St. Etienne Vallee Francais — St. Jean du Gard.
The usual French gite breakfast of coffee, bread and jam….Our host was busy weeding in his crocus fields when we left to stroll down the road into St. Etienne V F itself. A busy little market village of narrow streets with a chateau above. We did not linger as we have a bus to catch this afternoon although not exactly certain at what time, we keep getting different opinions from everyone we ask. Shortly after the village we cross the river at Martinet and start the climb up through the woods to Col de St. Pierre. Again this is an ancient winding track cut into the bedrock in parts. The rock here is largely composed of Mica sheets and glints brightly as you walk by. As we climbed there were good views back to the St. Etienne valley and over this area of the Cevennes. Of course chestnut trees were everywhere, they are called the bread tree here as the dried fruit was ground for flour. Nowadays they are used in local recipes and sold as confiture which is delicious on toast. We were privileged to watch a red squirrel in these trees. The col itself was on a busy road but soon the rocky path went back into the sunlit woods for a last wild, winding descent through purple heather above yet another tree filled valley. The heat built up and you sensed the Med. getting closer. A steep path through some old houses brought us onto the busy main road. We had to walk along this for a poor couple of kilometres before a path alongside the River Gardon de St. Jean took us into town, passing the beautifully arched old bridge. We arrived at the station just in time to see the busy tourist steam train departing to Anduze. This departure seemed to leave the town empty of people. St. Jean du Gard was the end point of Stevenson’s journey with Modestine and he sold her here before progressing by coach. The village has embraced this history and there are many references to him and his donkey in the streets. There is not a lot more to recommend this village. We caught our bus along with some other hikers finishing the trail. We all agreed that it had been an excellent trek. The 50k bus journey to Nimes only cost a subsidised 1.60 euro. An evening was spent in the narrow lanes of the old part of the city and next morning we were back in Liverpool by 11am.
I shall write an overview of the route in my next post.