Right now I am in Australia but I still can't resist peeking at the news over in the UK in the evenings and couldn't help noticing that the online newspapers have a new doomsday headline. As if impending financial meltdown or Eurozone breakup was not enough, we now have the end of the Mayan calendar to look forward to and with it, the end of the world.
Another day, another apocalypse theory. In fact it was only last year when I danced my way through the "Rapture" and lived to tell the tale. Every time I hear one of these whacky end of world theories my thoughts turn to the particular region in the South of France Mr V and I visit regularly. For some reason not even the beleaguered locals could fathom, the Langue D'Oc managed to gain a reputation as being a hot spot for UFO sitings, and has been the subject of several hair brained theories about it being a place where aliens would descend during the apocalypse to rescue the chosen few. I thought Mr V was kidding when he first told me about this until I saw the support centre for alien abductees in the local village with my own eyes.
Spare a thought for the tiny village of Bugarach in this region. It sits at the foot of a peculiarly shaped rock formation (the Pic de Bugarach) believed by some to be hiding a large spaceship to whisk those who have gathered there to safety from the end of the world. So concerned are the village authorities about the impending hoards of loonies arriving on their doorstep seeking salvation that they are begging people NOT to come, and are in fact closing off entry to visitors on the 21st December to both the village and the mountain!
Don't know about you, but personally, the thought of being carted off by aliens with a group of UFO enthusiasts fills me with very little Christmas cheer. Think I'd rather stay put and place my bets on Santa Claus coming down the chimney - the odds look better frankly. However, should you find yourself at Bugarach twiddling your thumbs because a) the town authorities have turned you away, b) the world still has not ended, then let me recommend a much nicer thing to do with your time in the area.
From the nearby town of Alet les Bains, there is a beautiful walk you can do up into the foothills of the Pyranees. It is a long and quiet stroll up winding grassy footpaths where it is rare to encounter either another person or even animals. There are plenty of bees, butterflies and grasshoppers to keep you company. Sometimes you can see the signs of sheep as tufts of their wool remain caught in the fences.
At the top there is a small, ancient church. When you arrive you will find the door locked but in the keyhole someone will have left a large rusty iron key. An open invitation from an unknown, unseen caretaker to enter.
It seems that legend abounds even beyond France about the good energy of this church. Even our English hostess at our bed and breakfast where we were staying during the summer sang its praises. Once inside there is a small rudimentary alter in a tiny stone building with a sloping roof. On one side of the alter (not seen here) hangs a giant knitted rosary.
There is also an ancient standing stone in the church which the legends also attach some mystical powers to. A small flowering plant had taken seed in a cavity at the top giving the stone an amusing head dress of tiny sprigs festooned with tiny starry white flowers.
I don't know about good vibes but there was a pleasant and welcoming informality about the place.
Whenever I visit medieval buildings I love gargoyle spotting and there are some great ones still in tact on the corners of the roof outside. I liked this cow...
...so much so that I had to get him from another angle.
And this fellow with flowing whiskers...
...and his clean shaven counterpart on the other corner. We weren't sure if this was a depiction of a man or a woman.
And when you come to go, leave everything as you found it, close the door behind you and turn the key. Although it is only a small church, the walk up is pleasant and the sense of history and village life one gets from doing the journey and entering the church makes it well worth a visit.
I think if you were going to pass the time away before the end of the world it might as well be in a lovely peaceful and picturesque spot with positive vibes like this, rather than elbowing your way though the queue to join the mother ship. And let's face it, if you can't save your own life you might as well do something good for your soul before it all comes to an end.
See you on the other side of the Mayan apocalypse!