National Geographic : 1962 Jun
HS EKTACHROMEBY THOMASNEBBIA C NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Candles of hope burn in Clermont's Church of Notre Dame du Port, as they did the night following Urban's impassioned plea. "God will be your guide," he promised the Crusaders, "and whoever shall go on this journey shall wear the sign of the cross." their land. But that happened also to the Crusaders, and like them I learned from the journey. Clermont-Ferrand was simply Clermont when Urban II made his historic call for the First Crusade in 1095, and the city has changed in more than name. True, there is still a street named for him, but there is also a busy store called "Big Chief" with a large sign announcing "Surplus Americains" and featuring not only used army goods but cow boy boots and "Genuine Levis." A notice in English was designed to make me feel at home in my hotel room. The di rection had the pleasure to inform the client that a washing and drying service was at his disposition, that linen and vestments were recollected by the lady's maid, and that deli cate linen and silk linen were tarified accord ing to the work. I should not be amused by errors in English, though. My own fractured French brought no laughter but only an eagerness to help me. French provincial cities, like the French countryside, have a friendly warmth that the Paris visitor may miss. Most of the Crusaders who blazed the trail 734 that I followed did it on foot, but I had nei ther the time nor the legs for such a walk. Still, I wanted the intimate view of the coun tryside and the people that only a hiker can find. So on most mornings I started early, walking a few miles before NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC photographer Tom Nebbia picked me up in our station wagon. These strolls, and the friends I made by the roadside, were the best part of the five-month journey. Farmer Risks Fortune on Apricots It is remarkable how different the road side looks to a man on foot. In a speeding car, kilometer markers race by; to the hiker each one becomes an event. And the busy little fig ures one sees from a car window become men and women with something to tell you about their lives. One such was Alexi Rodier, who tills four hectares-ten acres-not far from Clermont Ferrand. He was picking strawberries when I passed, and hailed me to ask if I would like a cooling drink. We walked to his spring house, on the edge of a grove of fruit trees, and sipped a fresh white wine from his own grapes while he answered my questions.