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08 August 2011

Following in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson, without Modestine the Donkey.

On impulse we decided to follow in the steps of Robert Louis Stevenson when he walked through the mountainous country of the Cévennes, with a donkey named Modestine carrying his pack, 150 years ago, in 1878. In all he walked 220 kms, in 12 days, quite an achievement when you take into account the steep climbs on tracks winding up and down mountains.

We arrived this morning in Le Monastier and booked into a hotel by a small lake, by the side of the walking track. We couldn’t have access to our room until the afternoon, so we decided to have lunch and walk part of the track near our hotel. The lunch wasn’t so great, but the track gave us a tough climb over rough ground, with a beautiful view when we got to the highest point.

We visited the oldest church in this village - it had a very beautiful altar.

We are in the rugged southern foothills of the Massif Central, a sparsely populated region with stunning scenery, mostly designated a national park these days. With ruined castles dotting the skyline, megalithic standing stones, Roman churches, abandoned farmhouses and chestnut groves, this is dramatic country. The castles and farmhouses are built of local granite, mostly rather sombre grey and black. The red tiled roofs give some colour relief.

After a walk around Le Monastier – it was Monday, nothing was open and much to our disappointment even the museum was closed, despite the fact that this is in the tourist season with a music festival on at the moment. The streets were fairly unkempt, with weeds and dog pooh, so that didn’t thrill us overmuch. A jazz concert is promised at apero time at our hotel, that should be enjoyable.

We went for a drive to some of the other villages that RLS and Modestine passed through, we had to keep stopping, the scenery was so beautiful. Gorgeous wild flowers everywhere along the roadside, the colours so gentle and pleasing to the eye against the deep green richness of grass and wooded hillsides.

The road we travelled wound around the Loire gorge, and as we approached Solignac sur-Loire, we stopped to take a photo of the stark outline of the church tower and three bells, high on a hill in the town.

We continued on to Cayres, oohing and aahing about the scenery all the time. We were heading for Le Bouchet Saint Nicholas where RLS spent his first night at an inn. We found an inn ok, and had a beer to try to settle the greasy lunch sitting on my stomach like lead. I felt much better after that and we drove on to Goudet – another stunning village with a ruined castle on a rock and another castle with a colourful tiled cone like roof. This brought us on to St Martin de Fugéres, where we stopped to look back at Goudet and take some photos.

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