Unlike last couple of times (see here for example) we did not join the English pilgrims in London for the journey. That was because Dominque had an exam on the Friday morning (GCSE) so there was not sufficient time. Instead, we picked her up from school, and then Anna drove Charlie Dominique and me to Newcastle airport, where we met Ant, who had also been working in her school in the North East that day.
So we flew out as a family, having booked into the same hotel in Paris as the English Chapter. However, they were mostly out on the town when we got there, so we took ourselves off to a nearby restaurant for a family meal, which was lovely.
And then it started: alarms were set for 4.30 am on Saturday morning. We showered, I put protective sports tape on my feet, and we joined the rest of the English Chapters for Breakfast at 5.00. It was good to see many old familiar faces, and also a large number of first-time pilgrims (particularly in the youth Chapter).
The sad news was that our Chaplain for the youth Chapter had had to cancel at the last minute. Anyone who knows Fr Mark Withoos will realise what a pity that was: he is a fantastic priest, with a great (albeit Australian) sense of humour, bundles of energy, and a no-nonsense Catholic approach. However, he had to stay in Rome as he is personal secretary to Cardinal Pell, and on the previous day, a concerted (and malicious) media campaign had been launched against the Cardinal in an attempt (I think) to discredit him before the forthcoming Synod, as he is both orthodox and courageous...
Nonetheless, we were shortly to be joined by Fr Alex Redman and Fr Joseph Gedeon (a friend and compatriot of Fr Withoos), so we were extremely well provided for at the spiritual level. And in case anyone is wondering why I march with the youth Chapter, despite my advanced age, it is because I have titular responsibility for the Chapter as Chef de Chapitre - mainly, I think, because I can speak French.
After breakfast, we got on a coach to Notre Dame de Paris, where we were greeted by the inspiring site of the Parvis (or square) in front of the Cathedral filling with banners and pilgrims. After dropping off our heavy bags at the Etrangers lorry for transportation to the campsite, we took our place with the Normandy chapters, with whom we traditionally march, and made our way into the Cathedral for Mass.
The Mass, of course, was wonderful. It was a High Mass, celebrated by Dom Louis-Marie, the Abbot of Sainte Madeleine du Barroux.
An apple a day keep the pelgrin alive !