Anyway, with the long, and busy, weekend coming up, my DB and I decided to go away again. Plan A was to go on the little steam train at Anduze, stay the night, then go up to Millau, walk, stay the night, then head back to Mont Aigoual and do some walking there. Except that, it was a very busy weekend, and there wasn't a cupboard to be booked in Anduze.
After much searching on the internet, we finally booked a hotel room in Meyrueis, about 24km from Mont Aigoual for the Sunday night. We decided to visit Anduze on Saturday, and come home because it's really not that far, and there was no point flogging a dead cat by paying to stay somewhere 10km up the road.
So on Saturday, I got a picnic together - another ploughman's, with the addition of some hummus, and we set off to catch the 11.30am steam train. We had printed off tickets beforehand (return €15 each) so didn't have to queue, but got there in such good time it wouldn't have mattered.
|The steam train|
|Really letting off steam|
When we arrived at St-Jean-du-Gard station there were a lovely lot of picnic tables, but only a few ended up being used. Even the station snack bar was pretty empty. As the train was full, I suppose most people went to find a restaurant!
|Station restaurants at St JdG|
Back at the station, the driver was showing people inside his driver's cabin and allowing small groups to climb up and listen to him reel off in loving detail all the specs of his pride and joy. My DB went up, but I've done that already, so let the long queue proceed without me!
|Diesel train at St JdG|
The train also makes a stop at the Bambouseraie which is well worth a visit. You can make a real day of it as the train times all fit nicely to stop off, visit, and catch the last train back.
|View of Bambouseraie (shop) from the train|
|Man at work shovelling coal|
|Same man at work pumping water|
From the station car park, we drove to the olive oil mill, Les Olivettes, back along the road towards St Jean. It's one of the few remaining places that grinds the olives traditionally using stone millstones. You can visit the mill and watch a video explaining the process which is fascinating. Then you can go and taste the oils produced and chat to the producer. He told us about the severe weather of the 1956 that was so cold it killed off all the olive trees in the Cevennes. Many mills were closed down or abandoned for lack of business.
|Traditional millstones, photo courtesy Oléigest|
They have a shop that sells the oil, and associated local produce - soap, sweet chestnut flour, cakes, biscuits, honey, etc. My DB bought a bottle of the Picholines oil which is very fruity, and has a definite bite. It's good on salads, not so good used for cooking.
The last time I came to the mill, the shop was twice the size and was full of decorative items - beautiful olive chopping boards, lamp stands, etc. I asked M Geoffray what had happened and he said that with the crisis, no one was buying the (pricey if lovely) decorative items, and so they decided to give that part of the business up and stick to the stuff that sold - olive oil and other edibles, plus soap. In fact, I read (here) that the shop went into receivership last October, so obviously they are still recovering by concentrating on their core business.
It's well worth a visit, anyway. Even if you don't like the "corsé" pure Picholines olive oil, they also produce a very good blend, and an oil that's being tested this year which includes some black olives. I found it very unusual, and very smooth with a definite black olive taste.
After this lovely day out, we returned to Montpellier and ruined the evening with a disagreement!