Micro-Adventure: St. Genis des Fontaines

This week’s micro-adventure was to the small community of St. Genis des Fontaines. Specifically we went to see the 8th century Abbaye St. Genis des Fontaines, a Benedictine abbey which was part of the kingdom of Aragon when the Catalan people lived and ruled this area. Built between 778 and 780 AD it is dedicated to the martyr Saint Genis (303 AD).

This little abbey was destroyed by Norman looters in the 11th century and rebuilt throughout the medieval period, including architectural evolution of the 12th century church ceiling vault and the 13th century cloister construction.

In 1507 it was united with the larger Catalonian abbey of Montserrat, also a Benedictine abbey, near Barcelona. This alliance is what caused its decline in the 16th century during the French Wars of Religion. It became French governed under the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, when the northern kingdom of Aragon was turned over to France.

Only seven monks remained when it was finally closed during the French Revolution. It remained empty until 1850, when the church became a village parish once more. The abbey and cloisters, sold off in 1924, were finally returned to the parish in 1995.

The abbey has lovely Roman origins and though some parts are still privately owned or still in need of restoration, we certainly found a lot to see in this small, but lovely, little abbey.

The entrance fee also included an art exposition. Most of the photos included in the expo had been taken in Cerbere and Port Vendres in France and Port Bou in Spain. We recognized them immediately and appreciated the artists unique angles having just done photos in this areas recently ourselves.

The town itself had only a handful of businesses, but we still managed to find a place to grab a cup on coffee while waiting for the abbey to open and lunch (mushroom, bacon and cheese quiche) at the little boulangerie as the restaurants were not yet open and we wanted a quick bite before heading home on the bus.

The photos below are mine, Alan posted his to Facebook!


Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII (Part 2)

Etta's OFII Letter

After a quick six day turn-around from OFII (L’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration – the French Office of Immigration and Integration) in Montpellier, we received a response to Etta’s Demande d’Attestation letter that we previous mailed to OFII advising that our niece Etta has arrived in France. (Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII [Part 1])

Etta's OFII Letter
Etta’s OFII Letter

The very rough translation of the letter from OFII is:

SUBJECT: Dossier VLS-TS, reference “Mineur Scolarise“visa.
On 30/01/2017, your Demande d’Attestation letter arrived, but the visa affix on passport is not VLS-TS but a “Mineur Scolarise“.
As such, you are not subject to the VLS-TS (adult long-stay visa) rules, are exempt from the residence card process, and are authorized to travel outside France within the Schengen Area.
On your 18th birthday, in order to continue your studies, you will have to formally request a residence card from the Prefecture having jurisdiction of your residence.
At that time, re-submit your Demande d’Attestation file to the Prefecture so that an appointment for the compulsory medical visit can be scheduled and you can be processed for your adult residence permit.
Please accept my best regards.
So, 17 year old Etta does not have to be concerned about re-sending her Demande d’Attestation until her 18th birthday in October 2017.  We will share Etta’s efforts for obtaining an adult long-stay student visa this coming October. Etta’s Demande d’Attestation form and its supporting documents are now waiting for October in our files for safekeeping.
In the mean time, Etta is now free to study and travel in Europe and doesn’t have to be concerned about any further paperwork with OFII until her milestone adult birthday.
Etta on the breakwater in Collioure, France
Etta on the breakwater in Collioure, France

Camino 2015 Equipment List

In 2014, my Aunt Deb and I hiked from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Los Arcos, caught a bus to Logrono and a train from Logrono to Sarria, then hiked the last 100 kilometers from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. It rained a lot in 2014, but I finally had the opportunity to cross the Pyrenees (in 2013 we took the southern route through Valcarlos). What I really enjoyed though was spending the two weeks with Deb. She’s one of my personal role models and a woman I respect very much. She loves the outdoors and I enjoyed every mile we hiked together. She has a fantastic sense of humor, is quick to laugh, shares my love of occasional junk food binges, can hike 20 kilometers a day for weeks without seeming tired, and doesn’t mind getting up early. It was a fantastic journey and I’m so glad that she shared it with me.

But as Alan and I were discussing vacation options (such as Marrakech, a cruise from Venice to Greece, etc.) the husband mentioned that he was a little jealous of my trek in 2014 with my aunt. So I suggested that we do it again, the whole 800 kilometers. We figure that cruise lines will always be headed to Greece, that Marrakech will always be a short flight from France, but the ability and desire to hike 800 kilometers across Spain may wane over time. So we’re gearing up and going again in September/October 2015.

We’ve compiled a new equipment list based on our experiences in 2013 (see 2013 Equipment Review) hoping to learn from our first trek and make changes according to our own reviews of the equipment we chose for 2013. Our idea of “wear one, wash one” worked very well for the entire six weeks and we plan to stay with that idea except for socks. As we mentioned again and again in 2013, foot care is the most important issue on the Camino. Dry socks = happy feet. So we’ll bring extras!:)

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