If it hadn't been raining off and on, and pretty windy, we would have happily left the car behind and walked up the hill to the top of the village of Vézelay on October 21. As the Michelin Green guide says, "The charms of Vézelay don't come for free. They reveal themselves to those who take their time and seek them out, who make the effort and pay attention to every detail, every old stone — each ray of sunlight makes the visitor admire and adore the colline éternelle that much more." The name Vézelay might be related to the name Vesuvius, because the village is on a steep hill that reaches for the sky, dominating a river valley. About 500 people live there.
The original abbey church at the top of the hill was consecrated by the pope in the year 878. In 1050 the church was rededicated to Saint Madeleine, and on her tomb there many miracles were performed. Crowds of pilgrims have made the trip to Vézelay over the centuries. We, unfortunately, couldn't hike up the hill in such stormy weather, but we've done it before, about 20 years ago. Maybe we'll get another chance one day.
On more mundane subjects, I'm happy and relieved to say that my old car passed inspection yesterday. And that I actually got my passport renewal application sent off to Paris.
The car, which is 14 years old this month, is a little Peugeot with a diesel engine. It has more than 170,000 kms (100K+ miles) on it. French law requires cars more than four years old to pass a rigorous inspection every other year, and for different reasons mine failed in 2010 and in 2012. Neither time was the reason for failure very serious, and the car finally passed after minor repairs and adjustments were carried out.
This time, the Peugeot came through with flying colors. It passed safety inspections and an emissions test. I credit both my good mechanic and the trip to Burgundy. Obviously, the mechanic has kept the vehicle in good working order. Driving it back and forth to Burgundy in October, a round-trip of some 1000 kms, with the help of a bottle of additive poured into a full tank of diesel fuel to clean the injectors and cylinders, probably helped it pass the emissions test. Most of my driving consists of short stop-and-start trips around the Saint-Aignan area.
The inspection, called le contrôle technique or CT is very thorough and costs 72 € for a car with a diesel engine. That's just over $90 U.S. at current rates. I'm good to go for two more years.
Renewing my passport cost more: 131.55 € in all. And that was after we finally managed to take a decent photo of me and print it at the size specified in the instructions supplied the U.S. Embassy in Paris. I won't be too surprised if the passport people at the embassy reject the photo, but maybe I'll get lucky. Otherwise, I'll have to try to find a professional photographer who can produce an acceptable photo and print it at the required size.
The cost of renewing a U.S. passport is 94 € here in France — almost $120. Sending the papers and old passport to Paris cost me 12.50 €, and the self-addressed Chronopost envelope I had to send with the application for the return of my passport cost 25 €. So in all, about $160. Ten years ago, for my previous renewal, it cost much less than half that much. Isn't it nice that inflation rates are as low as they are?