Monday, July 21, 2014

Taking the Right Path on Mont Aigoual

Part I Steam Trains and Olive Oil
Part II Taking the Wrong Path on Mont Aigoual

The Bastille Day holiday, or rather, le quartorze juillet, was the opportunity for a flea market down the main road of Meyrueis. I looked out of the window of the Hotel d'Europe and noted the busy goings-on, all quite low key and local. Further inspection on our way to have a coffee and croissant in the village bar revealed stands of old postcards and books, others with crockery, glassware, some clothes, toys, an old microwave oven, and a mono-cycle (new, €15) with stand. I thought of my youngest, and how he often moans about having nothing to do (when kicked off the XBox), and decided that learning how to use a mono-cycle would give him something to do. My DB agreed, so I asked the woman to keep it for me until I came back later with the car. She believed me, and put it aside.

We had breakfast outside in the morning sun having bought croissants from the boulangerie two doors down, as had everyone else, and I got quite a caffeine buzz from the strong café au lait. Now wired for the day, I went and got the car, got the mono-cycle and, stocked up with sarnies from the boulangerie, we drove back up to Mont Aigoual to walk the famous Chemin des Botanistes, stopping on the way to buy the maps at the tourist office...
Valleraugue Valley
The top was clear of low cloud, and full of sheep. The shepherd and his hard-working dog (which did not look like Shep, if you can remember that far back to Blue Peter days) were hanging about outside his van on the road.
Sheep, and shepherd's white van
We started by going up the tower to appreciate the view while the clouds were high above scudding across the sky. You can see as far as 250km away. The sea was visible, just, as was the Pic Saint Loup, and Mont Ventoux. Looking west, the cloud cover was too low to make out distant landmarks. The panorama of 360° is breath-taking and well worth the visit. The photos didn't come out that well as it was too hazy.

Then it was time to tackle our walk. We drove back down to the menhir and got ready for the 90-minute trek. Less than an hour later we'd finished. It wasn't that we were particularly speedy because we weren't, but cheating probably cut off a chunk of time, more than we expected. Anyway, the chemin was a narrow track cut into the side of the mountain with precipitous drops on one side. Not for the faint-hearted even if it was without difficulty. We saw a lot of evidence of wild boar activity - it must be a favourite spot with them because there were several areas of disturbed soil. I couldn't see why it was called the Chemin des Botanistes, not that I know anything about plants, but it didn't seem that different to the path we'd been on the previous day botany-wise.

Precipitous drop on the Chemin des Botanistes
Wild boar snuffled beds
We had expected to eat our sarnies somewhere along the chemin, but having finished in record time, we went back up to the top and ate them at a picnic table more-or-less out of the wind. They were filled with lettuce, ham and tomato salad, and were delicious. It also felt really good to be blown about a bit with cool air. Down in the valley it was 30°C+.

Picnic table and view
Eventually we dragged ourselves away and drove sedately back to earth.

The appeal of mountains and altitude is very strong with my DB and me. We love the Cevennes because it's so wild and mostly empty, and beautiful, and nearby. If I could have a weekend cottage in a small village with a fertile garden, I'd love it. Nothing grows in my arid corner of the garrigue so when I see the rows and rows of sweet onions on the valley terraces, it gets my none too green fingers itching. As we're not going to buy a cottage (we have yet to buy a house!), we have decided to walk there more often (hence the maps). It's not far, but it's so different from Montpellier, you feel like you've been on holiday even if you just go for a day. That's the plan, the resolution, the good intention. All we have to concentrate on now... is implementation!


  1. Oh dear, I'm very late coming to this Sarah, but I did enjoy it. I can see so clearly from your photos why you love the Cevennes. The landscape is breath-taking, though you'd have had to blindfold me to get me along that path! No head for heights at all. Does youngest son like his mono-cycle?

    1. Isn't it a beautiful region? I do love it indeed. My son is still with his dad so hasn't seen his mono-cycle yet. That's a pleasure awaiting him for this weekend. :)

  2. Traveling with you is always a joy. Where are we headed next, my dear?

    1. No idea, DD. We make it up as we go along!

      Mind you, I'll be in Wales soon, so expect some lovely views from Gower soon. :)


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