The Ellis Page
Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology ("MAC")
9. Second Week in the Périgord
We had been invited to spent the weekend in Limoges with some friends from 24 years earlier. On the way, we saw several castles including Montbrun, a fortified castle that is still intact and one that I had first visited years ago. It is privately owned, which I find amazing. Here it is on the right.
The next week, I was feverish and sick for several days and we stayed close to the Martin’s home. Still we saw over a dozen spectacular castles and ancient churches. The best was the magnificent, medieval town of Sarlat, which we loved. We also saw the village of Domme, pronounced “dumb” - which prompted a host of Domme jokes. ("I'll tell my friends I went to France and saw a Domme city." "Oh, look at that Domme house, Domme car, Domme wall, Domme church, Domme tourist, Domme leaf, Domme ______ - just fill in the blank)."
Naturally, I didn’t get involved in such childish humor; however, at one point we saw a little blue police car right behind us. I wasn't worried though. It was just a couple of Domme cops....
Most impressive was the spectacular Château of Castelnaud, perched high on the top of a cliff with a commanding view of the valley of the Dordogne River stretched out below and the Castle of Beynac in the distance. We were able to take a tour of this mighty fortress from the middle ages and go through the Museum of War in the Middle Ages. We loved this. As we left, we were able to buy a wonderful scale model of the castle and it sits proudly on the coffee table at home.
Well, our time in the Périgord had come to an end and it was time to drive back north. But there was much to see as we left this magnificent part of France. One major stop, was the 12th century Château of Chalusset. We had a hard climb up the side of a hill to get there, but it was well worth it. The size of the castle walls was stunning, as you can see in the photo on the right. The boys loved being able to touch, grab, climb, jump, and feel, and their imaginations took over just as mine had 24 years earlier.
Suddenly a tremendous summer storm hit. There were sheets of lightening followed instantly with great claps and rolls of thunder. The clouds opened and a torrential rain turned the hillside path almost instantly into a stream of mud. We found some shelter, of sorts, in a primitive lean-to in the trees. But we wondered how long we'd have to wait and how on earth we'd get back down. "Let's have a prayer," said Braden and did so. Then he looked at the rest of us and solemnly announced, "Now all we need is enough faith." I tried to explain that it didn't really work like that. "It'll stop in ten minutes," insisted Braden. David was chattering away about something and Braden wanted quiet. We could see what he was trying to do. He was trying to stop the storm with faith. After about 10 minutes the rain suddenly died down. "Okay, let's go!" said Braden. "It's stopped." "The rain's just died down for a minute or two. If we leave our shelter, it'll just restart and drown us," said David. "It won't! Let's go," said Braden. We picked our way through the dryer parts of the path, holding back bushes and branches for each other as we went. Back at the car, Braden offered another prayer of gratitude for our protection ...and it started to rain again. "See what a little faith can do?" said Braden.
Well, we went from the highs to the lows. Just a few miles down the road was the horror of Oradour-sur-Glane. Here's the story:
Near the end of WWII, the German S.S. committed one of the great atrocities of the war. They massacred an entire town full of people in retaliation for French Resistance activities. This including 247 defenseless children. They then burned down the town, building by building as an example.
The French left the town pretty much pretty much the way they found it after the massacre. It's now a monument to the horrors of the War. We walked through the entire town, looking at a series of roofless shells of houses with burned, remains of walls and often with burned cars in what had once been garages. Often there were other remains among the rubble such as a burned sewing machine or a bicycle, sometimes a toy or two.
We saw the remains of a boulangerie, a gas station with a burned out gas pump in front, and, of course, the burned out remains of the church where 500 woman and children died. It was horrible. Making it worse, it was very hot; some 35 degrees (around 100 Fahrenheit). We were physically and emotionally drained. I thought I would be immune because I had seen it 24 years earlier — but I wasn't. After half an hour of this, we all felt like crying. David was stunned by all he saw. "I thought it was only going to be a burned out church," he whispered solemnly. It was a quiet and subdued car ride for the next 50 miles or so, as we headed up north, towards Brittany.
On to the next French