Sacred France 2013
In the Footsteps of Mary Magdalene
with Kathleen McGowan & Philip Coppens
May 21-28, 2013
In the footsteps of Mary Magdalene
Provence to the Languedoc –
In this tour, we step into the footsteps of Mary Magdalene herself, after she arrived on the shores of France. Please note that this is not a “tour” per se – it is a spiritual and historical journey, and we ask that everyone who chooses to attend arrives in the spirit of community and open-minded exploration. Experiences in this region can be very intense and transformational. They can also be just plain fun. The annual gypsy procession in honor of their patroness, Sainte Sarah in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is both a sacred pilgrimage as well as a big, boisterous party. We were very fortunate to be able to secure space in a local (and fantastic!) hotel during the festival.
Be prepared for anything and open to the experiences and the possibilities of a fluctuating schedule. This region has a way of designing the journey for you – there is a reason that this land has been sacred ground for thousands of years!
On this tour, we take you to some of the most important sites connected with the Magdalene and the tradition of the Book of Love. As there is a fair amount of traveling involved, we have also made sure you have enough free time to take it all in and see the sites at your own pace, wherever needed. As a result, some meals are at your own pace, though we will make sure that you are well-nourished – and you are always welcome to hang around with us! All included dinners come with wine.
Your Guides on the journey are:
Your Homes for the Journey
We have chosen two very special locations as our bases for this journey, so you will be immersed in the medieval flavor of the region from the moment you arrive.
Hotel Chateau Ducs de Joyeuse (2 nights)
The Ducs de Joyeuse is a three star, authentic castle hotel in Couiza, at the foot of Rennes-le-Château. This listed 15th century castle is located on extensive grounds on the banks of the River Aude, with a beautiful interior courtyard. Each room has tasteful medieval themed decor and is equipped with satellite TV, a spacious private bathroom and stylish, period windows. The hotel has the distinction of having formed the inspiration for Kathleen’s Chateau des Pommes Bleues, the castle inhabited by Bérenger Sinclair, and it is an absolute pleasure to welcome you inside these grounds where we have so many amazing personal memories!
Mas de la Fouque (2 nights)
The Mas de la Fouque is situated just outside the village of Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer and is an experience all by itself. Each room is new and an oasis of calm and beauty, located on one of the marshes that is so characteristic of this magical area. If we are really fortunate, the flamingos will be migrating early and we will see them as well! There is something primordial and purely mystical about the land here, and the Mas is in a superb position to feel these special, archaic earth energies. Weather permitting, sitting out in the marshes or by the pool at night is a truly magical experience, but you will definitely want to experience the divine food the chef creates for us.
Le Couvent Royal (2 nights)
Le Couvent Royal, a 13th century Gothic former monastery/convent, was built in honor or Mary Magdalene at the same time as the adjoining Basilica in 1295 by Charles II Anjou (the ancestor of Good King Rene d’Anjou) in the very heart of St Maximin. It has been called “the finest Gothic building in the Southeast of France” and when you walk through its corridors, both interior and around the central courtyard, you will absolutely agree. At night, we have an evening dinner in this hotel, either beneath the cross vaults of the ancient chapter house or outdoors in the magnificent cloister, weather permitting. Le Couvent Royal offers you the charm of a medieval building, but with all modern comforts and luxuries, as well as fine dining.
Best Western Marseilles Airport (1 night)
Best Western Marseilles Airport is conveniently located near Marseilles
Airport. It provides a free shuttle service to the airport, which means
you can schedule your departure time to the best of your budget and needs.
If you want to explore Marseilles, the hotel also forms a good basis to
get into the city.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
who arrive today, will be picked up by bus at Toulouse Airport around
lunchtime. Those who joined us for the Secrets
of the Cathars and Mysteries of the Magdalene will
go to Alet-les-Bains, where we start with a visit to the beautiful and
often transformational Angel Gallery. Run by the lovely Lorrie and Eugene,
natives of Ireland who have relocated to share the magic of Lorrie’s
artwork here in France, this former spa resort has been converted into
an art gallery, dedicated to the angels. It is a unique oasis and a must
visit! We have lunch in the town, and afterwards, you are free to explore
the church, the ruins of the abbey and the rest of this town which was
known as “The Chosen Place”. We are then picked up by the
bus upon its return from Toulouse airport and return to Couiza, to our
Hotel, the Ducs de Joyeuse.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The Tour Magdala
make our way up the hill to the land that time forgot, Rennes-le-Château.
We explore the village and its treasures, including the enigmatic church
of Mary Magdalene, decorated by Bérenger Saunière, who was
also responsible for creating the oeuvre of the Villa Bethania –
named after Mary Magdalene’s estate in the Holy Land. We have lunch
in the gorgeous Jardin de Marie in the very heart of the village, run
by the warm and hospitable guardians Tobi and Gerda, who will welcome
you as family. Afterwards, you have free time to experience the village
on your own, before we make our way back to Couiza for dinner.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
leave Couiza and head east towards Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer,
the place on the Mediterranean Sea where Mary Magdalene came ashore, together
with some of her family, friends and servants. The town is named after
“the Marys” who came from the Sea.
have dinner and overnight in the divine Mas de la Fouque.
Just outside the village of Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, it is our island
of calm away from the hectic party atmosphere. Weather permitting, sitting
out in the marshes at night is a truly magical experience.
Friday, May 24, 2012
is the festival of Sainte Sarah, who arrived with Mary
Magdalene and her entourage 2000 years ago. We will have a lively discussion
about the many theories around Sarah’s identity prior to departing
for the village! Throughout the town, there is dancing and singing and
much excitement, as well as a gitane marketplace. The highlight of the
afternoon is the colorful procession of Sarah’s statue from the
crypt of the church to the beach, where the leaders of the gitane community
carry her back to the sea, before returning her once again to the crypt.
This magical Sainte Sarah Procession is the essence of living history,
a unique and astonishing event that you have to experience at least once
in your lifetime!
Saturday, May 25, 2013
take our leave of the magical Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer for nearby Tarascon.
It is here that Martha, Mary Magdalene’s sister, lived and preached.
The name of the village comes from the legendary monster, The Tarasque,
that lived in the Rhone River and terrorized the local community –
until Martha tamed it with love and prayer (and a bucket of holy water).
In medieval times, the remains of her church were found on the very spot
tradition said she preached in her own “church” and she is
very much a living force here, as is her sister. Martha’s remains
can be seen in the crypt of the cathedral where they have been since she
was buried her 2000 years ago.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
The cave at Ste. Baume
breakfast at Le Couvent Royal, we drive a few minutes to Ste.
Baume, the astonishing cavern cathedral carved into the top of
a mountain. Powerful local legends indicate that Mary Magdalene lived
here after she came to France. In medieval times, royals and nobles came
here to visit this remote cliff sanctuary and make the pilgrimage up the
hill. So popular was this act of devotion to Mary Magdalene that a “Royal
Road” was created to make the ascent easier. We normally make the
ascent via the Royal Road as well, and return via the original pilgrim’s
route. The ascent is challenging, but if you take your time it is also
beautiful and well worth it. For those of you who have climbed Montsegur,
this is not as difficult and the path is in better condition. It takes
about 45 minutes to make the ascent.
Monday, May 27, 2012
The basilica of St Maximin
breakfast, we visit the impressive St Maximin Basilica,
which holds some of the bones of Mary Magdalene in the crypt, as well
as one of the stone coffins in which her body resided in for many centuries.
Her skull is enshrined and on display in the crypt in a golden reliquary
which is paraded through the town every year on her feast day, July 22nd.
It has been authenticated as a skull from the first century of a petite
woman who likely died in her late 50s or early 60s. Viewing it can be
a very emotional experience for Magdalene devotees.
the guided visit of the church, you are free to explore the town. In the
afternoon, we leave for Marseilles and the Best Western
Marseilles Airport, where we will have our farewell dinner.
From the Best Western Marseilles Airport Hotel, there is a free shuttle
service to Marseilles Airport, which means that you can choose from a
number of flights back home, suiting your budget and needs, rather than
being tied to a specific departure window.
offer more than most other tour or retreat organized in this region, including
a higher standard of accommodation and meals, with all dinners inclusive
of local wines. We also offer:
The weather in May in France is lovely and warm and you will be able to see the early summer, especially as we stay near the Mediterranean coastline (except for the three days in Rennes-le-Château). However, France’s weather can change from day to day, especially in the areas we visit. So prepare for warm weather, but know it can be coldish or raining on occasion. Layers are your friend!
We are not responsible for any injuries, accidents, damages or theft, which may occur during the tours, the full period of your stay in France, or before arrival causing delay or cancellation. We therefore urge you make sure you have a good solid travel insurance including cancellation to cover any unforeseen circumstances.
you suffer from food allergies or have ANY other dietary requirements
– including vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free requirements, please
tell us at the time of booking. We will eat in established hotels or restaurants,
who are therefore equipped to deal with your needs, but let us know in
advance, so we can make sure there are no problems whatsoever.
ALL INCLUSIVE PRICE FOR SEVEN NIGHTS (LAND ONLY)
dollars per person
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT IF PAID IN FULL BY DECEMBER 1, 2012
Deposits and payments
Your deposit secures your place on the tour and is non-refundable unless your seat is either transferred by yourself or we can resell it.
Please contact us for the couple’s or single room payment schedules. There are a limited number of rooms and configurations available. If you are willing to share a triple room, please let us know and we will do our best to match you up with a roommate with advanced introductions. We have a private Facebook page for retreat attendees where we can all begin to get acquainted in advance and remain in contact afterward!
can be made through Paypal, by personal and cashier’s checks.
In all cases, please contact us for further details to begin the booking process. Visa and MasterCard accepted (a 3% surcharge for credit and debit cards will be added to Paypal users – we have no control over this, it’s a Paypal thing)
To register for the tour, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide us with the number of guests and your preferences for accommodation. Please also inform us of the method in which you want to pay your deposit.
we have confirmed your accommodation, we will ask you to provide us with
the name, address, (preferably cell) telephone numbers, emergency contact
(name, address and telephone number), and any special dietary and health
needs you and any member of your party has.
We act only in the capacity as an agent for the passengers in all matters connected with lodging accommodations, sight-seeing tours and land transportation in France and shall not be responsible or liable for any injury, loss, theft, accident, health impairment, delay, irregularity or incident resulting from strikes, weather, fuel outages, government regulations or Acts of God. Nor shall they be responsible for any act or omission of any individual or organization providing the transportation, services or accommodations in connection with this journey, nor any delay or expense incurred due to disruption or revision of schedules, not for any cause beyond its control.
We retain the right to withdraw a tour or decline to accept any person as a member of the tour or make changes in the published itinerary whenever in sole judgment of conditions warrant or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience or safety of the passengers.
We are not responsible for any physical, emotional reaction or trauma or ailment, during the tour or occurring after the tour.