile and short hair opened the door. We were the first visitors there that day. Her badge said 'Sister Vivienne' and after a bit of us trying to understand her French and her trying to understand our English, we realised that she was telling us to wait for the pre-recorded audio guide/cassette to start us on our tour through the house. We stood in the living room of St. Thérése's childhood home. In front of us, the fireplace where would look forward to filled stockings on Christmas. Also on the wall in the room was a painting of Les Buissonnets by Thérése's older sister Celine and behind a plastic, see-through barrier was the dining room where the family had their meals. I could almost picture the kids, excited on Christmas day, and the family sitting down to dinner.

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Next, we went upstairs. There on a wall, was a picture of St. Thérése's parents and on the opposite wall, on a chest of drawers, was a copy of the statue of Mary that overlooked Thérése as she lay sick in bed.

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We were then ushered into a 3rd room which displayed an exhibition of Thérése's belongings, her first communion dress, another dress she wore for special occasions, her toys, her tea-set, her mini- stove toy kitchen with its small pots and pans, her puzzle bricks, books, the cross of Christ which she prayed in front of for the criminal Pendanzi (?) I wish I'd checked to see if her rosary was there. There was also a cage there with a toy bird and perhaps, a music, accordion-like keyboard somewhere, I think. Somehow those two items caught my eye, as I wondered if Thérése sang, or liked music. I liked the mini-stove set too. Very cute. Can imagine her playing that with her sisters.

Therese's play stove DSC07953

Therese's first holy communion dress DSC07957

There was also a bookshop in the same room, but most of the books were in French. So after Les Buissonnets, we made our way to St. Pierre Cathedral, or rather, in English, St. Peter's Cathedral for the 11 a.m mass. When we got there, the bells were already ringing away in the bell tower, calling people to mass.

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It was nice to attend mass at the same parish as St. Thérése had attended as a child, with her family and her dad. The parishioners were mostly from the area, and there were many kids and families in the congregation. So despite the frigid conditions in the church, there was the warmth there of something familiar that the parishioners, in their community parish brought with them.

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Good thing I had checked up on the readings for the day beforehand, since everything was being read in French. The readings of the day were about Adam and Eve's fall and the gospel was about Jesus's temptation by Satan in the desert. Where Adam and Eve failed to resist temptation and thus fell, Jesus resisted temptation and was obedient to His Father's will.

After mass, we quickly walked around, following a leaflet that listed the various places to see within the church that related to St. Thérése's life. Places like the wooden confessional where Thérése received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the marble altar that St. Thérése's father had donated to the church. He was a watchmaker and a jeweller, and was presumably quite well-to-do.

Confessional box where Therese made her first confession. IMG_6587

We also saw the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary where Thérése attended mass during the week. It had a lovely altar with Our Lady’s image and the Blessed Sacrament was present within the tabernacle. We also saw the small chapel that Thérése’s family had rented for Sunday mass and a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that Thérése’s sister Pauline used to pray in front of, seeking Mary’s help in discerning her vocation. the small chapel that Thérése’s family had rented for Sunday mass

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a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that Thérése’s sister Pauline used to pray in front of
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After this, we headed across the street to have lunch at Le Patio, where I had a lamb dish and Kavin had an omellette, a sandwich and a cup of coffee. The coffee tasted good. Then we headed to the Basilica of St. Therese.

It was a beautiful day, clear blue skies. We went first to the crypt. It had beautiful mosaic tiles all over the ceiling with images from Therese’s life, from her childhood to her death. There were also little chapels dedicated to her favourite saints and at the very front of the crypt, above the altar, was a statue of St. Therese above the tabernacle. Off to one side, the Child Jesus smiled over a side altar.

The basilique
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The crypt
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Mosaic of St. Therese at the main crypt altar
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Mosaic commemorating Therese's entrance to Carmel.
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Altar with the child Jesus above the tabernacle.
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At the back of the church, an exhibit had been laid out, with pictures from Therese’s life in Carmel (unfortunately, Carmel convent was closed for renovations and we could see the convent where she had spent most of her time as a nun) and pictures of her family. There was even a photo there where Therese had dressed herself as St. Joan of Arc! I thought that was so cute, the future saint dressed as a saint that she herself had admired. A future saint, dressed as a saint, a warrior-in-making in her own way. I wonder if there is a section in her book where she talks about dressing up as Joan of Arc. I think she does.

St. Therese dressed as St. Joan of Arc
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Looking at her family tree, it was also interesting to note that her sisters had lived quite long lives as opposed to Therese’s 24 years. Kavin pointed out that two of her sisters had lived to see both world wars. We went upstairs after this to the basilique itself. It’s a huge and very beautiful church. Orange-red mosaic tiles all over added a warmth, a passion, an almost child-like love of colour within the church. It’s the most colourful church I’ve seen in France, apart from the Notre Dame de Fourvière in Lyon. The dome was so big, Kavin was pretty awe-struck too. The stained glass windows had some words on them. I assume they were St. Therese’s words. On the arc of the dome, there were mosaics of flowers and also a mosaic featuring a single rose. I loved the main altar, showing Our Lady on the left and Therese on the right, the resurrected Christ in the middle and the little lambs (so cute) below.

The huge dome of the basilica, from within.
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Top of the dome, showing St. Therese being receiving her just reward
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Mosaic at the front of the main altar.
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View of the back of the church.
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But the best part of the church was the right main chapel, where a reliquary held the bones of St. Therese’s right arm, the arm with which she wrote her ‘Story Of A Soul’. It was moving to see these right arm bones of St. Therese, for here, laid the physical relics of the saint I’ve been so inspired by. Here lay the physical framework and strength from which she wrote her story. Here was the physical part of her that she had asked Mary to guide, for, in her own words, “Before taking my pen in hand, I knelt before the statue of Mary and I begged her to guide my hand so that I might not write a single line that would not be pleasing to her.”. This was the part of her, offered up to God, that now lay in this reliquary.

The side chapel
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St. Therese's right arm bone lays in the reliquary
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I look upon St. Therese as an older sister of sorts, as a role model. God used her through her story, her words, her simple loving ways and her wisdom. This humble Therese, who in life, never knew the recognition that came with the spread of her story after her death, was not concerned with fame or fortune. All she wanted to do was to love Him as best as she could and to get to Heaven where she hoped she would be able to spend her time in Heaven doing good on earth. She wanted to quench the Lord’s thirst for souls. This thread of humility, of being unrecognized here on earth, seems to be a common thread in the saints I’ve come across on this trip to France, for St. Catherine Laboure was also unknown and kept Our Lady’s visits to her a secret for so many years.

Anyway, I knelt in front of the reliquary and asked the saint’s help in my own writing, my music and ministry. I hope that she will guide me to writing, singing and making music that pleases Him. I hope to do with my left arm and hand what she did with her right, ie. to always write what is pleasing to Him, no more, no less.

Kavin and I walked outside the basilica after this and saw the place behind the church where Therese’s parents were buried. Above their tombstones was a statue of St. Therese and behind her stood the majestic church named for her. God truly sought to raise his little flower. What a wonderful testimony to His providence, that He had chosen to honour his little saint with a church to her name and to make her a tree of comfort for all who learn about her ‘little way’. The littlest, the least has truly been raised up high. The speed at which she attained sainthood seems unmatched. Even St. Joan of Arc, matyred in the 1400’s was only declared a saint 500 years after her death. In contrast, St. Therese was declared a saint less than 50 years after her death.

After the visit to the Basilica, we drove back towards Paris, with the intention to stop by at Versailles along the way. The little Opel Corsa we had rented packed quite a punch, remaining steady on the road even at 150 km/hr. Pretty cool car.

So we got to Versailles a little after 5 p.m Kavin was excited to see the buildings that he had initially seen ‘virtually’ in his computer game. We took some photos in the huge Jardins (gardens) and in front of the buildings, then headed back to Paris, returning the car at the Hertz carpark on Rue du Maine, then walking back to check into a new room at the Hotel Des Academy des Arts.

At Versailles
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Kavin tries to be a tree at the Jardin.
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Then we headed to Sapporo for ramen. Mmmmmm… Along the way, we heard some wonderful music from a busker in the subway who was playing his violin. Absolutely gorgeous.
I've posted a short video clip here :
video

More photos of Lisieux are here

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

France - Mass at Mont Saint Michel / Setting off for Lisieux

Recount of France vacation taken on
Saturday 9th February 2008.

Mont St Michel, 9.20 a.m


My fingers are so cold I can hardly write. Went
for Laudes just now in the Abbey. It was beautiful.
Now sitting at a cafe along the street, having a tiny
cup of decafeine. Tastes good. I wanted to order the Verveine
Tea but they were out of it.



Woke up at 7.15 a.m
Was sleepy coz we slept around 2 a.m. But
it was so lovely to walk around Mont St Michel
in the briskness of the early morning. Pretty mystical
to walk along the ramparts and up the many flights of
stairs, in the purple-blue, pink light of dawn, up towards the
abbey's entrance.






For a thousand years, pilgrims have probably huffed
and puffed and walked up the many stairs, up the rock,
to pray. A beautiful metaphor for our faith journey,
the uphill, winding road.

I was alone, taking in the gradual pinking of the sky,
the waves gently lapping against the foot of this rock.
Taking pictures as I walked along, with my guardian
angel rushing me on, so that I would not be late
for Laudes.

Walking up the stairs towards the abbey door, I wondered
if I was at the right place. There was no one else there,
just me, awaiting the huge abbey doors to be opened, to
be let in for the 8 a.m Laudes.

Just as I was thinking this, the 'di-di-di' og an electronic
door alarm being switched off could be heard. Ah... modernity
and technology in the midst of the ancient. Pretty cool.

The door within a door creaked open and the young man
within ushered me in. I guess he was one of the novices
of the monastery.



We both waited a couple more minutes for others perhaps
to show, but as the minutes wore on, it became apparent
that I would be the only one there from outside
the abbey to join the monks within the abbey at Laudes.

We made our way past the nave of the main church where
a monk was pulling on a long rope, ringing the baritone,
resonant bells up in the tower that signalled a call
to prayer. In that dimly lit church and altar, it was
awe-inspiring and mystically beautiful to see history
come alive before my eyes...to see the continuity of
this way of life of the monks, the tolling of the bell
everyday at this hour, as it has been done for close to thousand years.



We walked towards the left of the church and down a small
stairwell, into a small chapel, simple, round, shaped
like the cup of a hand. There in the dim light, I could
make out the figures of 4 priests and 4 nuns, prostrate
in silent prayer.



I sat on a bench along with 3 others, lay people, ordinarily
clothed like me. After a few minutes, the lights
were brighted and the monks and nuns began to sing.

It was hauntingly beautiful to hear the soft, smooth
harmonious blending of the voices in 4 part harmonies,
singing morning praises to God as the light slowly streamed
in the small rectangular windows behind the
small tabernacle from the brightening sky outside.

Their voices rose and fell and blended as they sang
Psalm 3 and Psalm 26, the canticle of Zachary.
I tried to sing and follow as best as I could,
which was not much, since I knew neither the language
nor the melody, but I asked the Holy Spirit
to help me 'know' in the depths of my spirit and soul,
to hear and discern the Lord's voice in this foreign tongue.




To think that for a thousand years, men and women have
praised God in that little chapel. Amazing...

Afterwards, I spoke a bit with the brother who had
opened the door for me to the Abbey. I was shown the
'balcony' of the abbey, where we could see
the whole lay of the land below. The water, slowly sifting
in, the grapefruit pink sky merging to blue...it was
a gorgeous view if only for a few minutes.




'See you at noon for Mass!' I told him, as he smiled and soon
the abbey doors were once again closed. And I wandered
along till I found this cafe. Just finished off
a beurre/sucre (butter and sugar) crepe and that
decaffeine. Now I'm ready to go along on my way.


==================

I made my way back to the hotel and woke Kavin up.
I had just discovered that there would be a tour of the
abbey given in English at 11 a.m, so we didn't have much
time to spare.

The tour was given by a middle-aged, bespectacled
French lady who had the tendency to 'shush' groups
of tourists of schoolkids passing by who were talking
too loudly for her comfort. She definitely had a schoolteacher
inclination :) There were also some tourists from England who
were on the same tour as us

After the tour, we headed back to the front of the Abbey,
at a gate, the meeting spot for anyone who wanted to attend
mass at 12.15 p.m. A sweet-faced nun, one of those who had
sung at Laudes in the morning, was there at the gate.

We said 'hi' to her and told her we were going for
mass. She recognised me from the morning Laudes,
gave us stickers, green round ones which stated
'Participants of mass' and told me, with hand signals
and halting English, that mass would be at the same
place as Laudes had been. She also playfully chided
Kavin for not waking up on time for Laudes that morning
(Kavin had mentioned that he'd been sleeping). So cute,
she was even playfully wagging her finger at him as she chided him.

So Kavin and I made our downstairs to the little chapel.
There were some extra benches placed there to accomodate
the 20 people who were sitting down in silence.

We sat on the bench closest to the altar and sat in
silence. I recognised the man sitting next to us
as he had also been there in the morning for Laudes
and we introduced ourselves. Gäita was his name
and he was there on a retreat.

Mass soon began and it was filled with songs sung in 4 part
harmony; songs that harkened to a past, a heritage
of music passed down from generation to generation of
religious brothers and sisters.

The acoustic warmth and the echo reverberating
in that small chapel was heartwarming.

I did not understand a word as everything was sung
and spoke in French and I found myself wishing that
I had read the readings for the day so that I could
understand the gospel being proclaimed in French.
Still, I asked the holy spirit to speak to my soul,
for even if my brain could not understand the words,
the spirit could speak to my soul in a voice of
meaning that transcends language and it could plant
a seed of God's word there; a seed that would
germinate and flower in His time.






The liturgy of the Eucharist was beautifully
celebrated. The celebrant beheld Christ's body
and blood with such tenderness.
After the consecration, the great Amen and
during the Agnus Dei, he distributed the Eucharist
to the nuns and monks there, who lined up on both
sides of the altar, hands cupped to receive His body.

I was so moved to see their faces as they received
Him in their hands, as they beheld His body in their
cupped hands...faces full of tenderness and love,
praise and quiet contemplation as they beheld their
God. I especially lingered on the face of the sister,
the sweet, pretty one who had met us at the gate
earlier. There was such sweetness in her face, such
tenderness and love.

The celebrant had a very fatherly approach too and
he gestured in French that those who couldn't receive
communion could come up for a blessing. Kavin went up
for a blessing and really liked the way that the priest
took his time to specially bless each and every one.

I was pretty much moved to tears after partaking of
His body and drinking His sweet blood, as I sat
there on the bench, looking at the golden chalice that
held His precious blood, getting teary thinking about
his great sacrifice out of love for me and for my
breathren. It was a beautiful few minutes, a moment
of grace given by Him.

After mass, Gäita gave me the drawing that he'd been
drawing during part of the mass. I'd been wondering
why he'd been doodling, thinking that he was bored...
and here he was giving me his drawing. It showed a dragon
being slain by St. Michael and in the background was
Mont St Michel, and at the bottom right, he'd drawn
a girl in spiritual joy. He smiled and told me that
I was the girl he had depicted in his drawing.
I was very moved.





After mass, Kavin and I went back to Auberge St. Piere's
restaurant. This time, both of us had the lamb dish.
Mmmmm....:)





Following this, we drove to Lisieux. It took us about
2 hours to reach Lisieux from Mont St Michel.
After checking in to the Campanile hotel, we rested
for a while before heading out for dinner at a crepe
restaurant we'd googled. It was a nice cosy restaurant
run by a French guy and his Vietnamese wife.



I had the Bolognese crepe and Kavin had the ceylon
crepe (with chicken and curry). They were both good.
After this, we had dessert crepes. Sucre-beurre with
a scoop of Pear sorbet for me and crepe with a scoop
of coffee ice-cream for Kavin.

Here's a link to more pics taken at Mont Saint Michel.
Too many to post here.

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France - Normandy Beach / Mont Saint Michel

[Recount of a visit to Normandy Beach and Mont Saint Michel taken on
Friday 8th February 2008]


We checked out of our rooms around 11 a.m and got to Hertz
taking some sandwiches we’d bought along the way with us
in the car for lunch. Then we were off. Thank goodness for
the GPS system that we had rented along with the car. With
the windy roads in Paris and all the unfamiliar road names
in French, we would have been stuck without a clue as to
where to go without the GPS system.

The car we rented was a cute, black Opel Corsa. It was a manual
car, and I loved the fact that the gears shifted pretty smoothly.
And being small, I could navigate it pretty easily through the traffic.
Surprisingly, Parisian traffic wasn’t as bad as I thought it would
be. Either that, or with my experience driving in Singapore,
and in Los Angeles, driving in Paris was a breeze.

So we headed for the Normandy beaches that the Allied troops
had landed at on D-Day 1944. Kavin was really looking forward
to seeing history up close. After driving for a couple of hours,
along some winding roads passing through farmlands and small
towns and getting a little off-course at one point in time,
we finally reached the American War Memorial near Omaha
beach at 3.45 p.m

Upon reaching the war memorial, we watched a short movie entitled
‘Letters’, featuring the stories of the young men who had written letters home to their loved ones.
It was so sad to hear the words written by
these young men, and then to see their gravestones as the frames
told their stories and visually ended with a picture of their graves.
It was poignant how young these men, were killed at the peak
of their young lives.



We walked later around the cemetery. Crosses stretched out
over the area, covering every bit of green. Over 10,000 lives lost.



We took a walk down the pathway to the beach. With the beauty
of the sunset fast approaching, the waves rushing over the orange-brown sands and a couple of dogs playing along the coast lines, and some pretty houses dotting the hills just above, it was hard to imagine that barely 60 years ago, this same beach was the scene of much bloodshed, pain and screams of young men being massacred, the roar of guns and grenades exploding, reverberating around this now tranquil place….I could almost hear the whispers of those who died pleading, “Remember us, so that our deaths are not in vain.”

Hopefully, time will not erase the memory of the courage these men
showed in the face of war and death, in helping to save strangers that they had never met, thousands of miles away from home.

We made our way to Point Du Hoc after this. The place was pockmarked with huge craters, covered in green grass and weeds. I initially wondered if nature’s erosions had caused the craters, but realized later that they
were probably the result of mortars, and bombs exploding during WWII,eating the land away.

Nothing except decrepit barracks and twisted fragments of concrete, rock and steel remained. Kavin explained
that this was where allied troops had scaled a steep cliff face in order
to take out German artillery guns.

Nature had slowly but surely reclaimed her land, covering the holes
Man had made with a carpet of green. The Pointe-Du-Hoc monument
itself stood close to the edge of the cliff, cordoned off, because the land on which it stood was in danger of eroding away and collapsing.



Some more pictures of Normandy and the American War Memorial can be seen here.

Kavin and I walked back to the car as dusk fell, and continued
our journey towards Mont St Michel.

It appeared in the distance, in the dark, bathed in soft light,
like something out of a dream, looking otherworldly, “Magical”
as Kavin described it, and as we drove closer, Mont St Michel
got a little larger in view, till at last we were at the edge of the
causeway that would take us to the rocky outcrop.



I was glad that we had chosen to stay in a hotel on the Mont itself
instead of one on the mainland. It seemed a pity for the people who
stayed in one of the many hotels on the mainland to be so close,
yet so far away from the Mont.

Anyway, we drove along the causeway, with only our headlights
to guide the way on the darkened road. We wound down the windows,
listening to the water’s ebb and flow and the crunch of the gravel
beneath the car tires. The cold wind played hide and seek with our
hair.

Water surrounded us on both sides of the road and it truly was magical driving towards the abbey on the causeway.
It seemed as if we were floating upon the heavens, water around us,
and the stars twinkling above, and before us, the majestic Mont Saint Michel.

It looked like some faraway heavenly castle, perched upon that rock.
Truly an architectural marvel.

We pulled up to the carpark area and because we were staying
on the Mont itself, we had access to the parking lot that was closest
to the Mont and specially reserved for hotel guests. And parking
was free. That’s always good.

We got out of the car. It was chilly and windy, but we were
awed by what we saw before us. The sound of waves could be heard
gently crashing around us, as the tide rose higher and higher and flowed in across the salt marshes and plains that surrounded Mont Saint Michel.

As we made our way into the Mont itself, we walked along a wooden
plank built along the side of the Mont and passed by some Japanese
tourists walking in the opposite direction, oohing and aahing at the
rising tide which was washing over and covering what looked to
be a carpark.

Kavin and I walked along the passageway and passed by La Mere Poulard on our left, the restaurant that is famous for its omelete. But at 30 Euros an omelette, I felt it was an exorbitant price to pay for a couple of eggs whipped up.

It was about 8.40 p.m by this time, and we were worried that there
would be nowhere to eat dinner. Fortunately, the restaurant linked
to our hotel opened late, so after checking into the Auberge St. Pierre,
we had dinner at the restaurant around 9.10 p.m. What luck
that it was also the same restaurant mentioned in the guidebook,
for it’s salt-marsh lamb dishes. The lamb around Mont St Michel
is prized because it feeds on the salt-marshes around the Mont,
thus, it is said to have a wonderful flavour. Pré-Salé lamb.
Or in French, L’Agneau pré-salé

I ordered the Carre d’Agneau which was spectacular. It
was a small rack of lamb that had been roasted with thyme and rosemary.
It was the best lamb I’d ever tasted. Not gamey at all in flavour.
The lamb was tender and moist with a robust, rich flavour. Mmmm.



We tried a fluffy omelette at half the price.

Kavin ordered a chicken dish. The mussels and fries dish that I’d
seen some other patrons order also looked great.



We went back to the room to freshen up after dinner. We had room
#108, a cute cottage-like room with a king-sized bed downstairs
and a tiny spiral staircase that led to a mini-room upstairs
with two single beds. We had a beautiful view of Mont St Michel
from our window. We were also given a key that allowed us
to have access to and from the hotel via the ramparts outside.

So later that night, we took a walk outside. The swish of the water
and waves slowly washing over the surrounding salt flats and the
brightness of the stars (as our eyes got used to the dark) combined
with the fact that we were the only 2 people walking around, made
it feel like it was just us in this small town, that we had the whole
place to ourselves. It was lovely.



Kavin was so excited about the ramparts, pointing out the areas
where archers would have stationed themselves to fire arrows
through the thin slit openings in the stone walls and pointing
out the holes on the floor near the rampart walls where oil
would have been poured onto any invaders attacking from below.

Mont St Michel is also a jewel of military architecture, and looking at
the ramparts, it was awe-inspiring to realize that we were standing on
the same exact spot where hundreds of years ago, soldiers would
have stood to defend this place.

We made our way up many many steps to reach the door to the abbey
and also passed by some garden areas and also trampled along the
cobblestoned streets below, flanked by shops advertising crepes,
food and souvenirs. The shops were closed and there was an
air of peace and tranquility.

The lights that lit Mont St Michel’s abbey soon switched off at
midnight and Kavin and I had a wonderful moment looking up
at the thousands of stars that blanketed the sky, more and more stars
becoming visible as our eyes adjusted to the darkness.

We spotted Orion, the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, and the
fuzziness of the Milky Way in the background and we also saw
a shooting star skip across the heavens….

Pure bliss...

Here are pictures of Mont Saint Michel at night

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