Our week’s stay in Lourmarin began and ended with a market day, so we lingered longer than we’d intended to, making one last pass through the extravagant bazaar: bakers of amazing breads; creators of sausages from every form of beast; sellers of scarves in every hue imaginable; offerers of cheese samples; hawkers of kitchen gadgets; etc, etc, and etc.
From Lourmarin we were to drive west and north, to spend two nights with friends just south of Orleans, before concluding the trip in Paris. For our night en route, J had booked us into a gîte in Pradelles, a town we’d selected mainly because it was on the GR70, allowing us to briefly commune again with our blog’s namesake, Robert Louis Stevenson, and to recall our time, not all that long ago, when we were walking on the chemin Stevenson with F and J2.
Pradelles is another of those 156 Most Beautiful Villages in France, with a wonderfully preserved town center: fortress-like buildings built from blocks of stone, lining steep and narrow streets. We arrived in the late afternoon, with the sun low in the west, bathing everything in a gorgeous, buttery light.
Pradelles is north of the section of the GR70 that we’d walked with F and J2, and Stevenson had only lunched here, before continuing downhill towards Langogne, hoping to camp beside the nearby lake. Here is RLS’s description of Pradelles, from Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes:
“Pradelles stands on a hillside, high above the Allier, surrounded by rich meadows. They were cutting aftermath on all sides, which gave the neighbourhood, this gusty autumn morning, an untimely smell of hay. On the opposite bank of the Allier the land kept mounting for miles to the horizon: a tanned and sallow autumn landscape, with black blots of fir-wood and white roads wandering through the hills. Over all this the clouds shed a uniform and purplish shadow, sad and somewhat menacing, exaggerating height and distance, and throwing into still higher relief the twisted ribbons of the highway. It was a cheerless prospect, but one stimulating to a traveller. For I was now upon the limit of Velay, and all that I beheld lay in another county—wild Gévaudan, mountainous, uncultivated, and but recently disforested from terror of the wolves.”
Stevenson goes on to talk about the legendary “beast of Gévaudan,” who is still celebrated today.
While exploring Pradelles we found a table d’orientation (above) on the edge of the village, from which we could survey the “wild Gévaudan,” not so wild now, of course, and likely entirely free of wolves. On the table d’orientation we located our own GR70 starting point, La Bastide, and our end point, Florac, and were somewhat surprised to discover just how far apart they actually were.