Montsegur, 2010

Montsegur, 2010

All my plans in ruins. For hours now I’d been looking for that stone monument. I had driven through this little village at least thirty times on this monday afternoon and there was not even anybody on the street; the ONE street that lead through this village. I parked my car, got out into the chilling air, walked around the car a couple of times and finally stood behind with my hands on the trunk.

“I’m such an idiot. Why did I think that sword is for me and even expect it would be easy.”

I argued with myself and doubted very much that I had taken the right decision to fly all the way over the Atlantic to Barcelona and drive up almost completely to the West Coast of France. I thought of the work I had left lying there on my desk, my wife and my baby boy and considered whether to just stop it here, cut my losses and fly back home.

In that very moment, I suddenly saw a light in one of the buildings that seemed to be some kind of office. Perseverance took over and threw doubt just out the door. I walked into that office of the village’s mayor somewhere in the middle of nowhere in France and tried with my best years-old French to explain that woman that I’d been looking for a celtic monument. At first she was more annoyed than anything else but when she noticed I had no intention of leaving, she started to think how to help or get rid of me.

After about 15 minutes of that “conversation”, she remembered that in the next little village, there lived a retired Spanish history professor and that he’d probably be the only one able to help me. She pulled out a phone book and spoke very quickly in French so that I couldn’t understand a whole lot. But that much that she had managed to get me out of her office and talk to someone else.

So I drove the couple of minutes over to the next village and met with the guy. He was very friendly, but thought I had come looking for his church and wanted to give me a tour. I explained him in Spanish what I was looking for and he said, “then it’s not the church, but let me think.”

Well, long story short, he gave me THE tip, he knew “the place where women cook” and I was about 10-15km away from that place. So that was good and I thought as long as I have someone to ask, let me ask about the next thing on my list. Thank God I did that! If I should ever be able to find the celtic monument based on his idea, I just figured out that I wouldn’t be able to just continue on to Spain, as planned, but had to drive back a 4-5 hour drive into the area close to Toulouse. Because when I had prepared at home, translation of Paulo Coelho’s books had lost the letter “t” in Montsegur from Portuguese to English and so the Monsegur I was looking for next, was really Montsegur – and a long drive away.

I found the stone, the celtic monument and I drove over to Toulouse immediately from there, even when it was getting dark and started snowing.

But before all of that, I asked the man “please write me your name and address on this paper, so I can at least write you later and let you know what happened” – and he was happy to do so. When he had finished and gave me the paper, I saw what was written there, but time stopped and it became suddenly silent in my head. His name was “Jacques Camelot” – Jacques like James, like Way of St. James, Camelot like King Arthur’s Camelot, the very origin of the sword (it is a replica of King Arthur’s sword). I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move and when this long moment was over, I had some tears in my eyes, look at the old man and he was just smiling from his very vivid eyes. “It is for me”, was the only thing I could think and with goosebumps running down my back I said goodbye and left. Shortly thereafter I found the monument and left direction Toulouse. No sign of the doubts anymore. But speaking of signs, “Jacques Camelot” — really?

By the time I got close to the real Montsegur, it was already dark, after 9pm, and had started snowing. After I had passed the last village, there was only the uphill street and me, together with the darkness and so much snow falling that there seemed to be a grey wall in front of me. Nevertheless I continued driving up, noticing that the car didn’t always react exactly safe anymore, especially in curves. Then there came the mother of curves, a 90 degree left curve, with probably a good fall, if you missed it, where my car drifted and turned almost completely around. It had become so slippery, that I decided to leave the car parked in the corner of the curve, flashers on. And I continued to walk into the dark, without flashlight, and soon saw my flashers very far behind. I thought it couldn’t be that far anymore and any moment the old Cathar ruin would show up right in front of me. Good I didn’t know how far it still was. Suddenly I had this short flash of overwhelming fatigue. I stopped and listened into the dark.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked loud.

In that moment, I slipped, almost fell and only avoided that by grapping onto a tree on the street’s side. “Maybe it’s time to start looking for a place to stay for the night” I thought to myself and moments later the first car in about an hour appeared out of nowhere, driving back down the hill. So I decided to leave it at that and stay overnight somewhere – at whatever I could find at meanwhile after 10pm somewhere in the dark, way outside of Toulouse.

Early next morning, the way over to the Cathar ruins was a breeze, almost a reward. A beautiful day greeted me and from where I had parked the car at night, I could see it would have been a very long walk to even only get to the parking – because, what I hadn’t known, next surprise, I had to hike up for about 40 minutes to the top of mount Montsegur so as to be able to reach it and sit there. The feelings of satisfaction and joy once I was up there, alone, only with the sun as my companion, were immense and nourished me ever since and every time I go up that hill in my mind.