We slept very soundly in Hotel du Centre - I woke up once in a pitch-dark room, as there were no windows. After a quick breakfast, we walked back up into Tende and up to the town graveyard and the castle of the Lescaris of which only a needle of stone remains. The graves all had pictures of their occupants which bore a mixture of Italian and French names. Tende had been a part of Italy but was brought back into France in 1947. Then we wandered back down the little rues to the Cathedral. It was painted a rosy orange pink on the outside and had a large central door with the Apostles across the lintel.
A little after 11:00 a.m. we checked out of the hotel and walked up to the tourist information bureau to get directions for the trail to la Brigue. Around 12:00 noon we started out on the trail l'Aigle to Col de Boselia which would lead to the la Brigue trail. The trail climbed quickly to an open hillside above Tende with vistas back to the village and of the mountains on all sides. There were delicate fall crocus-looking pink flowers along the trail. We also saw a few horses at the col, or saddle between two mountains. We had a delightful picnic on the other side of the mountain tossing our olive pits down the hill. Then we descended by small mountain huts and a steep gorge to the village of la Brigue arriving a little after 3:00 p.m. We walked into the town and found a hotel room quickly at Les Fleures des Alpes with a room overlooking the mountains and a garden with the pleasant sound of a mountain stream. Bon wanted to see Notre Dame des Fontaines which we were told was 4 kilometers outside of the town. So we dropped our backpacks and quickly walked out to west of town. We saw several people on the road including a woman picking hazelnuts (noisettes) in a small orchard. Then we passed a beautiful old stone bridge, Pont Lévensa, with smaller arches leading up to a major spanning arch over the stream.
Notre Dame des Fontaines is a small chapel built in 1492 with frescoes of the life of Christ: one included the devil pulling the soul out of Judas. The panel on the back wall illustrated exactly what happens both to the righteous and the damned. The latter, among other things, were being eaten by a beast with four or five mouths in addition to other terrors. The statue of the Virgin had been stolen (volée) in 1999 and had been replaced with a new statue - this type of theft had caused many of the churches in this area to be closed to the public except when staffed.
The chapel was bordered by a stream on one side and the road on the other. Bon and I crossed the stream and went up the mountain behind the chapel which overlooked the road by which we had come. This mounted gradually with views of the mountains and valleys we'd hiked earlier. However, it was a longer trail than we had planned. One section of the trail was perfunctorily marked, but we managed to find our way through a little forest and back to la Brigue. We arrived quite tired and out of water. As we descended from the mountain by we went by flowering gardens, through part of the old town and under many arched narrow streets to get back to hotel.
At le Mirval, a two star restaurant which had been recommended in our reading, we had a nice simple dinner. As we left the restaurant it had rained a little though the stars now reappeared. we'd had a lovely day. We probably walked 8 to 10 miles but I had not gotten used to our pedometer which would sometimes turn itself off.
Copyright 2001 Donald R. Chauncey - All rights reserved