Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Old Salt Route

There are not many level places here – there's the road of course, way down below in the Roya valley, there's the cultivated terraces that people have hewn out of the slopes, and there's the high road in the village, quaintly called Repentia

Looking down from Repentia

which leads to the cemetery (there seems to be a tradition here of making the last resting place one that has a spectacular view). 
But for those of us who want to walk any distance, you have to be prepared to climb.

Looking out from the road to Saorge, part of the old salt route is just visible on the opposite hillside, in the middle of the picture, snaking up above the train track.

I discovered the trail that forms part of the old salt route by chance, walking near the road down at the level of the river. Rocky but not stony, it snakes up and up, in those bends called lacets like laced up boots because of the way they go in one direction then the next, hairpin bends we might call them, except these are smaller, more intimate paths up the rocky slope. It is not bordered by trees, so the view unfolds beneath you all the time. 

The ground falls away immediately at the edge of the path so there were times when I just had to look at where I placed my feet and not look down... 


The weather changed, everything started to sprout and blossom, pear trees, cherry trees, the quince tree which became my 'spot' in the garden to work, where I parked my table and chair in its shade, drifting flower scents, the humming of insects, birdsong...I once caught sight of an enormous bird hovering motionless above the valley.

To find a level walk, but also to visit the famous church of Notre Dame des Fontaines, we took a bus to la Brigue, and walked from the village to the church, and back. La Brigue is another ancient village, with decorated lintels above doorways.

 The walls of Notre Dame des Fontaines are covered in frescos, dating from the end of XV century, depicting the life of Christ.

La Brigue is even higher up than Saorge and the path through the woods gives a clear view of the mountains that form the border between France and Italy.

After a few glorious days the weather changed again and it's back to lowering clouds, and intermittent rain showers. But 'showers' are really when the clouds envelop the mountains and massive drops of rain fall like stones straight down on the earth and its inhabitants and as well as the rain there are the even bigger drops that fall from the edge of the roof overhanging my cell window.
One day when it was not actually raining but there was a light covering of cloud, I took another walk heading to the ruins of Chateau Malmort but I didn't actually reach it. 

Fontan train station on the right, village of Fontan to the left


This path is even steeper than the old salt route, and goes through strangely silent woods. It finally opens up, giving a tremendous view, and showing Saorge from a different angle. 

But just after that, the path passes under some huge overhanging rocks, with fallen stones lying on it and I decide I've gone far enough. I'd felt uneasy about the name of the castle anyway (mal meaning bad and mort meaning death!) Coming down was almost as hard as going up, your knees get quite wobbly because of the steepness of the path.

I'll soon be heading to somewhere very different, where the terrain is completely flat. And from an ex monastery to Le Diable Vauvert (the phrase au diable Vauvert in French means in the middle of nowhere), but Vauvert is a real place, and the building is in the remote marshlands of La Petite Camargue. And Les Avocats du Diable is the name of the publishing house who hosts the residency.


The Solitary Walker said...

Just stunning. I want to walk that salt route. Now.

Ah, the quince... The quince and I have a special relationship.

And, as I said before: you do get around!

dritanje said...

Ah solitary walker you would indeed just love the old salt route, it goes on for miles, from the coast up to Piemont in Italy. I only walked a tiny part of it. And you and quince trees, of course! I should have dedicated this post to you!

Anonymous said...

Makes me sigh with longing....

three sea horses said...

Just out of this world really! What an experience. Wonder if you have moved to your next residency yet. Thinking of you:) x