The Cevennes glittering under the sun this Spring ! In the gardens of the villages the lilacs, daffodils and narcissus enhance the colours of the roof tiles.
I arrived at La Bastide Puylaurent ( for SNCF the station is La Bastide St Laurent les Bains ) by the "Cevenol" train which traverses the wonderful Cevennes.
I join Philippe, the owner of L'Etoile guest house, and along with his dog we set off from La Bastide in his van towards Luc, along the winding valley of the Allier already green with the first days of Spring.
Rogleton sleeps peacefully encased by green, Luc also, under the ruins of it's castle once passed by R L Stevenson (GR®70) and his donkey Modestine. Up to the disused station watching the trains which no longer stop our strange crew turn off to the right in the direction of Saint Etienne de Lugdares et Le Bez, to gently ascend the gradually shrinking valley of Masmejean, pastures and hamlets slowly giving way to forest, rocks, broom and gorse.
Le col de Meyrand (1370m), with the last snows by it's sides offered a fabulous view over the Mountains of Ardeche the Tanargue, the Rhone valley and in the misty distance, the Ventoux !
Slowly we descended towards Loubaresse nestled below. This small village of slate and stone houses is a mecca for tourism in the ardeches Cevennes, and at the corner of the square down a few worn stone steps below the church we push open an old door to find ourselves in a tiny shop full of overladen wooden shelves and glass jars. Madame Merle, the proprietor, greets us with kindness and simplicity, a moment worth all the riches in this world !
Passing infront of the country inn and lodgings run by Francoise Skuras, away at the time, as night began to fall we proceed ever slowly, ever talking, ever remaking the world, along the road to La Bastide Puylaurent, the sunset blinding us as we cross the pass.
A stop at the Auberge du Bez for dinner Philippe, always with laptop to hand shows Madame Champel (the innkeeper) and their children the photos he took last winter on his trip to Australia.
Night had already fallen when we arrived back at L'Etoile, still closed until the end of April, but Philippe the magician was already preparing for a new season ! An unrepentant walker, I was already preparing in my head a hike from La Bastide Puylaurent to Loubaresse passing by the abbey Notre Dame des Neiges along the GR®72 !
The Cevennes glittering under the sun this Spring !
Take a " Traffic " van and put in a man who is searching for his serious side. Add a Labrador dog that will leave it's basket for a few hours. Sprinkle a dash of a serious hiker who is looking like all his fifty-eight years and you have an idea of this crew that left L'Etoile, on the stroke of ten in the morning this Sunday 21st April 2002; the Sunday that shook France like shaking a plum tree !
The " Traffic " slowly took the road towards the Cevennes. A short stop at the hamlet of Thort, then continuing down to Prevencheres, the Rachas dam, Villefort, and Concoules, where the vehicle took the high road as far as Genolhac. Sightseeing and photo stops, digital for Philippe, APS for Christian and a call of nature for Billy the Labrador.
In the gardens of the villages the lilacs, daffodils and narcissus enhance the colours of the roof tiles. In the misty distance of this first heat all around the peaks loomed magnificently !
And in this tourist vehicle ( snail-like ) two men remade the world and their worlds while listening to tunes of country and folk and a trip by the man who drove me that offered such a spectacle on which I feasted at every turn and each view !
From Genolhac we slipped towards the Pont de Rastel and then to Chamborigaud where a viaduct allows the Cevenol line to cross the Luech valley. Then we climbed in long zigzags to the col Begude before plunging towards Sainte Cecile d'Andorge and Le Collet de Deze where we had lunch on the sunny terrace of a restaurant overlooking the river. Billy won over the waitress and Philippe took some pictures of the owners. The Renault Traffic continued it's journey by the col de Pendedis which we crossed with an orgy of superb panoramas which would take alot of effort, so we did little walking in the Cevennes mountains !
Down to Saint Germain de Calberte and it's bare statue, in honour of the men who built the Cevennes ! More photos, always photos ! Billy prowling the alleys, the mairie, as in all the villages we came to.
But we were still a long way detached from all of this, happy as I was on this day trip through Lozere I had so often travelled on foot, alone or accompanied, where in every place I passed I found faces, images, emotions, words, colours and the fragrance.
Up and down we went, always talking, always happy. St Andre de Capcize, the col de Jalcreste, and the village of Cassagnas it's retired restauranteur happy with her new freedom,and it's abandoned temple and gardens smelling of Spring ! We took the road through the valley of the Mimente passing by the guest house in the old Cassagnas station where I had stayed with friends on our trip along the Stevenson trail some years ago.
Quietly nestled Barre des Cevennes, one of the first I think in my discovery of the Cevennes some twenty-five years ago. Thank you Mr & Mrs Combes for your warm welcome, so simple, and I will always remember what you said on my second stay on opening your guest house : that you were sad when walkers left each morningbut when more arrived the next night it was as if the others had never left, and this wealth of walkers are all happyfor you !
On arriving in the village I learn't that Mr Combes was dead and his son had taken over welcoming walkers. That was a nostalgic moment !
And the Traffic headed towards Florac always dominated by the cliffs of the Causse Mejean, then to Mende by the col de Montmirat, another place for me full of images and emotions of past hikes. Quickly leaving Mende by Badaroux, Laubert, le plateau de Montbel, Belvezet, and the small twisting road before Chasserades brought us back to La Bastide Puylaurent and L'Etoile guest house which would reopen to welcome it's guests in a few days. Philippe in his room and the kitchen will be always available, always vigilant, so that everyone feels good and shows they are happy to be here !
Billy back in his basket infront of the log fire, the piano silent waiting for it's virtuoso, Belgian beers to discover, and the home-made bread for the gourmets. L'Etoile, since fourteen years shines amongst the constellation of guest houses, for a new season !
And this Sunday 21 April 2002, at 8pm, an image had been drawn across our television screens (Chirac-Le Pen french presidential election). It was like a dark cloud had been drawn over the gift of a Sunday when two men chose to look for a little more from life !
Old romantic Hotel, L'Etoile Guest-House is a mountain retreat in the South of France. With a beautiful park along the Allier River, L'Etoile Guesthouse is located in La Bastide-Puylaurent between Lozere, Ardeche and Cevennes. Many hiking trails like GR®7, GR®70 Stevenson trail, GR®72, GR®700 Regordane way, Cevenol, GR®470 Allier river, Margeride. Many hiking loops. The right place to relax.
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