So. We returned, the two of us, to this place nestled so joyously in my memory, dusted with the sweet nostalgia that many of my age seem to cherish. (I know I do.)
Our "cells" were exactly how I remembered them: austere, authentic, slightly musty, but oh-so-quiet, and the tiny balconies opened to the hills and the forest. They're only for sleeping anyway, right? The bathrooms seemed very far away, and we were the only guests, so my hike through the corridors to the ladies' facilities was slightly surreal.
Most surreal, though, was our dinner experience. Keep in mind my memory: refectory, generous table, simple and delicious food, carafes of vin ordinaire, and the company of the brothers, lively conversation.
Not this time. Guests eat, these days, apart from the residents.
We settled into a corner of an empty dining room, and - after a brief explanation by a very friendly monk - our dinner appeared by dumbwaiter. We ate quietly; the food was definitely not hearty or homemade; we loaded our empty plates into the dumbwaiter as instructed, and that was that.
We did, however, take a lovely walk up into the hillside, and admired the brutalist architecture from all angles.
It was an experience. But it did reinforce my belief that - in most cases - returning to a location rich in very special memories isn't always the best course of action.