Travels in the Cevennes without a Donkey

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go; I travel for travel’s sake.
And to write about it afterwards……”

Robert Louis Stevenson

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I fully agree with Mr Stevenson with regards to travelling and I’m following in his footsteps by visiting the Cevennes National Park, although I am not travelling with a donkey named Modesto but in a motorhome named Trixie.

DSCF5669I start my journey in the south eastern town of St Jean du Gard where, during the summer months, it is possible to take a steam train ride through the valley. I have chosen to take the Corniche des Cevennes which traverses the higher ground at altitudes of 500m to 1000m. Initially, I am winding my way through mountains thickly covered with firs and pines. I stop briefly at the village of Saint- Roman-de-Tousque where there is a stunning viewpoint featuring a war memorial to the soldiers who died in the local battle at Saint-Etienne-Vallee-Francais in April 1944. Unusually, as well as the local French losses, it also names the Germans, some Russians and a Spanish man.

DSCF5696After the village of Le Pompidou, I find myself on a high plateau with pastures and occasional menhirs (standing stones) beside the road. At the far end, I branch off to the village of Barre-des-Cevennes where the main road through the village looks so narrow that I leave Trixie in the car park before the entrance. I have a small leaflet with a guided walk and it leads me to fountains, squares, the small but beautiful Romanesque church and the old chateau, now camouflaged by the houses built around it. As I leave the village by the main road I have to step aside for a large and long, low-loader to pass by. So, I guess the main road isn’t as narrow as I imagined after all!

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DSCF5729At the end of the Corniche is the town of Florac where I decide to branch off to Le Pradal which sits at 1000m, above the town, on the edge of the Causse Mejean. At the entrance to the road a sign warns that the route is “dangerous and difficult”, and it is indeed a hair-raising ride to the top. The road is narrow and steep, clinging to the cliff edge with tight hairpin bends.
DSCF5749However, I safely make it and park up, completing the last kilometre on foot for a spectacular view down the valley below. It’s a desolate place and there is not another soul in sight. Travelling back down the road to Florac is almost as scary as the ascent, but Trixie copes bravely proving that she is as strong and determined as any donkey.

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