The good news is this post will not be as long as the Tolkien novel, but is sprinkled with a little mysticism and an unexpected treat.
One of the great things about travelling long term is that when strange opportunities arise you are almost always in a position to say yes. This happened to us a week ago, we are staying at our friends in France for the summer and she received a call from a friend with an unexpected request.
Monica is someone we have met once before on our visits to France. She is a really interesting person who lives life fulfilling her passions. She cooks like a Michelin star chef, she looks after horses in the most natural of ways (no shoeing or stabling for her equine friends) and has spent the last few years renovating buildings which most others had given up for ruins.
Her latest project is the painstaking conversion of a a huge village wine cave in the remote hilltop village of Trilla in the Fenouillèdes. The Cave was original built, cooperatively by the villagers themselves at the turn of the century.
A potted history of Trilla
The village can be traced back in historical writing to 1011, it has remained a tiny village with a population fluctuating in the low hundreds. Its population in 2010 is listed at just 61. There are some beautiful walks in the area where you can discover the Dolmen Las Colombinos, stonehenge like monolithic burial chambers. Each year the village celebrates the Trilla en Fête” et “Foire aux Vieux Cépages” on the third Saturday of July. Despite this celebration there are now much fewer vineyards surrounding the village, a victim of the high yield grape rush in the 1970’s.
Getting to the village is a real treat too. A test of your driving skills, negotiating the twists and turns of the snake like roads that elevate you from the plain town of Ile Sur Tet . As a passenger you can ignore the road and concentrate on the views across the mountains or take in the small hamlets and villages you pass en route. They are often no bigger than Trilla itself and each has a charm of their own.
Our first (and probably last) modelling request
While the drive, the views and viewing Monica’s work in the the part refurbished cave were pleasures themselves, our real reason for the journey on this day was to act as ’models’ in a video shoot for Monica’s partner Paulo.
Paulo is Portuguese, but now lives for most of the year in Amsterdam practising a lesser known form of massage and manipulation called Bodywork. All of this information we learnt later. The invite had come the night before and without thinking we had agreed. A trip into the Languedoc countryside and a chance to see Monica again were all we needed to say yes.
We spent the first hour chatting and wandering around admiring the work that had been done to the cave before we had to bite the bullet and get on with the real work of the day our modelling.
The studio had been set up around the old wine tanks sit in the property, screens erected, tea lights lit, video lighting illuminated, me undressed and in a robe and we were about to make a start on my treatment.
I truly didn’t know what to expect, but Paulo introduced us to the technique which is a holistic treatment trying to connect the body to the treatment giver, using manipulation and massage. It works on the bodymind connection rather than the mind and body as two distinct parts of our being.
The best thing I have found to explain this is a quote from a Buddhist philosopher
What we call ‘body’ and ‘mind’ are mere abstractions from an identity experience that cannot be reduced to the one or the other abstraction, nor can it be hypostatized into some sort of thing without falsifying its very being
Now I am not one for many new age practices, but I restrained my normal cynicism and went with the experience. Despite the presence of a two man film crew and my family and friends I put faith in Paulo the practitioner and allowed him to push, pull, massage and at time cause me moderate pain, in order to see if I could gain anything from the experience.
I cannot say that after the treatment that I felt a different bodymind, but many of my aches and pain were gone – one long standing muscle problem in my arm was never mentioned to Paulo, yet three days after the experience as I write this the pain has not returned.
During the treatment I had some strange daydream like experiences and felt my body turn unto a soft malleable lump of clay.
It was a really enjoyable and relaxing day out, the drive was scenic, the company was entertaining and the treatment unexpectedly therapeutic in more ways than one. As if all that weren’t enough we ended the evening with a beer or two in the very local bar run by a wonderfully hospitable village barman while ourselves (and it would appear the rest of the village) tucked into some pizza from the weekly pizza van that tours the mountain villages here.
As we returned to the cave to polish off our pizza and bid farewell to Monica, Paulo and the film crew we were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Thanks to Monica for hosting us, Paulo for manipulating us and thanks to Martin and Luke in the vain hope they will make us look good on camera. You can check out the finished video soon at Riarmarto Productions.