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10 August 2011

St Bastides, Pradelles and on to Chasserades



Wednesday, 10 August
At Monastier, the jazz concert at the hotel turned out to be very pleasant. A large group of young keen musicians playing trad jazz. However, some of the happy guests were very noisy returning to their rooms around 2am or so…
We set out towards La Bastide, driving through beautiful countryside again, covered in volcanic cones and bowls. Passing through St Martin de Fugères and Goudet, we stopped at Pradelles for a coffee. An interesting fortified town, but sporting the most ugly bright red statue of the BVM – hideous. At the lookout we could see three different counties. Had a good walk around but we were freezing cold, so huddled in a café for a large coffee to warm up.


On the way to St Bastide, we visited the monastery of Notre Dame des Neiges occupied by Trappist monks of the Benedictine order. RLS stayed overnight here. What a beautiful setting, high up around 1,000 metres, amongst pine woods, the trees whispering and murmuring in the wind all the time. They have accommodation here for walkers, and also for people on retreats. We visited the shop, where there was a lively business going on in sales of wine, lots of cookery books on using medicinal and other wild plants, and various religious souvenirs. We had a walk around, and sat in for the end of a mass. The monks who were dressed in traditional garb of a white hooded robe with a brown belt, seemed to be all very elderly.

Our next stop was at St Bastide, a quick visit to the tourist centre for wi-fi, and a pleasant salad lunch at a Relais. No accommodation available there, so we decided to push on to Chasseradès. Found a delightful small accommodation house there, the Relais de Modestine, and tried what is called a ‘demi-pensione’. This gets us a room, breakfast and dinner and is good value.


We went for a walk while waiting for our room, and noticed a neat small bright red train buzzing along. When we enquired we discovered we could train to Mendes and back going through delightful country, so decided that would be the plan for the next day. Apparently the train is very busy in school terms taking country children to school in the larger centres. There are several tunnels, built to keep the train clear of snow in the winter, as it can be very heavy here.

In this out of the way accommodation, most of the guests are walkers on the RLS track. A van comes to transport their luggage to their next stop, where they have booked in for the following night. What was very interesting for us was that dinner was served at 7.30pm, aperos before if so wished, and all the guests sat down together at a large table, 10 of us. People from all parts of France, most of them serious walkers. The couple beside me told me they walk 7 hours each day. One woman was on her own, and she carried her own baggage!! It was very interesting evening, nothing controversial, mostly conversation about the track and comparisons of the different Relais (rest-houses) they had stayed in. A pleasant couple own this house, the husband sat down with us to dinner. We had copious servings of potatoe and vegetable salad, a casserole of chicken and green lentils, and another casserole of chicken and rice with spicy sausage. A large green salad, a platter of cheese and home made myrtle tart for desert. Very good!
This morning for breakfast we were served juice, home made yoghurt, coffee in large bowls, and several home made jams with fresh bread. Several of the walkers set off, the van came to collect luggage and we decided to take a train ride.

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