Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Eleventh Test

The second Fountain with Sun and Frog in Viscos

The Cathar Witch - J P and Fountain at Saint Savin

In one of the seven valleys there is a village on the top of a mountain where Pilar and her companion sat at the spring and chatted. Later on, Pilar will go down to the river Piedra and weep in sadness, but that is another story.

The important thing is that in this village lives a witch of the Cathar tradition whose house caught on fire and she came out unscathed.

Your image next to the first fountain and your image with the witch is the eleventh test.
Continue walking toward the mountains. In a village Chantal met the devil, and to remember this feat there is a second fountain, where a frog drinks the water of the sun.

Don’t ask too much about the origin of this fountain – the inhabitants of the city will say that the writer create a story that does not exist.

Your image in front of the second fountain is also part of the eleventh test.

Test eleven also proved to be a difficult one to crack for me. It had been so long since I had read the pertaining books, the finer details of which were somewhat vague in my memory.

I had also begun to feel extremely tired and unconcentrated, folowing the days prior, searching for that silly block of stone in the middle of a field, in the middle of nowhere. I didn't meet a singe inhabitant who had a clue as to it's existence, and yet it was under their very noses the whole time. Don't these people go for walks, I thought to myself?

I had basically relied upon my reading pertinent parts of the Devil and Mrs Prym, thus coming to the conclusion that the miniature village of Viscos, high up in the Pyreness above and beyond the valley town of Argeles Gazost, was the place I needed to search for the fountains and the Witch.

I found the second fountain quite easily, you sort of stumble over it when you arrive at the tiny nest's only restaurant. So that photograph was soon taken, and I went into the restaurant to ask a few questions about the Witch who apparently lived in the viscinity...

I entered the Hotel and Restaurant La Grange aux Marmottes Les Campanules, asking to speak to someone who spoke English, which is not quite as bad as asking a French person if they speak German... the man at the reception counter said "wait a minute please" and I perused the quiant reception area with it's large stone fireplace, as he went upstairs to ask someone to come and assist me.

An attractive lady with a slight delicate figure came down the stairs from the kitchen. You have to understand that the restaurant is built into the side of a rather steep hill and the place where ladies cook in this case, was on the first floor.

Madame Senac greeted me with a pleasant smile, asking how she could be of assistance. She smiled because I was naturally not the first person to be asking for this strange kind of assistance. She told me that even a TV Team from Russia had been there, searching for the sword.

I began by asking the whereabouts of a possible second fountain, but she was quite sure that there was no such thing in Viscos. She also politely informed me that although she had been the proprietor of the restaurant and hotel here in Viscos for over 20 years, she had never heard such a story nor had she had the experience of a meeting a witch. I thanked her for the infomation anyway and left to ponder the situation of my unfinished task.

I walked up the snow coverd and steep path which climbed up towards the next village. It was a beautiful day and the fresh clean air filled my lungs and helped me to think more clearly about my predicament and the solution. I beacme convinced that I had not placed my questions correctly, and decided to return to the restaurant and the gentle Madame Senac.

I called up the the kitchen and asked the chef who looked out of the door on the first floor, if he'd be so kind and send Madame Senac down again. She came down the stairs, smiling as before and I appologized for troubling her once more, and said that I needed to ask her a few more questions. I asked her if perhaps the second fountain could be in another village higher up, or lower down? She said "well all I can tell you is that there is another village which appears quite often in Paulo's books, Saint Savin!" I said, "but that is a pesron, a protagonist" and we both laughed. This was all I needed, Madame Senac had given me the hint that I had needed to continue my search, and I thanked her once again. She wished me luck and waved goodbye with her ever present gentle grace.

I made my way down the narrow and icy road to the valley once more, turning back towards Argeles Gazost, this time turning left, on to the road which struck a course above and parallel to the main valley road. I came into Saint Savin, another quaint Pyrenean village with beatiful views towards the surrounding Mountains. I frist stopped the post woman who was racing around on her scooter as if she was late for a hot date. She stopped, surprisingly, for me, took off her helmet and asked how she could help. I told her that I was looking for a witch who's house had been burned down and for a fontain that had been built in her name. She smiled but shook her head, and said that I should rather go to the Cafe on the square and ask there. And off she sped, weaving in and out of the tiny streets, sometimes reappearing from the left and then from he right. It reminded me of the film "Return of the Pink Panther" starring the late great Peter Sellars. I smiled to myself, and thought, "Am I in the wrong film?"

I continued as she had advised, to the Cafe on the square. I enetered, asked the waiter to bring a Cafe au lait and went into the empty room beyond the bar. The waiter brought me my cafe and a croissant, and I endeavoured to explain my reqirement with sign language and facial expressions. He also laughed and said, quite sure of himself, that there were definitely no cathars in this village. They were far away, he aid, by Montesegür. I said that I had already been there, but that this was about a specific person, or perhaps a image or statue. No, he said, there is nothing like that here. I thanked him and continued, somewhat subdued, with my Cafe au Lait.

After pondering my situation for a while, I decided to just make a complete tour of the village, as does the postwoman every day. I drove in and out of all the tiny streets looking for a sign, a statue, a hint of a Witch, but alas, I found nothing which met the description.

With resignation engraved in my spirit on that beatiful afternoon, I desided to call ita day and head back towards Lourdes, where I would spend yet another night. Driving back down, it occured to me that I needed to buy the book soemwhere and read it in my room, before setting out once more in search of the Witch. I arrived at the very basic little Motel with it's free WiFi connection, Japanese bathrooms, in which there was no room to swing a mouse, let alone a cat, I checked in and immediately showered and got into bed. I felt feverish and cold, and somehow quite exhausted. I hoped I was not becoming sick.

I sat up in bed, opened my laptop and logged into the net. I search for Paulo's "I sat down by the river piedra and wept" and found a talking book version offered by iTunes, so I bought it and downloaded it to my harddrive. It took forever, and during which I fell asleep. I awake later only to find hat he downloaded files were incomplete, so I closed the laptop and slept.

I spent the entire next day in bed, and having finally downloaded the book, I listed to it for well over 4 hours. I did not however feel any the wiser thereafter. Had I missed something, fallen asleep perhaps? I still felt unwell, so I continued to doze on and off througout the day, not even getting up for food or drink. I felt cold and weary. The next day, I woke rested and in somewhat better form than the day previous. I decided hat I needed to go back to Saint Savin and try my luck once more.

Prior to heading off, I wrote a text that I would present to unwitting villagers of Saint Savin, and google translated it into French. With that I drove once more via Argeles Gazost to the sleepy hill top village of Saint Savin. It was another beautiful day when I arrived, and I parked my car next to the Majory office and walked to the fountain, as if it would perhaps offer me a clue to the whereabouts of the person to whom it was donated.

A man with his little dog came up the road towards me and I greeted him with a friendly Bonjor Msr. He immediately replied and seein that I was armed with a map and a pice of paper, he asked if he could be of assistance. I showed my pre-googled text, and as he read into my masterpiece, he became more and more aggitated... No Msr... he said... it's not possible, and off he went very disgruntled, in the direction of the cafe on the square. I was beginning to think that Paulo had sent me on a wild goose chase...

Knowing that the old man and his little dog had gone into the cafe on the square, i decided to try my luck in he post office opposite to the cafe. Two young girls, unaware of their imminent fate, were working diligently at those things which people do in a post office, shuffling letters here and there. I said good morning, applogized for my inability to speak sufficient French and presented them with my googled masterpiece. They scratched their heads for a while, one said she had no idea and in communication with her collegue, she asled me to wait just a minute. her collegue, bless her, summed up the entire school English she could still remember and said go to the Visco otel over there, they may know of this, they have been here forever. I thanked the, we all chuckeled and little over the subject matter and i made my way accross the square, first to the little store next to the cafe to see if here was anyone there, but it was devoid of people and light.

I continued on to the Hotel Viscos at the corner of the square and tried the door. It was locked. I tried to see if anyone was inside, and saw some figures at the back of the reception, so I knocked on the door.

A young man came to the door, and rather as Antonio had done at Manjarin, the young man closed the door behind him and asked me what I wanted. I immediately thrust my google text under his nose and he smiled immediately and said, "What you are looking for, is inside, she is here!" I could not believe my ears. Yes he said, the lady you are looking for is inside, please come in. After all this work, I couldn't believe how easy this day had begun.

As I walked in, I could see that the Hotel was empty, except for a small group of people and the back of the reception area. A small elderly lady was sitting there opposite a tall young man, who appeared at first inquisitive as to who I was. I was still not sure of my luck and asked the lady if she was the Cathar Witch? "Oui, Oui Msr." she said, and I think I even bowed in acknowledgement and respect at meeting such a rare and distinguished person.

The young man sitting in the corner observed our interaction with grat interest, and I'm not sure if he was aware at this time, of the fact that I too was on the Quest for the Sword. It did not take long until we both became aware that we were fighting the same fight. "I'm SantiagosDream" he said, and we shook hands.

Logically there was not too much more to say to each other. We both had our consecutive tasks to fulfill.

We all went outside and took our obligatory photos at the fountain. I had a small exchange of words with the Cather Witch - Jaqueline Peyrot, and she told me that she knew Paulo Coelho very well and had met him on a numer of occassions. She also said she would be in Melk for his St. Josephs Day party and I told her that I look forward to welcoming her in my second home town. Madame Peyrot insisted that we exchange contact information and that done, we said farewell until Melk!

Certainly not every day that one meets a real Cathar Witch... Fascinating!

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