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Chapter Twentysix

Day 73

Collonges la Rouge – Oradour-sur-Glane

We wake up fairly early, for us, as we have had such a lovely peaceful nights sleep. Deciding to have our walk before breakfast we head off towards the village along the countryside path. Everything is so quiet and even the cows and chickens in the fields as we pass by are just sitting quietly and enjoying the morning. From the short distance away we can see the dark red of the buildings, which are built of sandstone that contains more than two percent of oxide of iron, and in this area of France it looks quite strange but also very nice. The houses are not just small village houses but also quite large ones with towers and turrets which gives lovely shapes in whichever direction you view the village. As we walk through shops and cafes are begining to open up and get ready for the day. There are a good variety of shops and quite a few foods to sample. The church of St.Peter in the centre is a medieval church and strange in that the central nave is set to the side of the church as you enter with an altar to Our Lady facing as you come in. There is a large bell tower above the church. The village is situated on a former secondary road towards Santiago de Compostela and therefore there were many pilgrims who passed this way. Look out for the chapel of the penitents. We stop off to have a coffee at a small cafe that is part of the moustard shop, and where they make their own flavoured with many different things, the coffee was delicious and also the small home-made biscuit that accompanied it. We could not work out the flavour of the biscuit we thought maybe gingerbread but on inquiring were told that it was one of the mustards blended with grapes which gave it a violet colour. We had a smell and a sample of this mustard and thought how well it would go with cheese so just had to buy one to take with us. We had spotted a stall selling bread and in particular walnut bread, we are on the ‘Route des Niox’, so bought a loaf before heading back along a different path to the motorhome. Uhmm this road is longer! After trapsing across a field and another lane and up a hill we arrived back at the village where we had started, our guide is sacked, we will go back the way we came.

The country roads leading away from Collonges la Rouge and through the Dordogne are beautiful and very quiet. The fields are filled with wild flowers which look so pretty and small farms nestle into the hillsides. Coming to the small village of Segur le Chateau which takes us by surprise as we did not notice it until we were next to it. Entering the village we notice it has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Lovely old houses are set on the riverbank and then comes a bridge over the river and a weir where the water flows very fast and furious in contrast to the quiet waters on the other side. The town is set at the bottom of the hillside and is hidden from view of anyone passing by. Leaving the department of the Dordogne and entering the Haute-Vienne we stop off to buy some groceries before continuing on our way.

The lovely scenery continues until we come over the top of a hill and below us is the large city of Limoges spread out before us, passing around the outskirts of Limoges the city seems to be very nice and modern. We pick up the signposts for Oradour-sur-Glane which is only 20 km from Limoges. As we come to the town of Oradour-sur-Glane we can see the burnt out buildings streching along one side of us behind a stone wall. Ahead is a large flat area with the entrance to the museum and tribute to the old town and behind this is the new town and church. There is a parking area close by and we park in here.

Walking towards the museum entrance we see the large column with a statue at the top and on the far side of the road is a huge monument placed here in memory of the 642 people who lost their lives that terrible day, 10th June 1944, in a massacre by the Nazi troops, 205 of which were children. We cross the square and enter the ‘Centre de la memoire’ and pay our entrance, the martyr village is free. There are several rooms which give the background to the events leading up to the terrible day. The first room shows the rise of nazism and the expansion of the IIIrd Reich, Political and social context before the war and the French defeat, the vichy goverment and the Resistance movement. The second room shows the massacres of populations in eastern Europe and the ‘Das Reich’ division moving into the Limousin region on June 8th and 9th. The third room is a tale of the drama, survivors testimonies, executioners confessions and a 12min film recounts the events of June 10th, 1944 in Oradour. Room four is the national recognition of the martyred village, trials and amnesty and a reconstruction of Oradour. In room five there are peace messages. In here you can understand what you are about to see. A walkway takes you across to the Martyr Village and coming out the scene that meets you is one of total destruction. Everything is silent and you feel that this can not be real. The streets are laid out with houses that are just shells, no roofs and everything is just a pile of rubble but in the piles of bricks and stones you can see the everyday items that once belonged to the families that once lived here. There are pots and pans, metal bed frames, cots, sewing machines, bicycles, work tools and cars, in the formers cafes there are the charred remains of tables and chairs. The butchers shop shows that there were once tiles on the walls but now long gone, and the heartrenching sight of the schools – a boys school, a girls school and an infant school. Along the streets you can see the notices bearing the name and job of the former occupant of the building and also where the men were killed. Reaching the church, where most of the women and children lost their lives there is a plaque outside behind an old metal cross and inside you can see what remains of the bell which once hung in the bell tower above but now a melted mass lying on the floor. Bullets have ripped the white marble of the altar to pieces and one can only imagine the fear and terror that went through those poor people. Following the sign which points towards the cemetry you find a large grassed area with a huge monument at its centre, a few steps take you up and there is a vast stone altar shape with the date, X VI MCMXXXXIV. Behind the monument steps lead you down underneath and in here are all the names of the martyrs along with some of their possessions in glass cases including a baby’s pram and a child’s car. It is difficut to put into words what you feel in a place such as this and all I have tried to put here is what I saw.

Day 74

Oradour-sur-Glane

Before leaving we pay another short visit to the Village as yesterday we had arrives a little late to do everything and the rain was so heavy that we were soaked through. Today is a little better so we make our way back from the Aires on the far side of town, which is well situated and has everything you need. The main road of the new Village of Oradour is named Rue 10 juin, we spot this as we drive along it. A short walk into the village to reflect on what we had seen yesterday and we walk back towards the monument with the cemetry behind. There is a sign mentioning another monument inside the cemerty so before leaving we go in at the back is a tall tower and below are tributes left by the families, many of them contain photos of the people who died. There are two glass cases below the tower and looking we saw that they contained some of the bones from the remains of the martyrs. We left and drove away all in total silence, and each with their own thoughts of the things they have seen.

We have a lot of driving to do today as we have not actually covered much mileage these last few days. As we head north up the country the scenery changes and the fields of crops are bigger than further south, in fact they are huge expanses. There are pale green ones, dark gren ones and bright yellow ones making a patchwork far across the countryside as far as you could see. Passing through some very dark clouds and heavy rain the sky starts to clear and the sun starts to shine. We stop off in a small village next to a very fancy park filled with statues, all with a hunting theme, and a pavillion in the centre. Its time for our evening meal.

We continue slowly on our way and seeing an Aires at the next village, Nouan le Fezier, we stop to put a bit of water in the van as we are running low. The Aires is set right next to a river and a small lake and at the end there is a little waterfall. There are a lot of vans parked here and we can see why with it being so pretty. We are tempted to stay but we want to get to Luxembourg and need to get some more mileage behind us, so off we go again. The next place is larger, La Ferte St.Auban, and there are banners showing that there is to be a festival next weekend at the chateau. A fair is being set up in the street. We have to be home for next weekend, shame. The road continues on towards Orleans, which is a very big place. At first we drive through the outer industrialised part of the city, with a tram terminus and factories. Then come the hotels and restaurants before we come to the bridge over the wide river. The bridges are all illuminated and the waterside looks really lovely. It is getting quite dark now and it is difficult to see very much but after leaving the built up areas we pass through a long road in the dark and the only thing that stands out is the number of wind-farms that are situated in this area. We can see the red lights on the tops of the high poles all around us.

It is getting late now and then suddenly in front of us is a large city, where has the Sat Nav brought us now? it is Paris! don’t quite know how we have come this way round but I can definately see the Eifel Tower, all lit up in gold in the distance. Since we are this close we will have to go into the centre, maybe the roads will be a bit quieter. No, not really, I don’t think that Paris is ever quiet. We drive along the banks of the Seine and finnaly find our way to the park at the Eifel Tower. As we look at it in front of us it suddenly starts to flash with hundreds of tiny white sparkling lights as though it were made up of diamonds sparkling in the light, it is really beautiful. We get our cameras out and get ready to take a few photos when as suddenly as it started it stopped and all the lights went out even the gold light it was previously lit up with. It was in the dark! the twinkling lights must have been the finale for the night, anyway at least we saw it. We would like to see so much here but most will have to wait for another time when we have a few days to spend here. We do take a drive along the Champs d’Elysee though, still very busy, and drive a circle around the Arc de Triumph. Even at this late hour we see another motorhome doing exactly the same as us. Heading back out on the Periferique (Ring Road around Paris), we took the motorway and finally found a sevice station to spend the night.

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