“Happiness cannot be perceived without spirit and without vigor”, Essays by Montaigne.
The previous stage of Sail-sous-Couzan on the outskirts of Saint-Didier-sur-Rochefort (edition of Thursday July 18) had taught me a little more about the years of genesis of this Chemin de Montaigne that I had been traveling for several days already.
A changing world
On the outskirts of Saint-Didier-sur-Rochefort, I confront myself this time with my harsh condition as a tourist. Me who took myself for an adventurer. By dint of taking small detours in isolated hamlets to avoid more direct routes, I had to face the practical sense of the inhabitants. At a place called Le Grand Vernay, you can’t miss it. “The long paths do not stop the pilgrim! This welcome formula, full of irony, was thrown at me by a 71-year-old peasant. He ends up getting out of his C15. Dressed in a cap with the image of a bank, a mustard checkered shirt, he tells me Noirétable at 12 km. “I come from Montverdun and go to Lezoux”, I explain to him in a brief exchange. The man looks at me for a moment then laughs at me:
“Are you going to take a break at least?! »
Our smiles meet, the connection is established. He is one of those peasants like there won’t be any more in a while. A “peasant by birth”, single and childless, the man has no illusions about his modest farm, which will disappear with him. The old man lived simply, in this end of the Forez which we never talk about, with his twenty cows, “of all races”, and a vegetable garden. The completely corroded old barn door alone testifies to the rusticity of this harsh life.
The silences getting longer, I decide to continue my way in this Forez which surprises me over the kilometers. A territory with low density but in full mutation and much more heterogeneous in terms of population than I would have suspected.
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Figure of the Resistance, the Moulinoise Marguerite Fauvergue died
This impression will be confirmed during the next steps. I now follow a ridge at an altitude of 800 meters which leads me straight to a high place of the Resistance around Noirétable. On the heights of Saint-Jean-la-Vêtre, the Notre-Dame-des-Anges chapel was built in the 17th century. After falling into ruin, it was rebuilt again in 1851.
Less than 100 years later, the rudimentary building, on its promontory but sheltered from prying eyes, served as an explosives cache for the resistance fighters at the beginning of 1944. Father Antoine Girardin having accepted the request from Paul Hoche Brigandet, head of the Désiré camp, to put this dynamite from the public works in a safe place. But threatened by arms, Father Girardin will subsequently be forced to lead on April 13, 1944 gendarmes and militiamen to the cache where even greater loot will be confiscated: food, shoes or tobacco intended for the maquis of the region. The priest will be saved.
Change of scenery
I go down, as for me and less gloriously, towards Noirétable where I have to join the municipal camp-site, near the lake. I stray from the Chemin de Montaigne in the last kilometers by joining the railway line between Böen and Noirétable, now out of use. The last time I had taken this same path was during my student years. At the time, the SNCF reserved its last old blue Michelines for Auvergnats departing from Lyon.
It’s 6 p.m., I quickly pitch my tent at the municipal campsite of Noirétable and go to the casino. Tonight I change universe and try my luck a thousand miles from these landscapes crossed for tens of kilometers. I will only play one piece. The €2 received during my very first transaction at the start of my journey. It was in Boën, at the café at the station, while the manager was giving me change.
Hand clinging to the penguin, in the middle of the lights, to the rhythm of music without interest, I consider without trembling these last seconds which separate me from wealth and opulence.
All summer. The Gazette leaves on the Chemin de Montaigne. Seven stages and more than 100 km from Montverdun to Lezoux, hiking and roaming, to meet the heritage, landscapes and inhabitants of this vast territory. In September 1581, Michel de Montaigne left Rome to join Bordeaux where he had just been elected mayor. A journey he describes in his Travel Journal (Classic Folio). The Chemin de Montaigne (GR 89) follows this route over 324 km, from east to west, from Lyon to Felletin in the Creuse.
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Chemin de Montaigne (4/7) – A hike in the footsteps of the Resistance between Saint-Didier-sur-Rochefort and Noirétable (Loire)
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