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    • after dropping my gf at Barcelona airport early in the morning while it was still dark I head off north in the direction of England, I have a few days to get there and arrive before my sister leaves for her vacation, to get amongst other things the keys for her house.
      I pick a reasonably direct route with a few stopovers at two inmates houses for overnighters @MrPopples and @Yannick, and an Airbnb in the middle
      I have never been really bothered by the weather, hot or cold I usually wear about the same amount of gear, so I head for the easiest way and I leave the metropolis of Barcelona in the dark behind me. My route takes me into the Pyrenees Mountains dividing Spain and France, and as its early in the morning as the sun is rising the skiers are appearing and surprised to see a motorcycle riding past.

    • Two days earlier I was in Belchite

      I'd heard about Belchite from a member on the XT660.com forum that I used to frequent when I was riding one. He shared photos of his bike riding down the main street and it looked like a good photo opportunity and a chance to get away from Barcelona for the night.
      Why Belchite???

    • Between August 24 and September 7, 1937, loyalist Spanish Republican and rebel General Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War fought the Battle of Belchite in and around the town. After 1939 a new village of Belchite was built adjacent to the ruins of the old, which remain a ghost town as a memorial to the war.
      The remains of the old village have been used as filming locations in films including Terry Gilliam's 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

    • I stay off the toll roads and this takes me thru lots of little towns, villages, and backroads once I have left the mountains

    • After spending the night at MrPopples I leave in the strongest wind I have ridden in since Patagonia in 2011, I'm getting blown from one side of the road to the other for the whole day. 
      Taking a break at a little village I was advised as a must see Saint-Cirq Lapopie. Sitting 300 feet up on a high cliff face above the Lot River doesn't seem real as it comes into view. It was recently voted the best village in France and because of this it gets around 400,000 visitors a year (mainly French) but today I was the only person there. In 1199 Richard the Lionheart tried to siege the village and couldn't get in...today the Super Tenere conquered the village and got in straight away.

    • As I said earlier not the best day weather wise and very small streets from Medieval times are not made for vehicles so I had a walk around its tiny streets and alleyways

    • This next shot will show you why, it was taken in nearly total darkness as were most of the others in the village (original unedited is first) and moments later the torrential rain that had been threatening happened

    • @Yannick had pm'd me and said that as I was heading north maybe I should stop by D'Oardour-Sur-Glane and take in a little World War 2 history. 
      I did a little research and found this line, so now you know as much as me - "On 10 June 1944, the village of Oradour-Sur-Glane in Haute-Vienne in then Nazi-occupied France was destroyed, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a Nazi Waffen-SS company. A new village was built nearby after the war, but French president Charles de Gaulle ordered the original maintained as a permanent memorial and museum." - If you want to read more a brief history is HERE
      I arrived at 4.30 (16.30) and according to the sign it should be open but the gates were closed. A lady came out and in broken English told me they were still open but closing soon, I could come in and she would leave the main gate slightly open so I could stay as long as I wanted and walk around have the place to myself to take some photos, just close the gate when you leave. She asked if I would like her to point out some areas that maybe I wouldn't know about if I was by myself. I nodded in agreement and we walked.

    • As we walked up the main street of the village it seemed like a movie set and I just let her speak..."did you notice the date, it was 4 days after D Day, 6th June 1944?" She went on, it was strange because this village had never seen a Geman soldier until 1942 even though Limoge just 14 miles south was overrun with the German army and then visits were very rare and village life carried on as normal."

    • As she walked she pointed out building and was saying "this is Mr. xxx house, this was the bakery, this was the butcher..." the way she spoke it felt like she knew them personally but not possible as she was in her forties.

    • The photo is the main intersection of the village, "all the inhabitants were brought here, women and children were sent to one side and men to the other", she explained.

    • There were only a few shots fired in the church but no-one was killed, they were locked inside.
      The men were split into four groups and made to go inside buildings a good distance from each other, she pointed at a sign on the remains of the building. "This is where one group of men were massacred.

    • She pointed up the street, "and there, there and there were the other three places the massacre took place".

    • We went back to the church and I was speechless, literally, my throat was dry and she knew it. She made it a very real experience but it was going to get a little more real. We reentered the church, "can you imagine you are inside one of 452 women and children and just heard lots of shouting then gunfire, then nothing, as a women, inside here you know that your husband, father, brother, uncle or son was now dead and you were trapped"
      We stood inside the church and she said, "you are in here, terrified and then gunfire and windows smash and hand grenades and incendiary devices come flying in, the inside of the church becomes an inferno in a matter of seconds and you are trapped with no chance of escape." Look here, she points to the wall, "do you see the color pink in the granite?"

    • "You see near the roof line where the granite has a natural color, well for granite to turn pink..." she walks to a wall, "it needs to be heated up to". She puts her finger on the wall and draws 1100. "This is hard to imagine, but we know this as it has been tested, and we know exactly what happened that day because amazingly two women and one child escaped. The only survivor was 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche. She escaped through a rear sacristy window, followed by a young woman and child. All three were shot, two of them fatally. Rouffanche crawled to some pea bushes and remained hidden overnight until she was found and rescued the next morning."
      She went on to say, "after the massacre, the village was razed to the ground and is now left in almost the exact same condition it was that day back in 1944."
      We walked out the church and she locked the door behind us. "Make sure you get a photograph of that car, people think it's Dr. Jacques Desourteaux car...but it actually isn't, a lot of people are mistaken. When Dr. Desourteaux arrived at the entrance to the town, soldiers forced him to drive up the main street and stop across from the marketplace, where he joined the assembled townspeople. He died with the others that afternoon. A few weeks later, the doctor's brother and his nephew moved the Desourteaux car to the family property, where it still lies inside the garden wall. The car on the marketplace actually belonged to the wine merchant...I'll leave you with your thoughts" and she walked away.

    • I walked around a little more taking it all in, over the years I have traveled thru a lot of countries and history is everywhere, in Europe it is in your face a lot and well preserved and you can become a little blazé about it all as it doesn't quite often seem real. If I was here alone it would have felt like a movie set with no depth, but with a local showing me around and explaining all the intricate details, made this, without doubt, one of the most humbling places I have ever experienced.

    • This was one of those posts that was difficult to write wondering if it fit in with the theme of 'ride-report'. There have been a great deal of atrocities in pretty much every country of the world, this one just stuck with me. As i walked alone, down that main street it really made me wonder what it would have been like to be Raymond J. Murphy, a 20-year-old American who was one of the first military on the scene, the buildings would still be smoldering, the smell of burnt flesh heavy in the air...the mind boggles.
      ...and it was all about an opinion of someone who thought a German officer that had been kidnapped was being held in a close-by village was the reason the village was approached, click the link in the post to read the full story to see orders WERE NOT followed.
      Then the next thought comes in...if the war had gone the other way, this massacre would still most likely have happened as the war continued for another year but would i still be riding a motorcycle 'round the world, would i still be standing right here?

    • From Central France I head to Brittany, to stay with Yannick for a quick overnight, most of the day heading there and the next day riding to Calais were wet, a few tress not in their natural state, a long driveway that hasn't seen any action for years and a little house in the country were my companions and distractions from the rain.

    You've been invited!