Homerun Nievera, Fotograpiya | There are many beautiful places in France that will capture one’s heart. As for me, the quaint town of Paray-Le-Monial has given me a sense of peace in many ways than just spiritual.
Known as the city of the “Sacred Heart.of Jesus” due to the apparition of the latter to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, you can feel its peaceful vibe, especially in a town of more than 9,500 residents. But unlike the other chapels and churches we visited in old towns in Portugal and Spain, the Chapelle Le Visitacion (Chapel of the Apparition) was full for a 12 noon mass on a Wednesday!
If you are coming from Paris, Paray-Le-Monial is between 4 to 5 hours from Charles De Gaulle Airport by car or bus. I was with a tour group coming from Lourdes, so it took us much longer to get there (about a 10-hour journey). When in town, there are a lot of places to visit and see in bewilderment.
The hotel we stayed in, Hotel Basilique, is what I’d recommend. The hotel complements the picturesque town with its quiet and homey ambience. In fact according to the manager, Veronique Brivet, Hotel Basilique was built in 1904, and is now being run by the fourth and fith generation Brivets. Veronique is married to Bruno Brivet. Their son, Nicolas, now helps run the place.
Hotel Basilique has a small but well-stocked bar — of choice french wines of course — and a two-room dining area to fit roughly 50 people. The regular rooms have no air-conditioning as you simply need to open your windows for a cool and airy atmosphere. Don’t worry, they have heaters for the winter. You have a choice between a room with a shower and the one with a tub. There’s hot and cold water plus a hairdryer.
Paray-Le-Monial is teeming with old France architecture which is probably mandated by a local ordinance, based on the common 18th century-styled structures. No high-rise buildings allowed here.
The Church dedicated to Saint Claude Colombiere, for example, has the same architect as the Eiffel tower — Gustave Eiffel. If you’re on a Catholic pilgrimage, or an old architecture buff, you will love the churches which range from Romanesque to Gothic!
We took a walk on the cobbled streets of the town during the cool early evenings where the soft sunlight in spring makes it a surreal scene good enough for photos. An early morning walk is also advisable. Most shops close at 6pm, so go earlier if you want to catch some cool finds. And don’t find it unusual.to have almost no people on the streets by 7pm as the local townsfolk, called Parodiens, call it a day earlier than Parisians.
Wanting to see a town in France almost untouched by time? Visit Paray-Le-Monial. You’ll be coming back over and over again.
I’m calling my friends in Doha to catch an Etihad Airways flight to Paris, and drive to the city of the Sacred Heart and shed off their weary citylifers’ person and peaceout in Paray-Le-Monial.