… Body and soul. “Corps” is French for “Body” and Notre Dame de la Salette is the site – up in the mountains, some 60 Kms from Grenoble – where the Virgin Mary appeared before two small children in 1846, hence the reference to the “Soul”.
Its Summer, I’ve 3 weeks holiday and it’s about time to get back on the road and show my wife, and see for myself, some more interesting places around southern France! Fortunately one of the great things in this part of France is that you can always find a sunny spot, an amazing view and the occasional surprise. This time we found all three together.
We had set out on a fairly sunny Wednesday morning and headed for a lake I had found on the map, near a place called Corps, some fifty Ks east of Grenoble. Great I thought, I can try out my new “Made in Germany” GPS system.
We eventually got to Corps in a very efficient, ecological and economical way (notably thanks to the speed limit function that beeps when you go over limit) and respecting faithfully the GPS – men never ask directions – I subsequently found myself driving through the quaint little back streets of Corps that were, incidentally, getting smaller and smaller as we drove until we finally came to a quaint little “cul-de-sac” square and still the female GPS voice was inciting me to turn left.
Hurrah! The GPS had got us there! OK so it was a “cul-de-sac” but to all intents and purposes we had reached the town centre, shame it was the old centre not the new one and shame on me that I couldn’t turn the darned car round to get out! It was at this point that the very real female voice of reason by my side, my wife’s, took things in hand and got us out of the mess.
As it turned out Corps is a little pretty, touristy town where the high street bank only opens Thursdays between 9 and 12. The lake we had been heading for is an artificial retainer lake feeding a Hydro-electrical dam and as such had few beaches and water leisure facilities. What was interesting to note, however, was that apart from being the place where the river Drac starts, the same river Drac that flows through Fontaine a) its form and shape reminded me of the ravine/gorge at Midès in Tunisia and b) with its vertical cliffs the site is an amazing training site for rock climbers.
After a quick tour and a couple of photos we headed up a mountain road behind the town, stopping off at 1 275m altitude for a picnic before going further on up the mountain road, following the signs to the “Refuge de ND de la Salette” more out of curiosity than purpose.
I had no idea what this place was but as we approached we saw a big hotel type of complex, quite frequent around some of the more popular mountain passes in the region, especially those on the “Tour de France” route and not even the ten metre high cross gave me any idea of what was at the end of the road, there are crosses at the top of virtually every mountain pass!!! What was certain, though, was that not even the GPS knew where we were going! The female GPS voice had gone quiet and the directional arrow had long since left the blue line tracing the road and was going peacefully round in circles.
We finally reached the real end of the road and parked not far from the double towers (won’t say twins towers) of the church by the side of the big refuge complex and went for a walk. It was then that I noticed the abundance of statues of the Virgin Mary, crosses and on looking closer at some signs I finally understood the significance of the place. After Lourdes, which I visited some years ago, Notre Dame de la Salette is in fact one of the most important religious sites in France.
Post Scriptum. As I often like to say I am my mother’s son and have my own particular brand of religion, seven years in a convent school saw to that and since then I prefer personal introspection to organized community prayer. However the impact of visiting such sites and whatever the religion of the site – be it the Blue mosque, Lourdes, Stonehenge or 3 000 metres up a mountain – always leaves me with my spiritual batteries sufficiently recharged and contemplative, thinking that there may just well, after all, be an ulterior sense to life!