French countryside wandering ends in Ales

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Europe » France » Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
November 20th 2009
Published: November 21st 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

It’s another beautiful morning and oh so close to being a frost.Yet with absolutely no wind it is actually quite bearable to be outside loading the car with a short sleeve shirt on.
Like yesterday we could take the shortest and most direct route from Mende to Ales and be there in an hour and a half.But we wouldn’t get to see as much of the interesting French countryside if we did that so we shall take a diversion north the south to extend the drive to perhaps 4 or 5 hours,with stops.
Our room at the Deltour has not been without incident and whoever thought of the idea of putting a single bed above and across the queen size bed had to be dumb!!And then to make the furniture of modular steel and sharp corners AND then attach the table to the wall right next to the upper bunk so that when one rises from the table,one is in danger guessed it BANGING YOUR HEAD as Gretchen managed to do.I think she is over these budget hotels!!Oh well,a cuddle and a ‘only one more night on the road’made it all better!!Here’s hoping Marseille and Paris rooms are a little more accommodating.
So we headed north on the N88 with the road climbing steadily out of the valley that Mende is located in.In fact the climb reached 1264 metres above sea level before the road levelled out on a vast plateau.With snow markers on the side of the road it was a giveaway to the sort of weather that occurs in this part of France during the winter which is not far away.
We made a stop at the hilltop town of Chateauneuf-de-Randon which meant we had to divert off the main road and climb a small hill to walk around the medieval buildings.There was no actual chateau but the buildings around the square dated back to the 15th century and had been very well maintained.A plaque near the church talked about a great battle that took place on the plain below the village although we couldn’t make out who the opponents were.
We turned off the N88 at Langogne and headed south onto the D906 following the Allier River along a wide valley.The snow markers were still apparent on the side of the road so we guess we are still up in country that gets regular snow in the winter.
We took another stop at the deserted village of Lucs.Deserted that is except for the dog that didn’t seem to like us invading his territory.He didn’t actually come close to us it was just that his bark sounded a bit aggressive.We resolved to find another way down to avoid the dog after we had walked up to the chateau on top of the hill that was the reason for our stop.
Chateau du Lucs was built in 1378 and only part of the buildings remained although what was intact had been restored.The method of laying the stone in the construction was something we haven’t seen before with stone laid flat for one layer then on the side for the next layer.It probably gave the building more substance.
There were a number of information boards around the site and one made reference to Robert Louis Stevenson who passed through the area in the late 1800’s and wrote in one of his books about the area including the chateau.
There wasn’t any other obvious route down to avoid the dog so on the way down the hill we picked up a large stick each to defend ourselves in case the dog became more aggressive seeing us again in his territory.The dog wasn’t at the house where he had come out from when we were walking up the hill and we thought we had got by without annoying him/her.However,as we rounded the corner to the car a few metres away the dog appeared but this time gave us a wide berth just slinking by looking at us but not aggressive!!
The road was leading us onto the edge of the Cevenne mountain range which is the first major range of the Massif as you travel up from Marseille.The road started to drop off the plateau and we soon came to a lookout which gave scenic views over the mountain range ahead of us and down to a 300 metre high dam,a railway viaduct built in the 1870’s and the town of Villefort where we planned to stop for lunch subject to a boulangerie still being open by the time we get there.
At Villefort we were still at nearly 600 metres above sea level and we were lucky as we were the last customer in the boulangerie before she closed the shop for the afternoon siesta.It was such a lovely mild afternoon so we sat on seats next to the main street and had our lunch.After lunch we took a stroll through the town which was of course quiet because of the time of day.The church attracted us and we were almost fooled into signing what we thought was a visitors book outside the church but realised just in time that it was a condolences book for a funeral held in the morning that had probably been left for locals passing by to sign it!!!
Ahead of us the road hugged the side of a valley of the mountain range and although it seemed like we were continuing to drop in altitude as we got nearer our destination we were in fact staying practically level as we took our next stop at Chateau de Portes and found that the altitude was 557 metres above sea level,less than 50 metres below Villefort yet we had travelled some 15 km.
The history of Portes dated back to the 11th century when the chateau was built as a defence to invaders from the south trying their luck further north than the plains below.The restored chateau was closed for the season.
It took another 30 minutes of driving before we got down onto the flat and looking back it was amazing to see just how high the Cevenne mountain range is.It wasn’t long after that and we reached our overnight stop of Ales.
Our stay here is at a Premiere Classe hotel,which is a sizeable hotel chain throughout France although this is the first time we have stayed in one.
Our room is similar to the Fasthotel but smaller,if that is possible,but it will do us for the one night.
We emptied OO of all the luggage,microwave,toaster,food and bits and pieces that we have accumulated over the past couple of weeks and laid them out on the bed at our Premiere Classe Hotel.It covered the whole of the double bed!!We are either going to have to eat ,drink or we will have to throw out anything that is surplus to requirements!!We are going to leave the microwave and toaster here with a note that if the person that finds it(presumably the cleaner)can have it or find a good home or charity for it.All they have to do is change the plugs because they suit only the UK sockets and we need to keep our plug converter for the next European/UK adventure.Although we will try and contact the hotel we are staying at in Marseille to see if they have a use for the appliances.
We walked across to the Super U supermarket and brought the last dinners we will cook in our microwave.I am having a Toulouse sausage in potato while Gretchen has opted for a savoury meat dish with potato.
When we got back from our short walk there was a reply from the Marseille hotel saying yes they would have the appliances.
After a throw out of all the odd bits and pieces we have accumulated that will only add weight and take up space on the journey home our luggage is looking much more compact and good enough to get us as far as Paris when we will compact even more.We have wrangled another 5kg each out of Singapore Airlines so that will help for the things we have picked up to take home.

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