Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Gavarnie ... The wrong sort of snow

Each year most of the HCPT groups have a day trip up to Gavarnie in the Pyrenees. It is a village on the traditional pilgrim route to Compostella, and was I think the last place in France before the dangerous climb into the mountains. The little Church here has a cupboard containing the skulls of three unfortunate (though not recent!) pilgrims.

The village is nowadays more a base for skiers and other tourists to the region. The views are quite spectacular and at this time year - even when Easter is late - we see snow on the ground, and of course on the peaks of the mountains.

Last year, Easter being early, there was lots of snow, and a little anxiety that the roads might not be passable. In the event, the kids and helpers went sledging and went home thoroughly wet and exhausted.

A feature of the visit, for each group, is the group mass. Groups generally celebrate mass out of doors in the stunning surroundings (too many groups to use the church, and it's often warmer outside). Last year it was difficult for all groups to find a suitable spot, and we were one group that used the Church. This year outside was impossible, because it was just the wrong kind of snow - wet, and slushy, and yukky ... and the chapel was not safely accessible for all members of the group. So we, in Group 20, shared mass with another group in a room in a cafe, well actually, an Auberge. Other groups found similar corners in other inns and hostelries, but here is the nice part of the story: in all the snow there was not a place for every group in the Inn, so one had mass in a storeroom, another in a barn, and one in the stables where the donkeys are kept.

Ah - it might be Easter, but it sounds more like Christmas to me.

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