The Invaders' Route
The Route de Lasalle starts right outside my front door and winds its way up through beautiful Cevenol countryside. I love watching the scenery change through the seasons. Autumn is especially stunning, with tinges of amber, ochre, crimson, and glorious green-gold splashing across the hills.
Down this road, in 1683, King Louis XIV sent 1200 dragoon soldiers to convert the Huguenots of St. Hippolyte. Later, during World War II, SS Nazis arrived via the same route. Their mission was to find young French men hiding from obligatory work service for the German war machine. Sadly, the Nazis apprehended and killed several. They infamously hung Roger Broussoux on the viaduct bridge in front of my home, the Château de Planque. The Nazis also forced the family who sheltered him to watch from the front windows.
These tragic incidents and other historical events inspired me to write a series of historical fiction novels set in our town and the Château de Planque. The first, Though Darkness Descend: The Huguenot Resistance Series, Book One will be out in the next few months.
Ok, let’s go! We turn right and head up the road past a handful of homes tucked back in behind a lovely limestone wall. At the first bend, we see one of my favorite mas or farmhouse in the original Occitan language of the region. The property sits in a small valley below the road. The Vidourle river flows on the opposite side, all nestled beneath Le Cengle mountain. More “blue” (as they say) Cévenol hills rise in the distance.
Further up, we find another charming mas, Le Figaret. Historically, there was a connection between this family and the Château de Planque (in the 16th century!) Today, it functions as a campground, complete with a pool, old tennis court, and green (yellow!) houses that grow an abundance of tomatoes.
Around another corner, we come upon a World War II memorial. At this spot, Nazis skirmished with a group of maquisards, French resistance fighters. Several lost their lives, and their names are inscribed on the monument, along with statements of the "long and savage fight by the French people against the oppressors."
This bend in the road is just above the memorial, and it’s not hard to imagine the two groups clashing in this very spot.
After a stretch of empty road, we arrive at another old mas with several outbuildings. This one is now a private high school. During the school year, we often see students walking up and down the road.
Continuing on up, we walk only through nature for quite a while. Except for the occasional car passing, the only sounds are bird chatter or wind through the trees. Or, in the heat of summer, chirping cicadas fill the air. So beautiful!
I usually turn around at the next farmhouse: Mas de la Baume. As you can see, it’s perched at the foot of the mountain and oversees a lovely property stretched out below the road. Originally designed as a magnanerie, it was one of the many silkworm production farms in the Cévennes. Now it hosts events, such as weddings and family reunions. Or one can simply stay the night.
The website promises country walks, collecting chestnuts, eating seasonal, local fruits and vegetables without moderation (!), refreshment at the foot of waterfalls on the property, plus joining in local festivals that are “so dear to the inhabitants of the region.” Love it!
On our way back down, we see this pretty little side road winding up the mountain. I walked up there once to check it out and found several homes tucked away with fairly large properties surrounding them.
Approaching home, this little beauty catches my attention. Autumnal brilliance never ceases to amaze me. I give thanks to the master artist, the Creator God of it all.
Arriving in front of my home, I stop to admire the vigne vièrge creeping across the front. That small upper window is our bedroom, and sometimes the vines try to come on in and join us! Our living room is behind the blue shutters, and this time of year we enjoy a spectacular view of that flaming red vine. We’ve long planned to paint those shutters burgundy like the others, but they’re so ancient they need to be rebuilt. We’ll get to it one day, I hope. But for now, the contrast with the crimson is lovely!
La vie est belle!