Part I: Steam Trains and Olive Oil
It was thanks to a non-refundable hotel booking that got my DB and me to patch things up the next day and agree to enjoy the rest of the weekend together. I had indulged in a mega lie-in until 10am (I'm normally up no later than 8.30 even at the weekend, 9 grand max), so had to get my skates on to shower, pack an overnight bag (which hadn't really been unpacked since the weekend before...) and whip up a picnic.
I picked him up at 11am, and we drove off towards Mont Aigoual. Just outside Le Vigan, we took a road we've never been on before, not even on the bike. It was a teeny road - single-car narrow - and bumpy, the D329, and although not 'green' (on the Michelin map), it went through some lovely fragrant woods and scenery. (I note that it joins up at Mandagout with the D170 which is similar, but green. Must try that one next time!) We stopped at a shady spot amongst delicious-smelling pines for our picnic, and enjoyed the excellent 'Tradition' bread with good ol' cheddar, Branston pickle and spring onions, and dipped cucumber and green pepper into the rest of the hummus.
Thus fortified, we drove on and arrived at L'Esperou via the Col de la Lusette which was open (natch). There were very many bikers about, several of whom were sprawled on the sledging slopes having a snooze. Otherwise, it was pretty calm and very different from the frenetic atmosphere of the ski season.
We drove up to the tourist office at the Col de la Serreyrède and had a look at the maps and books of walks, but decided not to buy anything, which of course turned out to be a mistake. The girl at the desk suggested we do an easy walk at Mont Aigoual called the Chemin des Botanistes, and told us where it was and what to look out for.
At the top of Mont Aigoual is an imposing castle that was built in the 19th century as a meteorological observatory
. It still serves this purpose, and today, has the addition of a free meteorological exhibition and museum. We had a quick look at the shop because we like to do things the wrong way round, and I bought a book on local edible salad plants because you never know when times could be hard... The exhibition was extremely interesting. It's not at all hands-on, so my boys would whizz round it in 5 minutes to be found in the snack bar later scoffing chips (probably), but I enjoyed reading the panels about clouds, the weather, and watching videos. There is also a museum of old machines used to gather information and make forecasts, and panels describing how the castle was built. We found it very interesting.
|Mont Aigoual Observatory|
Then, being lazy, we drove down to the menhir below the castle to start the Chemin des Botanistes. We should have started from the castle, but saved ourselves the 200m or so... Without the map, we got lost. We asked people if we were on the right path, and rather than show ignorance, they said yes, even though it wasn't. It was a nice walk along a wide path, but it was not the Chemain des Botanistes! In the end, as we were going ever further down down down, we decided to stop and turn round. It was as we neared the top that we saw the start of the Chemin des Botanistes which goes around the top of the hill.
It was lovely and cool up there. The temperature hardly ever climbs over 15°C so it's the place to go if you can't stand the heat of the plain any longer. The wrong path took us through the forest where we saw some interesting forked trees, foxgloves (which I noted for future reference... just in case, and if you've read Agatha Christie you'll know what I mean...), and a keen botanist who was not on his chemin, but was taking a photo of a small pink flower. I asked him what it was and he told me it was wild version of some edible plant (whose name escapes me).
|Dead tree of many stumps|
|Forked tree (many looked like this)|
By this time, the clouds had come down over the castle so there was no point climbing the tower to admire the view. We drove off, instead, to Meyrueis
where we had booked our hotel. Meyrueis is a village set on the ancient trade and transhumance route between Auvergne and Bas-Languedoc. Today, it welcomes tourists in numerous hotels, camp sites, holiday cottages and B&Bs, but it isn't a tourist trap, for all that. We found it very charming despite having so many people milling around. Our hotel room overlooked a stream which burbled noisily below our window on the other side of the not-so-main road. We were staying at Hotel d'Europe which is a 2* place, and was basic but clean. It was July 13, so you might expect the hoteliers and serving staff to be a bit grumpy but everyone we came across in this village was warm and friendly. For France, that's saying something!
|View from bedroom balcony of Meyrueis main street and stream|
|Narrow streets in Meyrueis|
After reading my Kindle on the balcony while my DB had a snooze inside, we went to have dinner at one of the few remaining tables at the restaurant of the hotel next door (Hotel Family) as ours only did breakfast, and expected to be waiting all evening to be served, but this was not the case. We were served promptly, and ate very well. The fried aubergine, in particular, was so good, my DB asked for more, and got it with a smile. Even the pichet rosé wine was a pleasure to drink. It was a Saint Saturnin from down the road, near Montpeyroux, and was much better than a lot of the rubbish that gets put in a pichet, and excellent value at €5 for half a litre! It was great value at €19.90 for the menu.
We slept with a cool breeze floating in through the open window, and the sound of the stream which penetrated even through my ear plugs!
I would give anything to sleep with the sound of the stream in my ears...Over here, in London, there is a heatwave and I have to say that it is a tad too warm (I know, I am always complaining). Oh, and it looks like you have found the perfect way to spend the 14th of July. Good for you.ReplyDelete
I remember steamy London days. Not pleasant!Delete
There was a little waterfall or dam just opposite the hotel which meant the water crashed down that bit louder. It was lovely, but very loud in the silence of the night. :)
Never know when a foxglove might come in handy.....Leo would never buy a guide to walks either...which introduced us to several places we would never have seen otherwise and not a few I would not wish to see again...ReplyDelete
It can go either way, can't it, not having a guide. You might be lucky, but there again, you might not. That's adventure, I suppose. :)Delete
Glad to hear that you two patched it up. :) The photos of the forest brought very welcome refreshment to the current sticky heat here.ReplyDelete
Oh yes, we always do patch things up. :)Delete
We've swapped sticky heat for rain today. It was supposed to do that tomorrow! I was hoping for lunch on the terrace today with some friends. Looks like I'll have to clear the dining room table instead.
Look at how close those houses are to each other, you could really hear each other in those, how narrow the streets. Was it because it was so hot in the summer, they buildings would shade each other?ReplyDelete
The town looks lovely and the frankentrees - spooky possums.
My husband and I always have a blazing every vacay, it's about day three
I mean blazing row - not blazing, which of course could be something else entirelyReplyDelete
Good to know it happens to everyone. :)Delete
I think they built houses close together for protection against the heat. You could go about your business in the street without frying. All medieval towns are built like that around here.
It sounds like your trip to the mountain was excellent despite the wrong turning, Sarah. My DH is not one to spend money on guidebooks, so we too have had our adventures at times. :)ReplyDelete
It was a lovely trip. As we bought the walking maps we now feel duty bound to use them and will be returning to the area this weekend. I bought comfy socks in preparation...Delete
I'm none the wiser about your disagreement but pleased you patched things up and everything turned out peachy. We always go the wrong way, but then you probably know that already :-)ReplyDelete
It would have been a shame to miss out on taking the wrong path. :) It seems to be a regular event with lots of people! :)Delete
Talk about going off the beaten path, eh! You are quite the adventurous one aren't you? If you ever visit America, the State of Alabama in particular, I recommend not traveling off well established paths/roads. Some ol' country boy and his daddy's shotgun might not take kindly to strangers, wondering up on his precious land, even nice ones like yourself. :)ReplyDelete
Lovely pictures, as always.
Well, we weren't off the beaten track, just not on the one we wanted to be on. We didn't venture off the path at all as it was somewhat impracticable. :)Delete
We have no plans for walking in Alabama. :)