Category Archives: GR70 France

LE CHEMIN DE STEVENSON. Day 7.

Wifi has been a big problem in these parts, so I’m catching up at home.

Le Bleymard  —  Le Pont de Montvert.

At last some morning sunshine and clear skies! The route out was steep all the way up to the small ski station of Lozere where we stopped for coffee. Once out of the ski runs we picked up the wonderful line of standing stones leading up to Mt. Lozere. These granite stones occurred every 50m or so and were individually beautiful pieces, some being re-erected as the GR70 gained in popularity. A wonderful feeling of past navigations.

To reach the summit of Mt. Lozere, 1699m, they are left to follow a well defined track westwards.  At the moment there seems to have been a lot of art work installed on the route, further research will be necessary to found out why and by whom. There is a mole like track of new soil leading you on, there are several ‘washing lines’ on the  horizon, there is a multitude of cleverly balanced small cairns and at one point a bath installation!!

JpegThe summit today gave 360degree views. The French ‘trig’ point was rather disappointing compared to ours in the UK.We lunched by a boulder enjoying the sunshine and southern views over distant ranges towards the Med.    Stevenson wrote of  ‘a sea of blue hills to the south’

Rougher tracks took us into the valley of Finiels and onto ancient tracks between boulder cleared fields. The whole valley was filled with boulders and one can only imagine the labour needed to farm this landscape.

Eventually Le Pont de Montvert came into sight, a cluster of houses around the confluence of two rivers – the Rieumalet and the larger Tarn. This is a popular tourist destination with a busy street alongside the Tarn and an old arched bridge connecting the two areas of the town. Our hotel was on the southern bank, Hotel les Cevennes, and was the one Stevenson stayed in.

We arrived to find a key and a rather confusing note as to the whereabouts of our room across the street from the hotel. We, along with a couple of women with a donkey whom we met, tried several private doors in the narrow streets before entering an old house with well presented bedrooms. Unfortunately our bathroom was flooded with an inch of water, so bailing out was our first duty. The bohemian hotel staff, when summoned, didn’t seem too worried and fortunately there was no further problems. Dinner was superb.

We have been blessed with perfect conditions, after our recent rain, for crossing Mount Lozere

This whole area was the scene in the 18th century of persecution of the Protestant population by the Catholic church and many bloody conflicts occurred.

LE CHEMIN DE STEVENSON. Day 4

La Cheylard — La Bastide PuyLaurent.                                                                                                   It has rained all night and is still doing so when we surface at 7am. After the jollity of  last night everyone was concerned with today’s forecast. We watched as people left, clad in French ponchos, disappeared into the mist and rain only for some to return and capitulate to a taxi. IMG_20140917_084930_123-1We had met our first walker with a donkey at the gite last night and waved them off with a ‘bon chance’  It was with disappointment that as we left village even they were sadly returning.Jpeg The Brits  are made of sterner stuff and we were soon  making good progress through the wet forest tracks. The other English couple caught us up and conversation kept us going until Luc  castle ruins. With parts dating from the 12 th century the hill top site was a highlight and a joy to explore .Jpeg The climb up the tower allowed us to walk round the base of the Madonna statue erected in the same hear RLS made his journey, 1878. It was on this stage he wrote  —   “I travel not to anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The  great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off the featherbed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints”   Walking cannot really be said to be the same in this century no matter how hard you try. Within minutes we were out of the rain drinking coffee in an old hotel, they even allowed us to eat our sandwiches in comfort.  Boring road walking took us past a 50s  building, possibly an old holiday camp. JpegI would not have fancied staying there. Much better was our hotel for the night…Jpeg

LE CHEMIN DE STEVENSON.Day 3

Pradelles  –  Cheylard L’Eveque.Jpeg
A rather late breakfast was followed by a leisurely  exploration of the old parts of Pradelles. There was mist in the valley below and autumn has arrived. A drove road took us down towards the said Allier valley. Excellent views back up to Pradelles.Jpeg

Shopping and cafeing In Langogne took up a lot of time. A great section of walking old stone enclosed tracks bought  us up to a wooded  plateau.Jpeg

A lunch stop in the village of  St Flour had the local school children making us coffee for school funds. Late afternoon sunshine welcomed us to the gite in Cheylard, and a wonderful place it turned out to be. Artisan local blonde beer, a kir aperitif and an excellent communal dinner with 14 Stevenson Way walkers. Jpeg

LE CHEMIN DE STEVENSON. Day 2

Le Bouchet St Nicolas  —  Pradelles.                                                                                                   The French are keen on an early start from the gites. Self service breakfast was well under way when we emerged from our dorm at 7am. Some extra fruit found its way into the rucksack for later. We felt we were the last away from the village as we trudged across the fertile plateau on gravel tracks. There was a chance meeting with a hunter and his mornings bag. JpegA coffee stop in Landos  was taken and surprisingly most of the other walkers marched straight through, so we were now officially last. This grande  randonnee walking can become very competitive. Old lanes ran near a magnificent disused railway viaduct. Cresting a ridge views south opened up over lac Naussac and tbe Lozere hills. The rest of the day was a bit of a  route march to be honest, enlivened by kites flying overhead and the sight of a small snake crossing our path.Jpeg

We were safely in our room when the late afternoon thunderstorm hit. Pradelles was a fascinating old town.Jpeg

LE CHEMIN DE STEVENSON. Day 1

Jpeg“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”  RLS

Le Monastier — Le Bouchet. St Nicolas.

IMG_20140914_100623_477-1JpegI set off with my honest friend H, aka The Pieman.

We left Monastier early, for us,  faced with a 24k walk. This is where Stevenson departed with his newly acquired  mule, Modestine. The old tracks we followed can’t  have been much different to those in his time. We walked from  hamlet to hamlet with prominent stone crosses at most of the intersections. Volcanic rocks were under our feet and the Velay volcanic  mountains a constant background. A steep drop brought us into Goudet on the Loire and a possible refreshment stop at the hotel. The conversation went something like this…

Have you a sandwich?

No.we are busy with Sunday lunch.

May we buy a baguette?

I can give you one.

Thank  you so much.

Maybe you would like a little salad with it.

Just a little thank you.

That’s how we found ourselves eating a substantial meal in their garden.IMG_20140914_121452_557-1

The steep climb out of the valley was rewarded with fresh orange drinks in the bar in Ussel. By now we were beginning to spot fellow GR 70 walkers from different European countries.

The smart gite in le Bouchet provided a friendly evening meal with a group  of French walkers. It was unfortunate that one of them gave us a terrible night with his snoring and coughing. The joys of  the communal gite experience.

Gite La Retirade

Gite La Retirade

LE CHEMIN DE STEVENSON. Prologue

RLS.   “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

An easy or rather a Ryanair flight landed us in Nimes just in time to miss the  fast  train to Puy en Velay. So time to see the famous Roman Ampitheatre.

A slow, and I mean slow, train took us up the twisting  Allier  gorge on what must be one of the most spectacular lines in France. IMG_20140912_174835_695-1

Eventually after a connecting bus we arrived in town below the  Notre Dame statue and the Chapelle on their twin volcanic plugs. Too dark for photos. This whole region is volcanic with all the old buildings made of black basalt. A quick crepes and we were dead for the night.              Le Puy — Le Monastier.                                                                                                                       Today’s walk took us to Le Monastier where Stevenson and his donkey started their trek in September 1878. We had a leisurely day on old tracks through small villages making us feel at home here…Jpeg…all above wonderful volcanic countryside.Jpeg

I was particularly interested in a field of climbing ‘blocs’ in the woods. Each boulder being formed in columnar basalt showing all aspects, geology exhibited for all to see and play on.Jpeg

A comic episode occurred as we tried to decipher the code to enter our hotel for the night. Eventually quite a crowd were invoved all giving advice in various French accents. A scene worthy  of   Mr. Hulot.

LE CHEMIN DE STEVENSON. Day 6.

Chasserades. —  Le  Bleymard.

Yet again we gazed out from breakfast at torrential rainfall, don’t know where it is all coming from. A delayed start avoided the worst. A small boulangerie was hanging on in this small hamlet, we gave support by purchasing some bread and fruit. It was whilst packing my sack outside that the dog attacked my ski sticks and refused to be parted from them. We dragged him out of the village and on down to Mirandol and below the famous railway viaduct. A local man wanted nothing to with us so on we went with dog attached, any attempt to part him risked him attacking my overtrousers!  We made our entrance into L’Estampe and were relieved when a man in a garden recognised the dog and our problem. He announced that the dog was only hungry and tied it up promising to phone the owner. In a more relaxed state we were able to spot the first dedicated gite d’etape on the GR 70, sadly now defunct.Jpeg

IMG_20140919_094828_732-1JpegInto forest now with lots of climbing and descent to reach a deserted village and chance to sit and picnic. Other walkers arrived with the same intent, several of them carrying bags of wild mushrooms they had gathered. We had noticed lots in the woods but which can you eat?IMG_20140919_131204_845-1 Jpeg

Of interest further on was a close encounter with the source of the River Lot, a river I am more familiar with at Puy L’eveque. JpegBy  now the day had brightened and hopefully we have seen the last of the wet weather. Entering Le Bleymard we immediately stumbled on our hotel, the comfortable La Remise. They made an attempt to produce some classy French cuisine.Jpeg