Love and War in the Pyrenees, A Story of Courage, Fear and Hope, 1939-1944 is a book by local writer Rosemary Bailey. It’s a memoir and historical look at this region told through the stories of the people who live here. It’s a winner of the British Guild of Travel Writers Award for best narrative travel book.
A peak inside:
It began with a pair of shoes, worn espadrilles, the canvas faded, the ribbons twisted and frayed, the rope soles shredded and dirty. I saw them in the tiny museum of St-Laurent-de-Cerdans, a French Pyrenean village near the Spanish frontier where espadrilles and the traditional striped cotton Catalan fabric are still made. The espadrilles, along with a battered old canvas rucksack, were evidence of the passeurs, illicit frontier guides, who had criss-crossed the rugged border paths here, helping refugees to escape during the Second World War. The village of St-Laurent is tucked beneath the mountain, and looking upwards from the street the hillside is incredibly steep. Anyone anxious to escape would certainly have needed a guide.
I began to wonder what had happened in this region, my adopted second home, a magical land of sea and mountains and two countries (three if you count Catalonia). This eastern corner of the Pyrenees, where the mountains meet the Mediterranean, had been no great theatre of war. There were no films about dramatic Allied landings and no bloodied battlefields to see. But by 1939 the Pyrenees stood at the frontier of two wars, with refugees escaping in both directions. I was sure that the war had marked these people deeply, that the landscape held many memories.
The village of St-Laurent-de-Cerdans is a short dirive from La Paloma.
If you’ve read the book, we’d like to know your opinion. Feel free to leave a comment to get a book discussion going.