So it begins, another trip starts and if first appearances are to be believed then it will be an emotional journey into Spain. This morning was relatively relaxed as after breakfast, and it is only here that a continental breakfast really makes sense, we took a walk down to the Chemin de la Liberte museum which provided some interesting background to the trip (it may have been more useful if my schoolboy French meant that I understood more than 1 word out of 4 though).
Having met back at the hotel we were given our packed lunches and half of the group were ferried to the start of our trek where we polished off our packed lunch sat high on the hillside overlooking the town of Seix. The Chemin avoids the town because during the war it was the headquarters of the local Nazi leadership. Eventually the rest of the group joined us and we were off. As we passed round the hillside we very quickly came to the memorial to Louis Barrau who was murdered by the Nazis on 12 September 1943. Louis Barrau was a passeur, or guide used by the escape lines, and he was waiting in a remote stone barn for a group of potential escapees. As he was waiting in the dark he heard the sound of footsteps, but rather than the expected escapees it was a group of German soldiers who’d been tipped off by local sympathisers. Declining their offer to surrender, they used the tried and tested tactics to set the barn alight and when Louis made a run for it he was shot within 50 metres of the barn. Today there is a simple stone cross as a memorial and our leader Tel read us the relevant passage from Scott Goodall's guide to the Freedom Trail.
From there we followed relatively gentle wooded paths to reach the mountain refuge at Aunac. This consists of a farm with two outhouses converted into dorms. We were sat outside the house at long trestle tables for most of the evening and were served home cooked food with vegetables grown in his garden. It was one of the groups birthday, and this was celebrated with beer and a birthday cake. It was a priceless moment and one that possibly hasn't changed for hundreds of years. It really has been a moment when I’ve almost felt guilty for asking people to sponsor me to enjoy myself and drink good red wine, but I know that it is going to get tougher and that is when the thoughts of sponsorship and good wishes will help to get me through.
Here's hoping the weather stays fine as we head higher into the mountains.