Leaving the Velay behind, we now enter into The Gevaudan, following The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.

Day 6 Cheylard-L’Eveque to Laveyrune

Celebrating Bastille Day


A Picnic amongst the Pines

It certainly was a lot easier going down hill this morning. Our accommodation had been a little off the trail so we had to double back on a little trail through the Pine Forest.

Simply gorgeous walking through the Pine Forest this morning.

The early sunlight filtering onto the leaves of the trees and the mossy ground.

I could have stayed in the silence of the Forest for ages.

It is documented that Robert Louis Stevenson had a horrid time wandering around this area. He wandered lost in the hills with rain and hail belting down on him. He said of the people in this area “ They don’t care a stalk of parsley if I wandered all night upon the hills”. He also wrote in his journal about walking here “through one of the most beggarly countries in the world. It was like the worst of the Scotch Highlands, only worse…”

I disagreed with him one both counts!

We were in for a real treat for lunch. I had discovered we would walk past a lake around lunch time, so a fine picnic was going to be had, seeing it was Bastille Day today here in France.

To celebrate I picked up some pine cones and picked wildflowers to place on our table covering. We spread out our lunch which we had been given by last nights accommodation. It was quite a spread. The biggest slice of cheese, boiled egg, bread and a bowl of salad. One of our best lunches.

After lunch we sat by the lake, feed a cheeky little bird with a blue head and wings, marveled at the iridescent blue dragonflies skipping across the lake. It was a magical place, one we were sorry we had to leave. We left our floral table setting for the next person.

We had started to meet other hikers today, just a handful. We came across our French family again. We were starting to think we wouldn’t see anyone on the trail.

It was such pleasant walking this afternoon. The trail did become a bit muddy but the scenery was once again magical. Again through pine forests. I could imagine if it was late at night , rainy, windy and lost how Stevenson would have been miserable , as even during the daylight it was still dark in the forest.

I even thought I’d lost Deb today. Two bike riders had come up behind us and stopped for a chat. I took the opportunity to keep walking. After some time the bike riders flew past me and I waited to see Deb come over the hill. No, I waited and waited, then had a fear my goodness what if she has been hit over the head or even something worse. My imagination run riot. So I turned and walked back towards her. Soon I could see her hat appearing over the hill in the distance, so all was good with the world. We laugh later about all the things I imagined had happened to her.

On our way to our nights stay in Laveyrune we passed through the village of Luc. Its towering white Madonna on the top of the derelict Chateau de Luc looking down on the village between a hill and a river. It was quite a beautiful view but it was here that Stevenson wrote one of his most famous quotes

“Why anyone should desire to visit either Luc or Cheylard is more than my much-inventing spirit can suppose. For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.”

After lying in the soft shaded grass of the Chateau we made our way down towards the village. On meeting a lovely gentleman on the trail, told us he goes up to visit the Madonna everyday, he then gave us a talk about Stevenson, he was very knowledgeable about the Author, and he was in no hurry to let us move forward. We found ourselves standing in the heat with our packs, really wanting to move forward but also wanted to show respect to this lovely old man who just wanted to share his day with us.

We were so surprised when we entered the Old School house where we were staying tonight, there were so many people. About 10 people. It was the most we had come across on the trail. Including a lovely family who we would see again on the trail in the following days. The rest we never saw again.

We did feel like we had gone back to school as the lady in charge was like a Headmistress. There were quite a few rules about where to put your boots, bags, bedding etc. It was quite funny actual. But we were very good students and did what we were told.

The dinner was marvelous, one of the best on the whole trail. All freshly made and the vegetable choices I couldn’t get enough off. Jugs of wine came to the communal table and it was just so wonderful to converse with people. As I have said before on many occasions, on the trail one of my favourite meals are those that are share on a long communal table.

Day 7 Laveyrune to Notre-Dame-Des-Neiges

Stevenson said of his arrival

“I have rarely approached anything with more unaffected terror than the Monastery of our Lady of Snows…. fear took hold on me from head to foot”

I was looking so forward to today. We were going to stay at the Monastery at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges. Ever since walking the Camino and the Via Francegina I have always liked staying at monasteries. They are simple, quite and wrapped in history and cover all your basic needs.

Was I looking at the same scene on my arrival?

Nestled amongst a pine forest , out buildings with beautiful stained glass windows. Cows mooing in the surrounding fields with their bells ringing, as they moved through the paddocks. Goats, horses, flower and vegetable gardens . A very tranquil scene on my arrival.

We were going to be early to the Monastery as this was only a 9 k day. We had lingered at the school house catching up on things, had second and third cups of coffee before the lady we called the Headmistress walked past us a couple of times with looks of , don’t you think you should move on.

A steep climb to start with and then into the forest where branches of the deciduous tress gave us a canopy to walk under and sheltered us from the heat. Stopping along the trail covered in minute ferns growing up the embankments, we had a little lunch before heading down to the Monastery.

It was lovely to have the time today to sit along the trail, enjoy the sunshine, the colors of all the trees and the birdsong. A bonus of a short day.

Arriving earlier gave us time to drop our packs and have a good look around before being shown to our room for the night. It astounded us again that there were more people staying here for the night. The only time we see anyone is at night, if we are having a communal dinner. My room is 1 chair, 1 desk, 1 bed and a sink, the mixed sex bathroom was a little up the corridor. My room is lovely, with a view out to the courtyard below, full of apple, pear and cherry trees.

We had earlier sat there under the trees having a glass of wine and a packet of chips. As the monastery is a working farm there is a shop attached selling all their wares. Chocolate, honey, books, wine, etc. Attached to this is a little area where a lady was selling wine. Deb had her eyes on a cask of their red, disappointed, we realized that no way it was going to fit into her backpack.

Attached to the shop is a little area where a lady was selling glasses of wine and coffee. We had envisaged having a glass of wine sitting under the shade of the cherry trees. We asked for a glass and she said “no only bottle”. That’s okay we can finish it with dinner.

So I bought a bottle asked for two glasses, paid then she walked away. I asked ” could she open the bottle,” “no”, informing me that I have to do that. Okay testing me here. Do you have an opener.” Yes”, “May I borrow it”.

Finally I get the bottle open and we sat under the cherry trees where we enjoyed a lovely afternoon.

Another communal meal tonight which was great fun. The food was lovely but basic and for sweets it was yogurt. Myself and Deb and a couple of others decided to keep our yogurt for breakfast and left it in the refrigerator. Little did we know that anything that wasn’t eaten was taken away.

The next morning it was gone and it was back to basics of day old bread, the one thing that wasn’t taken away and jam.

At our dinner table was a documentary film maker and camera person. They are doing stories along the GR70, Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. They have asked us if they could meet us tomorrow on the trail and film us walking. Also they would stay at the same village as us tomorrow night and film a story about us. What an honor and bit of fun. More about that tomorrow.

Even though Robert Louis Stevenson hadn’t had a great start entering this area , when he arrived at the Monastery he was graciously welcomed by the father-hospitaller. He was given a tour of the Monastery and wined and dined. He noted that his room was clean and whitewashed, and furnished with strict necessities.

Very similar to my experience.

Thoughts of another beautiful day, took over as I drifted off to sleep.

Day 8 Notre-Dame-des-Neiges to Chasserades

The day we became famous on French Television.

As I mentioned yesterday , we had met a French Television film crew who were travelling along the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. They were interviewing people who were walking, as well as interesting people in businesses that supported the route. The two girl crew had decided they would film two Aussie girls walking the route. Although it did get a bit lost in translation, as we became known as the Two Aussie Grannies by the time it was aired on French Television the next morning.

Chasserades is a lovely small village. But before we made it to the village, we had the first of our high points to conquer. The weather seemed to be getting hotter and the relentless climb with no shade was a bit taxing on us both. The mountains in the distance were beautiful. All around us as we walked were fields of wildflowers. Upon reaching the top we were then flanked by pine forest again.

It was great to be back in the forest and in the shade. In the distance we could see the wind turbines peeping through the trail on each bend.

We came across some artist signs relating to Stevenson and the trail which was a bit of fun.

The TV crew came and met us on the trail and directed us on how they wanted to film us. We could see them in the distance waiting for us on a bend. A quick tidy up, straightening of the clothes, bit of gloss on the lips, couldn’t take our hats off as the hat hair wouldn’t be a good look. We walked towards them all smiles, trying not to look like we had just climbed a mountain in 38 degree heat, and not sweated our exhausted little hearts out.

It is very hard to act natural when trying to be natural. The whole experience was a lot of fun. After the filming they wanted us to sing a song in which they would dub into the film. Neither of us could think of anything and Wally our new Swiss friend suggested ” Do you come from a land down under, where women glow and men plunder”. We didn’t think that it would go over to well.

We sat out on the Terrace in the late afternoon sun, drinking Pastis for me and a Stevenson beer for Deb. It was so lovely talking to the film crew and gite owner as well as a couple of others staying here tonight.

We sat amongst colourful flowers, next to nearby ancient stone buildings with colorful shutters, and all on a historic ancient trail.

Life is good.

Dinner was a fabulous affair. A communal meal again. The cook was a local villager and it was amazing. Once again we met different hikers. There were two Swiss friends that we met for the first time and there were such fun to be around. They were going to be on the same schedule as us so hopefully we may see them again. A father whose son has come to join him on the trail as well and also the film crew.

The owner of the Gite, Patrice made us feel so welcome in fact we were very spoiled. We had a top floor room with a view of the village, offering us beers, wine and my favourite, Pastis. Not sure if it was the thought of the film crew making him famous but we took whatever hospitality he was offering us.

At dinner I was sitting next to one of the Swiss men, we had earlier named him Wally as he was wearing a red and white stripe jumper. Well, Wally was really enjoying his first course which came in a ramekin, it was very nice by the way. He looked over to me and after scrapping the bowl clean and said ” I love this mushroom pie”. I looked back to him with a grin and said to him ” It is a snail pie”, think he nearly choked with laughter, he had never had escargot before.

We all laughed around the table. When you meet a group of strangers, and you can sit and share a meal, converse with them in all languages, it really is a moment to treasure..

Wonderful to be able to share a fun evening with this group of travellers.

Day 9 Chasserades to Le Bleymard

Finding a wonderful spot to picnic was the order of the day!

Little did I know that after saying our farewells in the morning that our days on this trail would just keep getting better, and better.

A fond farewell to everyone this morning, I even had a chance to practice my bad Italian on some unsuspecting Italian hikers. The village really is very pretty. We were heading high today and straight out of the gate we were heading up.

We passed through the village of Mirandol with its very impressive railway viaduct. Unfortunately some of the buildings look very run down and even falling into disrepair .

We found wonderful spots to picnic today. Watching the dragonflies and butterflies. We not only passed through Pine forest but also into the Elm and Oak woods. It was so lush and green.

Walking through the woods today was magical. All the color greens, in all different shades, depending if the suns rays were filtering through the tops of the tall trees.

Several times we just sat on the soft grass, had a rest and enjoyed the moment together of where we were, and how lucky we were to experience this fabulous varied walk.

We would always be on the look out for a special place to have lunch, today we hit the jackpot. A flowing creek, butterflies, blue dragonflies skimming the water. Yummy cheese, fruit and bread for lunch. For me the first thing I do is boots and socks come off. We are the only ones here, not one person has passed us. We wonder are we the only ones on this trail. Lucky us. Or are we always just the last ones to linger.

What a magical spot

The town of Le Bleymard came into view. We were high on a ridge and as we made our way down we lost sight of the trail markers as we scrambled our way across the large rocks into town. We could see the main road just below and think we may have found a short cut even though some what, a bit more dangerous.

Walking into the town we came across a bar where our Swiss friends were staying and invited us to have a drink with them. It was by now extremely hot. I could count on one hand how many times I have drank beer but today I did. We sat in an outdoor area with plastic coverings over the tables and each time I lifted my arm it felt like I was stuck to it. It was not the most relaxing area as the amount of flies that were everywhere just made me want to get up and keep moving.

We thanked the boys and we went off looking for our accommodation. The beauty of the small villages means you don’t have to search far.

Tonight our room is on top of a Bakery. We didn’t really have to look to hard, we could just follow the smell. Nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread. There was one other couple staying here as well as the two owners of the house. We had a communal bathroom up the hall.

In our bedroom was a placement of wide eyed dolls sitting on top of the wardrobes and one each on our beds. Not sure if these were for company or props for an up coming creepy movie.

While unpacking Deb discovers she has left her guide book somewhere, thinking maybe back at the bar so we retrace our steps. She is so disappointed as she had been writing her notes through out the trail in it. We couldn’t find it anywhere. Even asked hikers that were staying at a hostel, once again surprised there were more people walking that we haven’t seen. No book was found.

Dinner again was communal, cooked by the owner and it was so lovely. During dinner we mention the loss of Deb’s guide book and the lovely owner said she had a brand new one that she could have. She insisted no charge. At the end of the meal a tray of after dinner drinks were brought out and this was our queue to retire for the night. But not before we ordered out packed lunch for the next day.

We had a big day ahead of us tomorrow.

The next morning I walked downstairs to put my boots on and there hanging on the beautiful doorknob was Deb’s guide book. Unbelievable, Someone from the hostel had found it and left it on their table. One of the men we spoke to yesterday had recognized it and brought it to our accommodation. Deb was thrilled.

A bit of trail magic

Day 10 – Le Bleymard to Le-Pont-de-Montvert

The infamous Guide Book.


A bit of trail magic

Today was my day!

Today I got to walk to where the clouds touched the mountains. Walked where the snow queen in winter wraps her blanket of white and gently covers the ground below. But now in summer the wildflowers wave to me on the breeze as I pass them by.

Today I smelt wild herbs strewn throughout the rocks , lay in a field of golden yellow and saw that the distant mountains were colors of every shade of blue.

Today was my day.

Today is why I hike.

My heart was full.

We would be walking over three summits today. This was going to be fun. The trail signage was great, so no problem of getting lost. It was going to be warm today and not to much shade in the afternoon.

As we left the Village we watch villagers tending to the gardens, passed cherry trees, saw foxgloves, they always reminding me of the Camino Frances, then we began to climb.

First summit over, the heart rate was up but I was excited as well. The wildflowers were so beautiful. The second summit at Chalet du Mont Lozere was a treat as the Chalet was open for coffee. This is a very popular ski resort in winter. There were quite a few walkers here who had driven by car up to the resort and were doing day walks.

We now follow an ancient Draille path up the hillside and follow the Montjoies that mark the GR70 route.The pine trees have now disappeared and the bare hills are covered in Heather and low Myrtille. Stunning views surround us as we continue going up and up.

Now the trail leads up to Col de Finiels and as we go higher we follow the Ski poles which will lead us to Pic de Finiels. I was so excited to get to the top. My breath had been taken away not only by the steep climb but because of the beauty that surrounded me.

We had intended to have our lunch here but there are a few day walkers around and all taking cover in the few stone shelters that were there, as windbreaks. Some dark clouds were arriving from over the mountains so we decided to go down further on the the trail the other side of the mountain.

Finding a lovely shelter spot amongst rocks and shade of low trees we unwrapped our picnic given to us by our last host. One of our best yet. Chicken, salad, egg, bread all very yummy.

Sitting in the peace of our surrounds and views to die for, we hear a murmuring of bells in the distance. Could this scene get any better. Are the bells getting closer we asked each other, hmm! I think they are. Just then above us and surrounding us hundreds of sheep came to dine with us for lunch. Not in any hurry to leave as they grazed on the wild herbs. The bells ringing, the sound of them chomping on the grasses , there footprints bruising the leaves of the wild herbs and sending us aroma’s in the wind. We both had smiles on our faces, what an experience to have here high up on the mountain.

If I could yodel I would have.

The very rocky path led us down to the village of Le-Pont-de-Montvert. We were both very surprised walking into a village full of life. Hikers, day trippers, cyclist . People were swimming in the river Tarn, floating down it on all manner of floating devices. It is here that three rivers actually converse. The village has many 16th Century building, a wonderful 17th Century humpback bridge with its toll tower at the entrance.

All of a suden we had come to life, the mountains behind us we couldn’t wait to find our accommodation, clean up and join the many others enjoying this very picturesque village in the Cevernol. We even got dressed up in our one and only dresses we had with us. Sitting at a table next to an old stone wall, looking down at the river, of those having such fun while we drank our Aperitivo’s in the setting sun. You realize that life is very special in these moments.

Our Swiss friends are staying in the same hotel , so caught up with them for a fun time at dinner and a farewell breakfast in the morning.

Our room overlooks the main part of the Hotel and along the narrow cobbled street to the river. A big day was had and we are ready for sleep and a big day ahead.

Little did we know how big.

A glorious end to my very special day.

Don’t miss stage 3 the end of the GR70, Robert Louis Stevenson Trail.

Subscribe now to see what happens as we walk into the area know as The Cevennes