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Boneuil en Valois, France…I was in Boneuil en Valois, a small town about an hours drive from Paris.I had a day off and I decided to explore the countryside of beautiful France, with my nephews, nieces, and cousin who were also on a holiday. We drove along the narrow winding roads and were flagged to stop, on the outskirts of the small town, to give way to motor bikes practicing for the annual USC motor racing competition.

VALOIS6I parked my car as directed and watched the sportsmen on their dirt bikes coming out from nowhere,hopping out like bunny rabbits, on the dirt tracks to whiz past us, heading back to their dirty muddy tracks into hiding once again. This is modern France, from where this sport was said to have originated I thought, as we waited for the last of the bikers to shoot past us. On the scout flag going up, declaring the roads safe for the commuters, we headed towards Compiegne which was the second capital of France during the Napoleonic era. As we drove around the village of Orrouy my cousin asked me if I would be interested to spend some time at one one of the oldest ruins of the medieval times. That sounded interesting.

VALOIS1A few kilometers from the village, the ruins of a church popped out from among the fields and attracted our attention. This was what my cousin had mentioned and truly it gave me an exciting feeling of discovering something old. We stopped beside it and walked through its primers. The church was not huge but was beautiful. It had walls and pillars, vaulting broken down arches, which once had held Romanesque barrel roofs and a central dome. To our surprise there was another French man, on a walking tour, who was also interested in seeing the remains of the church. He was as surprised as us stopping by and it was he who told us about this ruin which was built in the 10th century as a priory for the Benedictine order of priests belonging to Britain. This site was a famous pilgrimage center which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and named as the Church of the Nativity. Its life came to an end when the Benedictines left Compiegne and when the French populism took over rural France. The revolution and the later developments did not help its resurrection and the church came to be officially closed in the 18th century.  Lightning, during a storm, further reduced the remains to rubble, and saw the statues and other artifacts being removed into a museum and the church left to live its life after death. It was declared a historical monument by the government of France in 1923 and remains a wild bunny to those seeking adventure down the French countryside.

Boneuil en Valois, France….

VALOIS5Happy at the discovery we drove through well maintained country roads. Sighting a signboard displaying a monument, we stopped at the car park near it and went about reading notifications, detailing the history of Champlieu. This site was a Roman village since 260 BC. We walked through a ruins of an ancient, sentry outpost, to climb a hillock and to our surprise there hopped up before us another extraordinary historical bunny.It was the remains of an amphitheater which prompted the kids to run down and create their own dances and performances. A little further away was the Roman baths, we saw channels for carrying water to a tank, where possibly it was heated and there after channeled once again into different bathing chambers. Walking out of the ruins we crossed the road and witnessed the remains of a foundation set upon a mound where once stood the temple of Jupiter. We were given to understand that the place had been pillaged prior to its discovery and of the remaining ruins, many pillars, relics, sculptures as well as artifacts were removed, to be kept safely assembled in a museum at Compiegne. Having had enough climbing, we hit upon the road heading backwards towards the Marne valley to a place called Nanteuil – Saacy.

The town Railway station was where we parked our car to walk into the pages of World War II. We walked beside a compound which was a memorial, where we saw a wooden railway compartment, cordoned by iron railings. It held within it a sad memory of  men and VALOIS3women. It was about, VALOIS22400 French resistance and Allied forces, who were held prisoners of war by the German SS forces who were marched for several kilometers from Romain ville to here, to be transported to prison camps in Germany. Each compartment was stuffed with 40 men and 8 horses and taken to Buchenwald while women were bunched together and taken to Ravensbruck. These camps were said to be hell camps and more than 85 % of them never returned.

Boneuil en Valois, France…..

Laden with a heavy heart we dragged our feet to the sacrificial altar, the railway station from where the prisoners were transported and reading the painful episode printed on the display boards, tears popped out of my eyes. Looking around to my surprise I noticed all of us having sad faces and to lighten the mood I hopped on to the railway track, to dance, while singing the rhyme “Piggy on a railway track picking up stones, down came the engine and broke piggies bones.Oh said piggy that’s not fair, Ah said the engine driver I don’t care”. Hearing the hoot of a train, I hopped away from the track to the jeers and laughter of all the children to head back home.

It was popcorn at home with coffee. I leaned back on my chair and smiled inwardly watching the corn popping out like bunnies of the machine. It pleasantly reminded me of the many surprising hops and pops that the wonderful French country side had offered, on our stops.Well that’s about it and the pleasant travel experiences, I had experienced on a wonderful day……Boneuil en Valois, France