You might – or might not – have been wondering where I’ve been for the past 10 days, owing to the lack of posts. It’s not chagrin about the reality of Brexit occurring on 31st January, although it continues to rankle. More mundanely, we were without telephone or internet for most of last week, after the neighbour had a new line and a livebox installed. You can’t actually speak to a human being at Orange, so after much tussling with the uncompromising robot, our line was finally fixed on Saturday. I have been catching up ever since.
Yesterday, however, we decided to leave behind Brexit and frustrations with Orange by taking advantage of the dry, mild weather for a walk on the Causse around Saint-Projet.
This is where the post’s title comes in. You might know the poem ‘The Rolling English Road’ by G.K.Chesterton, which includes the lines, “The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier”. A little hamlet named Paris was on our walking route, and for some reason it put me in mind of the poem.
Typical French Village
Saint-Projet is a small village on the border of Tarn-et-Garonne and Lot. Its name comes from Praejectus, who was Bishop of the Auvergne in the 7th century. He was noted for his devotion to the poor and the sick, but he got on the wrong side of the Auvergnat aristocracy and was assassinated in 676. It’s not quite clear why the village took his name, which was changed temporarily to Mont-Libre during the Revolution.
The village’s main claim to fame is the château, nicknamed “le château de la Reine Margot”, since Marguerite de Valois stayed there for a couple of nights in 1585. The château, elevated on a hill, dominates the village and the countryside.
Like many such villages, Saint-Projet’s heyday was in the 19th century. In 1831, the population numbered 1,450. Rural depopulation and World War I took their toll, and by 1921, the population had halved to 685. Almost a century later, it’s down to 283. The ruined buildings we encountered throughout our walk bear witness to the much higher population in past times.
Lavoirs, streams and hamlets
We set off down the main street and then dropped down by the church to the lavoir (wash house) by the stripling River Bonnette. The river rises a couple of kilometres further north, and at Saint-Projet it’s really a stream. The path diverged from it after a while and we climbed up to the windswept farmland of the causse.
The next village, Puylagarde, the highest in our département, dominated the skyline across the fields.
One of the good things about walking around here is that it enables you to see hamlets that you wouldn’t ordinarily have any reason to drive into.
Yesterday the countryside was post-Sunday lunch quiet, and we came across very few people until we came to Mas de Monille, a ferme auberge. This place was once a wild boar farm, but they now rear Gascon black pigs and Caussade hens. You can eat lunch there, and a number of people strolled about having clearly done just that.
Around Mas de Monille the former fields, bordered by stone walls, have reverted to woodland. We walked along ancient tracks between walls of stone prised from the fields before crossing the Bonnette again, somewhat broader below Saint-Projet.
Near the car park, someone had put up a noticeboard with old photos of Saint-Projet and its environs showing cafés, shops and cottage industries that no longer exist.
You might also like:
The Secret of le Château de la Reine Margot
Watery Walk – La Vallée de la Bonnette
Loze, A Tiny Village on the Causse
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[…] The Day we went to Paris by Way of Saint-Projet […]
Interesting what you can discover when walking through the French countryside! I never knew there were other hamlets or towns called ‘Paris’ in France, but I guess it only makes sense. Luckily we have not had our internet or electricity cut off despite the severe winds brought by Ciara. Fingers crossed!
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This one is the only other Paris we have ever come across, and the difference is striking! We have been back online since Saturday, but five days without internet meant a lot of catching up. I hope the winds didn’t cause any damage chez vous.
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I read a book once called Out of Chingford, round the North Circular and up the Orinoco. A true travellers tale. I read it because I lived in Chingford, London E4, from when I was five until I was 16.
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The author must have read the Chesterton poem in that case. I don’t think I ever went to Chingford, but I believe it was Norman Tebbit’s constituency at one time.