Wednesday, 21 June 2006
Distance 17 km
Duration 3 hours 50 minutes
Ascent 265 m, descent 297 m
Map 36 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
After a luxurious sleep, with a well-placed hip-hole, and a less luxurious breakfast of bran and milk, we set off, shaking the hand of our hostess when she appeared in her dressing gown to see us off. She was old but her face was as smooth as butter, even at that hour.
The walking was picturesque and easy beside the water, amongst grass and slender trees, and presently we came to another camping ground.
Just beyond that was a hotel which served coffee to passing strays like us. There was a balcony facing the water, with a few guests breakfasting.
This lovely pause made up for the deficiencies of our breakfast.
Shortly after that we joined the GR13, which was flanked by the lake on one side and large private gardens on the other. Turning west through the village of Montélesme, we entered a forest on a muddy track that twisted through the trees.
Suddenly we came to a little cemetery inside a picket fence, well cared for although there was no road leading to it.
French and British flags were flying over the graves, which were of the English airmen and local resistance fighters who died in a failed attempt to drop supplies by night into this remote place.
The routine for the French partisans was to indicate the drop area with three sets of car headlights, then collect the supplies (some of them heavy guns, even Jeeps) on farm carts before daylight and hide them in barns. This time the Germans found out.
It was moving to read how young they were, and to see it so lovingly maintained still.
Nearby was the railway station of Coeuson, the fiercely guarded centre of operations of the Maquis Bernard.
There was no sign of a railway there now, but the atmosphere of hate and fear remained. The ugly recent history of Europe is just beneath its present genial surface.
Out in the fields again after all the heavy emotion of the forest, we made short work of the track into Ouroux. A grassy way beside a large pool led us up into the main street.
Apart from coffee and pâtisserie, our main requirement was a new map, as we had almost walked our way off our present one. But the one we wanted was not to be seen (TOP 100 no. 28). The Office of Tourism was closed and stayed that way for the rest of the day.
Fortified by caffeine and cake, we wandered up to the grand grey church and had a look inside. It was surprisingly bright, with cheerful-looking painted saints and stained glass.
Further on, past the last houses, we came to the camping and settled ourselves in a secluded nook for lunch. Our fellow campers were mostly Dutch people of hearty appearance.
The afternoon was dedicated to sleep and washing, then a stroll back to town to visit a café attached to the hotel, in the shade of the church.
Our coffees came on a doily-covered tray, accompanied by a chocolate curl and two small glasses of coffee liqueur topped with cream and a coffee bean. Amazingly it all only cost €4.
In the evening we strolled about the village in the relative coolness and looked down from the belvedere onto the Lac de Pannecière, another of the artificial reservoirs of the area.
We took dinner at the Hotel, which was run by Dutch people, and which offered rather un-French plain fare, in plain surroundings, but of course it was much appreciated by us.
We had tomato soup, then pork cutlets and vegetables, and finally white cheese with peaches.
The French couple nearby had raspberry cordial, chips and cigarettes, and the Dutch truck-driver dipped his sandy whiskers in glass after glass of beer.
The meal was accompanied by lovely sentimental French songs and accordion music, which we could still hear as we wandered off down the road to our little abode.