What a journey ! In barely three hundred kilometers, I have traveled centuries and landscapes, climates and terroirs, geologies and architectures. In one day – and again, while basking – I slipped from the banks of the Seine to those of the Loir, from Troyes to Vendôme. In these two towns, in the castles glimpsed on the way, in the old farms ennobled by hay, cows and crops, I met beautiful ghosts, or rather ghosts than history, and the age of the places and mansions imposed. So few kilometers on the scale of France, even less on the scale of the Earth that we have become accustomed to crisscrossing by the shortcuts offered by aviation, and yet, so many changes in a region to the other, so many varieties in the expression of the villages!
It was sunny this September weekend and road and poetry went hand in hand. Travel and memory too, so much the stones, the paths, the walls seemed softened by generations of footsteps and glances. How could I have waited so many years to go, without haste, to visit these delicious cities, these rivers and these rivers with wild banks? These historic centers raised, by their own beauty, to the dignity of a universe? I do not know if this feeling of traveling – traveling and not simply moving – was due to the softness of the place, to the disdain for the news and their hysteria that they displayed far from Paris and its prestige, or to this immersion in bygone times, to which, for example, in Troyes, the concentration of medieval houses, and in Vendôme, the ancient castle and its high tower standing above the old city bear witness. I experienced a feeling of depth that I never knew during my distant travels, perhaps because there, I did not have the eye nor the memory sufficiently trained in this elsewhere, and this ignorance therefore deprived me of the possibility of measuring the melancholy of a neighborhood, or the beauty of an ancient tree in a schoolyard, or even the humor of a brightly colored house.
In Troyes, Vendôme, or in the villages I passed through, was it the quality of the light, that of an already low sun, which gave towns and landscapes the appearance of moods? I remembered what Paul Morand had written about the mouth of the Loire that I had crossed upstream of Orleans – vast, its course laden with shifting islands of sand: it took a painter, Turner in this case, to “render its grandeur unexplored and tragic, the fearful shudder of its herbs and waters, like that of Louis XII tapestries, when the west wind blows at night in the castles and the ghosts go up the spiral stairs ”. Did it take the special quality of the September lighting for me to feel touched by what these places had of sentimental? Not tragic here, but suave and sweet, maternal. A feeling which, whatever its nature, when we feel it like Turner in front of the finitude of the Loire, reveals to us the mysterious correspondences between these places and ourselves, and tells us that we belong to them.
Today when, due to the climatic and sanitary situation, we have learned to give up our increasingly distant forays, towards the islands of the southern hemisphere or the ice of the far North, we have plenty of time to start walking again. . We just have to pass this end of the street that we had never explored before, all in our dreams of planes and hungry for jetlag. Here we are obliged, to go to Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, Foix or Locronan, to dismiss the exotic and the picturesque. And we find that in truth, until then, we have made limited use of it to educate our soul.
It is to contemplate the extreme familiarity of the facades in the ruelle des Chats in Troyes, the blazing of the stained glass windows in our churches, the lazy course of the Loir under the bridges of Vendôme, it is to listen to the soft rumor of the streets among the young people hours of a Sunday, to surprise the warm smell of fresh bread through the vents of a bakery that I felt invigorated, and without sadness at the time of return because the beings I met were not the faces of a single moment. When I got home, I said to myself: “I had a great trip. “And I promised myself, at the end of the week, whether it be sun or rain, to set out again to discover these castles, these countryside and these towns which are, for each of us, mysterious. secret gardens. Madeleine Delbrêl had warned us: “If you go to the end of the world, you will find the traces of God; if you go deep inside you find God himself. “