On the train to Carcassonne I was happy to be alone in a compartment, because like a long-legged fly my mind moves upon silence. When I had almost reached my destination a beautiful young woman entered the compartment and in the blink of an eye I noticed the brunette moved on legs without end, like an angel on air. She had dark brown eyes and cheeks endowed with dimples and a smile that could drive sane men mad. I estimated her age to be half of mine and thought that the innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time. When she sat down opposite me she pulled out from her bag a thin volume of poems by W.B. Yeats. She started to read and I returned to the map of France that I had on my knee and continued drawing lines with a pencil, connecting places on the map. From underneath my eyelashes I saw her looking at me and when I looked up, she didn't avert her eyes, as you would expect, but gave me that beguiling smile again. I admit I was smitten.
'Planning a trip?' she asked.
'I am looking for a friend,' I started to explain.
'Aren't we all?' she interrupted. 'Lydia,' she introduced herself. We shook hands and then she pointed at my map. 'That's almost a perfect picture of an octagon you drew there,' she said.
'It's more a crooked circle with eight corners than an octagon. In one of these eight corners I expect to find my friend who, like me, used to be an urban explorer.'
Lydia's face begged for information.
'We used to explore empty and deserted buildings, when we were young. Houses or villas and even apartments in cities, but usually we'd find them out in the open fields, off the beaten track. Deep in dark forests and high on mountainsides. We'd look for abandoned monasteries or factories, hospitals or asylums, farms, mansions, churches, chapels.'
'What's there to explore?' Lydia asked.
'Nothing. They're empty, there is nothing there, but ruin and decay. The challenge is to get in, as the grounds are often closed with fences and barbed wire with signs like “No Trespassing, Private Property”, “Danger!”, “Restricted Area”, “Unauthorized Entry Prohibited”. We find our way in, take pictures and go out. It is dangerous, exciting and great fun.'
'Well, boys will be boys, I guess. And in which one of these places do you expect to find your friend?'
'Right here,' I said and pointed on the map, 'right on the edge of Cathar country in the Midi-Pyrénées where we explored an abandoned 14th century monastery of the Cathar heretics. It was the fifth building we explored in France. It must have been in the summer of '82.'
'That's near Montferrand!' Lydia exclaimed. “That's where my mother lives. As a matter of fact I am on my way to her now.'
'What a coincidence!' And have you heard of that monastery, by any chance?'
'Of course I have, it's up on the hill behind my mother's house. I could take you there...'