Saturday, July 9, 2011

South of France : Florac and the Causse Mejean : To Whet the Appetite

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We planned our little getaway to the south of France fairly late in the Spring, as vacation possibilities were a bit uncertain until then... but we finally decided to just go for it. For many people "the south of France" means the Cote d'Azur or other areas along the Mediterranean coast. For our purposes here, "the south of France" can be stretched to include the Cévennes National Park and the region known as the Causses, and the gorges of the Tarn River, near the town of Florac. In my humble opinion, Florac and the surrounding area should be much better known than it is, even here in France I had to explain to a number of people where we were going, just saying Florac was not enough. It seems that the UNESCO folks feel the same way, because at the end of June they named the Cévennes and the Causses a World Heritage Site. A well deserved denomination (again IMHO), as the region is simply out of this world. Robert Louis Stevenson came through Florac on his trip in 1878 with a donkey which gave rise to an early travel book. I came here for the first time in 1989, and then again in 1996 with la Grenouille, so this is my third, and longest stay in Florac to date. It is a place that grows on one, but perhaps which needs to be visited in person to be fully appreciated, photos hardly do it justice. But I tried nevertheless. These first two photos give a rough idea of the high desert (and deserted) plains of the Causse Mejean, which seems to go on forever.
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In a tiny hamlet we stopped in the welcoming committee came out to serenade us with a considerable amount of barking... we were definitely trespassing.
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As the post's title says, this first glimpse is simply presented to whet your appetite for more to come soon. The Causse Mejean is dotted with ruins of old farms long since abandoned, if one can find them. This aging window frame is from one such example. As you can imagine, I was like a kid in a candy shop, overwhelmed with the beauty in disintegration, materials returning to the earth, slowly but surely. More to follow, but for now, I have to get my beauty sleep, as tomorrow morning bright and early we will drive back up the steep road from Florac which climbs roughly 1500 feet vertically in less than two kilometers horizontally to reach the edge of the Causse Mejean. Some stretches have no guardrails, and it is a long way down; one needs to be wide awake. Will be dreaming of ancient stone ruins up there waiting for us.
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18 comments:

Steve said...

Owen, truly you are a painter who paints with his eye.

Laurie said...

What a fascinating region, Owen. Great shutters on the farmhouse window and look at the size of the name tag on the dog - just how small was the guard dog?!

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle... said...

Bonjour Owen--- You would be right in assuming many French people do not know that area well. I have never been! Can't wait to see more pictures and I do love that shot of the little mutt ;-) Veronique aka French Gril in Seattle

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle... said...

Bonjour Owen--- You would be right in assuming many French people do not know that area well. I have never been! Can't wait to see more pictures and I do love that shot of the little mutt ;-) Veronique aka French Gril in Seattle

Clytie said...

I am entranced ... and waiting for more!!! Be careful, Owen, your artistic side is showing! :=}

Gary said...

Beautiful! I love the wide open spaces...rolling hills :-)

English Rider said...

Gotta love that prickly dog:) That is a region worth getting lost in, as every windy road will unveil a surprise. Beautiful abandonment everywhere and history going back to the druids. Can't wait to see what else you found to photograph.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

I am so excited to be going along on this journey and have checked the maps for our location. If these first photos are a glimpse of what is to come, I am ready for the adventure!

Bises,
Genie

James said...

I was hoping to see some photos from your trip and I'm not disappointed. What a beautiful place and I can almost hear the little dog barking.
I look forward to seeing more!

I think you were right about my missing comments. Also I was having some PC problems but that's fixed now. :)

...louciao... said...

Good to see you in such fine fettle!

VertAnge said...

South of France seems so pretty!

jeff said...

Aaaahhhh !... Le pays de ma grand-mère ! Mais qu'est-ce que tu vas faire dans des contrées aussi perdues et éloignées ? De la famille peut-être ? Un trafic quelconque ? De la contrebande de tisane en fûts de chêne ?... Je me demande si j'aurais réponse à ces questions ?
Pour l'instant Owen, amuse-toi bien ! j'en fais de même sur la costa azura... mais aujourd'hui, le soleil se cache derrière de gros nuages ! On étouffe ! Trop chaud, trop lourd ! Faut se rafraîchir avec un bon apéro bien frais !...:)

A bientôt Amigo !...:)

Jimmy said...

Nicely captured, the fear in the eye of the barking dog hides many hidden depths.

Nadege said...

La Lozère and l'Ardèche are probably 2 of the cheapest département to buy real estate. Beautiful places and very "raw".

Céline said...

Mission réussie : j'ai l'eau à la bouche et j'attends la suite avec impatience !!
Concernant la géographie française, tout dépend du lieu de départ : Lyon est déjà une ville du Sud pour beaucoup, alors que d'autres pensent que c'est le grand nord, avec ours polaire et banquise :-)
Anyway, enjoy your stay in that beautiful region (I have to say i've never gone there... but i should)
Bises virtuelles !

Virginia said...

AHh Owen, you never disappoint. I"d never guess this was France. I"m ready for more my friend.
V

Lena T. Kaiser said...

I truly missed coming here for a visit...
I love that last shot, Owen...
Warmest hugs!! XXX

Stickup Artist said...

Wow. This is a place where one can really breathe! I bet it smells great there. I can totally understand what draws you there again and again. I had no idea one could experience this type of terrain in France. I love the way you get around and off the beaten paths. Your images are awesome and I can't wait to see more!