Sacred France 2013

In the Footsteps of Mary Magdalene

with Kathleen McGowan & Philip Coppens

 

   

May 21-28, 2013

 

In the footsteps of Mary Magdalene

from Provence to the Languedoc –
includes the Gypsy Pilgrimage in
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer


Since 1995, we have been exploring the mysteries of Sacred France. The journey has been a transformational one through a world filled with magic and mysticism, and steeped in some of the most inspirational stories in human history. Over the years we have shared these mysteries with you through our books, Kathleen through the fiction of her Magdalene Line series and The Source of Miracles, and Philip through a number of non-fiction publications, all inspired by the powerful energies of Southern France.

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:

Kathleen McGowan – International bestselling author of The Magdalene Line series, including The Expected One and The Book of Love, both inspired by her own adventures and experiences in this region for almost twenty years. An expert on the early Christian traditions of Southwestern France and the legends of Mary Magdalene and her family, Kathleen will take you to many of the locations which have inspired her current and future books.

Philip Coppens – Author, investigative journalist and television personality, best known for his appearances on The History Channel's Ancient Aliens, Philip has written many articles and non-fiction books, including a bestselling book on Rennes-le-Chateau (in French) and was the publisher, editor and/or adviser responsible for many other books on the mysteries of the region (including The Templar Revelation and Patrice Chaplin’s The Portal).

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)

The 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.
The hotel offers comfortable, modern rooms, a nice expansive breakfast and we will have an entire, baroque-style room to ourselves where we can enjoy our farewell dinner, or weather permitting, we will experience fine dining by the pool.

Itinerary

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Those 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.
(included meals: breakfast and dinner)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Tour Magdala

We 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.
(included meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer

We 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.
Today is the day before the feast of two of the local saints who accompanied Mary Magdalene, but specifically Saint Sarah, who is revered by millions of “gitanes” worldwide (gitane is the preferred name for those we think of as gypsies). During this week, thousands of gitanes arrive in the town for this, their greatest day of devotion to their patroness, represented by a singularly magnificent Black Madonna representing Sainte Sarah.
Walking around the village and indulging in some shopping at your own leisure, you will see the preparations for tomorrow’s festival, both in the church and its crypt, where hundreds of candles are lit. The crypt is where the bones of Sarah and two Marys, Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome, were discovered by Rene d’Anjou during his excavations in the 15th century, and there is a first century stone altar on display which may be the first Christian altar in the world – used entirely by female disciples. The church is indescribable as a treasure trove of history – and perhaps heresy. We are respectful of the gitane traditions, and we can observe quietly in the church and in the crypt as gitane parents bring their children forward for blessings from the Black Madonna.
You can choose to take an optional and inexpensive boat ride out along the coast either today or tomorrow, and feel what it might have been like to arrive upon these shores all those years ago…
Gypsy music plays through the streets and in the restaurants, where you will hear the beautiful singing in the language known as Tzigane. Tzigane represents the many locations where the gitane people have wandered, and it is a blend of romance languages with some Hindi sprinkled in! After dark there is Flamenco dancing in the streets surrounding the church in an electrifying party atmosphere.

We 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.
(included meals: breakfast and dinner)

Friday, May 24, 2012

Today 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!
You are free to experience the procession either from nearby or far-off – you can stand along the route, or join in the procession; you can observe from the beach, or enter the water with the pilgrims. All represent different experiences. We will brief you on your many options for the procession and advise you based on Kathleen’s many years of participating in this event.
The relics of the two Marys are also on display behind the altar in a stunning, colorful reliquary. You are allowed to ascend the platform and touch the reliquary along with the gitanes, to receive the blessings of the two “Saintes Maries de la Mer” who have resided here for 2000 years.
Dinner is on your own tonight, as there are so many magical and inexpensive restaurants along the water and in the village, we wanted to give you freedom to choose. We will recommend some of our favorites, as well as some of the great local dishes. Seafood is as fresh as you can get here, as the giant paella pans on the street will attest! Many will opt for the local specialty of Sangria and Paella (and there are vegetarian Paella options in many restaurants as well) or the wonderful mussels.
(included meals: breakfast)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

We 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.
After an included lunch, we pass the local statue of Martha’s tamed Tarasque and visit Good King René d’Anjou’s castle, which is across the street from the cathedral. The castle is not only beautiful, but it also highlights how this king was solemnly devoted to the cult of the Magdalene. Indeed, he was one of the main instigators of her worship in medieval times and was the force behind the excavations at Saintes Maries de la Mer. He was also the patron of Joan of Arc, and some say that perhaps he was even related to her by blood. The various theories and legends surrounding Good King Rene and Joan will be discussed en route. Kathleen portrays him in her book, The Poet Prince.

After lunch, we make our way to St. Maximin-la-Ste. Baume, the region where Mary Magdalene spent years of her life, living in hiding high up in the protection of the jagged mountains. There are conflicting legends regarding the time periods in which she lived here, all of which will be discussed in detail over the course of our journey this week, but the local Dominican community believe that she lived her for many years and died here as well – the largest collection of her relics are in this region. Upon her death, she was buried on the site that would later become the Basilica of St Maximin, skeleton intact, but her bones have been the reason for wars between Provence and Burgundy, and are now scattered throughout France.
(included meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The cave at Ste. Baume

After 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.
Kathleen’s research for her new book, The Boleyn Heresy, indicates that a teenaged Anne Boleyn came here as a pilgrim and made the climb with the Queen of France and the Queen Mother – she will discuss this and other research from Ste Baume along the way.
After or descent, we visit the small church and convent at the foot of the cliff face, which has some beautiful displays as well as the breathtaking Magdalene murals painted here in the early 1900s. This was the main site welcoming pilgrims – it still is! If you are hungry, there is a snack bar available here for a quick bite and drinks, as well as a gift shop where lovely and inexpensive Magdalene medals can be purchased to commemorate your climb.
In the afternoon, we return to the hotel for dinner at Le Couvent Royal.
(included meals: breakfast and dinner)

Monday, May 27, 2012

The basilica of St Maximin

After 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.

This church was one of the main pilgrimage destinations in medieval France and its size and glamour continue to testify to its glorious past. Exploring it in depth reveals some true jewels of medieval and Renaissance art pertaining to Our Lady – for those with eyes to see!

After 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.
(included meals: breakfast and dinner)


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

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.
(included meals: breakfast)

Practical information

We 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:
- All hotels are three or four stars and represent the highest category of hotels available in the locations we visit;
- All breakfasts included, as well as several lunches and most dinners;
- A luxury bus with all the facilities and professional driver;
- A professional team of tour managers and guides will be accompanying you every step of the way. Peter Van Deursen will look after all logistical needs, while Kathleen and Philip will be with you, from breakfast until after-dinner conversation. Special guests and local guides will join us at various intervals.

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.

If 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.

Pricing

ALL INCLUSIVE PRICE FOR SEVEN NIGHTS (LAND ONLY)

4395 dollars per person
5395 dollars per person in single occupancy room
COUPLE’S DISCOUNT: 7995 dollars per couple, in double room

EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT IF PAID IN FULL BY DECEMBER 1, 2012

4195 dollars per person
5195 dollars per person in single occupancy room
COUPLE’S DISCOUNT: 7795 dollars per couple, in double room

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.

Standard Payment Schedule:
$ 1150 deposit due on booking to hold space
$ 1595 first installment due on November 15, 2012
$ 1650 final installment due on February 15, 2013

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!

Payments can be made through Paypal, by personal and cashier’s checks.
For people booking this trip from Europe, please note it is also possible to send Euro or UK sterling checks, as well as make your deposit in a UK or Belgian bank account.

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

To register for the tour, please write to us at info@philipcoppens.com. 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.

Once 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.

Conditions

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.