We’d been reminded by one of my school friends, Virginia, that her late father, Ross Christensen, a WWII pilot, had made his escape from German-occupied France in 1941 via this area of the Pyrenees after being shot down. He’d caught a train from Perpignan on the east coast up to the town of Sainte Leocardie situated on a ‘causse’ or plateau high up in the mountains where he and two other escapees were met by a Spanish guide ‘wiry, muscled, moustache and beret and with flashing dark eyes’ – his description! He was carrying a wineskin of very rough red wine(no water), jambon over his shoulder and an evil looking knife in his belt. The three evaders including 21 year old Ross – and the guide then walked for three days over the Pyrenees and into Spain. It was November, freezing cold, snow on the peaks and her dad was wearing a shirt, trousers, a very thin coat and ladies espadrilles one size too small. And he lived to tell the tale.
We’d originally planned to catch the Little Yellow Train from Villefranche up into the mountains and when I checked the route, it showed one of the stations was Sainte Leocardie. Perfect! Kill two birds with one stone – have our ride on the train and get off at what we assumed would be a typically picturesque French railway station and village. We shot off without a minute to spare racing to catch the train, only to find that the timetable on the internet was an old one. So we missed the train and decided to drive all the way there. It turns out that it was a blessing in disguise because when we arrived at our anticipated romantic little station it was more like a signal stop. No town as such – more a hamlet you might say – no shops. And the Little Yellow Train would certainly not have been stopping here so we would’ve wizzed straight past.
We took several photos for Virginia and spent some time on this brisk spring day when all the colours just shone, trying to imagine that cold January day all those years ago when this beautiful area would’ve been covered in snow, and picture Ross Christensen and the others heading off into those mountains.
After the Sainte Leocardie pilgrimage a rest day was definitely in order. My sinuses have been playing up ever since we’ve hit spring weather. So many itsy bitsy little things in the air. While Heather blogged poolside I decided to take my first swim in the northern hemisphere for 36 years. It was stunning. This property is a little slice of heaven… as was the lunch Carole very kindly brought us lunch by the pool.
Tina and Heather