Carcassonne Archives - St. Stephen's University

Sunrise Over Florence

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

A sunrise takes you to a place almost outside of time and space. To see a day born is a deeply moving experience, and I have seen few enough to remember most of them, but there have been two on this trip that I think I would remember – even if I drank of the mythological “waters of forgetfulness”
The first was in a field of poppies beneath the medieval walls of Carcassonnne, watching as the sun turned the walls into burnished gold and the poppies unfolded into translucent red silk. The second morning was on the steps of a 10th century church on a hill above the city of Florence. In that quiet and sacred space Janell and I watched the rays light on the Duomo and gradually waken the sleeping city.
Our dean Gregg Finley loves to use the phrase “thin place” to identify those times and places where the gap between heaven and earth is narrowed or closed. I can’t help but think, in the midst of man-made sculpture, painting, and architecture, that the most powerful beauty of all – the kind which creates such “thin places” – is the beauty of the natural world God created. In the midst of which are those moments when He lets us see it in all its glory. At the same time, I have to add that I am becoming more and more amazed as our trip goes on, at how He is so gracious as to share His beauty-making capacity with mankind. I see this gift in the beauty of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” or in the collaboration the Duomo of Florence and the walls of Carcassone with the light of His sun.

– Kate

Au Revoir, France. (Until we meet again in a few weeks.)

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

Our journey through the south of France brought us to Carcassonne, Avignon, and Nice.  Since leaving Spain we have been encountered much more with the travelling aspect of this trip, having survived a number of long bus days including some mountain stretches we could do nothing but applaud our bus driver Chris for bringing us confidently and safely through!

SSU's Infamous Group Picture in Carcassonne

In our last night in France, our group spent time sharing moments on the trip where we experienced a real sense of gratitude thus far. It was a great time of reflecting and realizing that each stop has meant something different to each of us along the way.

We had the opportunity to wander through the streets of Carcassonne, an ancient turret-topped fortress the evening we arrived in France.  Some watched the city walls light up at night while enjoying local cuisine from a cafe inside the walls and others watched from a distance to see the whole city.

In Avignon, we spent part of the day exploring the Pope’s Palace then making our way through the city, stopping at cafes, shops, and the famous Pont St. Benezet (immortalized in the ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon nursery rhyme). I think I can speak for everyone that one of our most thankful moments was arriving at Pont du Gard on a 30 plus degree afternoon, diving into the water and swimming below the three-tiered Roman aqueduct that is still, amazingly, exceptionally well preserved.

En route to Nice, we made a stop at the Protestant Museum where, as one student put it, we had the opportunity to “see where we have come from”, where many of our roots are found.

In Nice, we were welcomed by Joanna Marple, Rachael Barham’s friend who gave us a brief history of Nice as well as recommended to us some sites. Our free day brought different groups to different places; from Matisse, Chagall, and Modern Art museums to Old Nice market to pick up some lavender and herbs (some of the local specialties) and down to the beach for a final swim in the Mediterranean.

Angela Stanley (On behalf of the Europe 2011 Leadership Team)

Simply Poppies

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

I stand inside an ancient cathedral with beautiful architecture and stunning frescos, or in a museum staring at a great and famous work of art known around the world; but I am unaffected. More often than not on this trip so far I have felt relatively apathetic about most of the art and architecture we have seen. There have been a few things that have stood out to me and which I have very much enjoyed or felt changed by, but 80 percent of what we have seen has not stunned me. However, I am realizing that this is okay; that everything does not have to have a great impact on me, that I can go through the trip slowly and subtly affected by things and still come out a better person. And rather than trying to fabricate a certain type of experience or trying to be affected by things that I feel like I should be affected by, allowing Europe and all that is offers touch me when and how it wants to.

I remember being in Carcassonne, a very old, very beautiful fortified city which I felt no connection to whatsoever. I remember our walk into the city and the large field of poppies we passed; hundreds of thousands of brilliantly red poppies. It was at this moment that I understood why great artists painted; I understood why they were inspired. I am writing this blog on the bus. Looking out the window every few words to keep from getting motion sickness. As I look out at the Italian countryside; the mountains, the fields of grapes, olive trees, the magnolia, the tall regal cypress` and the red poppies colouring the otherwise green landscape, I understand again where so many great painters got their inspiration. I understand why van Gogh painted so many cypresses and why Gaudi was so inspired by nature and used it to create such unique architecture. This small and simple realization is of greater value to me than standing in front of a great basilica or in front of  the Roman forum thinking: this used to be the centre of the world. I am looking forward to many more simple realizations or experiences which in turn bring so much joy.


Europe is a whirlwind kaleidoscope

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

I guess the predominant thought on my mind recently is that I’m currently a skipping stone across the enormous ocean that is Europe. I’ve realized that in every city we’ve visited, there is enough history, culture and just stuff to do that we could probably spend the entire trip in that one location. In Barcelona there’s the Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona cathedral and a whole Catalan culture to be explored and learned. In Carcassonne, there’s the fortified city (I wanted a horse and a suit of armour to fill out the experience). Florence: the Santa Maria del Fiore, the leather market and hey, it’s Italy! Rome…ha. It’s Rome.

Therefore, this entire trip so far has consisted of me agonizing over which places to visit. I’ve had to pick and choose in order to adequately (not properly) experience a location and get even a basic understanding of something I have never experienced before. This is not the Asia trip at all, which was like being dumped into the deep end of a really unusual pool (with a life jacket, but it was still challenging). This is Europe, and I’m just skimming along, making notes in my journal about where I want to go again, when I’m all grown up and not paying off student loans.

By the way…as cool as Rome is, I don’t know if I want to go back. There is waaay too much traffic, too many vendors and too many kitschy tour guides demanding my attention. Wait, I fib. I do want to go back…way back, like 2000 years. In that sense, I’m a little sorry we’re not going to Pompeii. I’d forgotten that Rome was a modern day city with real people still living in it. And there are a lot of people in Rome, although St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican (totally crowded), the Forum, Pantheon and the Coliseum were all awesome experiences.

Europe is a whirlwind kaleidoscope with me hanging onto the edge, taking a zillion pictures and marvelling that all these people can live in such close proximity and not drive each other all insane. Divine intervention, I think that’s what it is.

Oh, and no matter which way you slice it, the traffic circles were scary. We’re not even in France yet!

Katie A.