Following on from a completely epic prison explore in the North of France, we drove over to a local town looking for a beautiful monastery closed and abandoned only a couple of weeks earlier. We drove through the town and parked at the side of an unassumingly typical French street.
Getting out the car we gathered cameras and tripods, making our way towards the large wooden doors with zero information about how to get inside. We would normally be significantly more prepared for this sort of thing – especially when on a busy street at midday but, we were in the area so it would have been rude not to give it a try.
I have been to locations where you have to lower yourself through trapdoors into pitch black cellars, where entry meant climbing drainpipes 2 stories onto rooftops and dropping through rotten roof supports. I have scaled towering barbed-wire fences and been chased by angry dogs. You never quite know what is going to be required of you when urban exploring but, if you want to see inside and get some interesting photos, you grit your teeth and get on with it.
As it happened, in this case, we got to the doors and they were open – wide open. We peered inside, tentatively, only to be pushed aside by a middle-aged woman carrying cardboard boxes of documents to a van outside. To my stealth-trained mind this immediately meant game over. However, one of our party had the ground-breaking idea to introduce ourselves and actually ask permission to come in and take photographs.
The woman was the owner of the building and was busy tidying up after a huge open day which had been held the previous day and attracted thousands of visitors. I can’t really imagine trying to get a wide chapel shot with dozens of tourists in the picture so was glad we had gotten very lucky with our days.
Anyone who has urban-explored with me will know that I am not one to be rushed and prefer to take my time taking in what’s around me and deciding how best to compose photographs. This is not always practical and I often find myself on the verge of been left inside while I try to get that one last perfect picture…as everyone else is getting in their cars and starting engines. I try not to go out of my way to hold people up but, when you consider that you may never get another opportunity to see somewhere quite like this again, it’s difficult to do a rush job.
Having been allowed in by the owner while she packed the last of her things and got ready to lock up and drive away we found ourselves extremely rushed and quickly trying to capture the amazing building before we had to leave. There was a lot more to this monastery than the chapel you see here but I opted to spend what little time we had capturing the ornate chapel rather than the other, more bare, areas of the building.
I am not normally one for permission visits as it feels a little like it goes against the whole ethos of urban exploration and borders on the hell that is the guided tour but, in this case, I was happy to be allowed in to see what would likely otherwise be a wasted trip.