Reflections and images from my travels

La Bastide to Chasserades. Third day of the hike. I stayed up quite late the previous night trying to get caught up on processing pictures and making notes for the blog. The hotel room was almost unbearably hot with very little airflow. Just lying there, I could feel the energy being sapped from me as I typed away on the computer. I eventually fell asleep at about midnight. Thankfully, I was able to sleep the entire night. It was going to be a relatively lazy morning. I did not have to catch the train until 10:24 AM. Unfortunately, I was so relaxed I forgot that my packed bag had to be dropped off by 8 AM. I was in the shower when I heard the phone ringing in my room. At that point, I had not figured out that I had not brought my bag down to be collected. I picked up the phone and heard a barrage of French but was able to pick out the word “baggage!”. I quickly towelled off, packed the bag and brought it downstairs. Numerous “pardons” were uttered.

I had a nice breakfast at the hotel and then made my way to the SNCF train station. No one was there so I just parked myself and enjoyed a break. Unbelievably, over the next one hour a barrage of passengers showed up. I couldn’t believe this small out-of-the-way train station would be fully packed. Perhaps this was the only train of the day. The train definitely arrived on time and left promptly at- you guessed it- 10:24 AM. Now that is service! The train ride to La Bastide was only 18 minutes. By the time I started my actual hike it was already 10:50 AM and the temperature was quickly rising. The initial part of the hike involved a long sustained climb of about 3.5 km. I took my time as it felt much hotter than it did yesterday. I got on top of a large plateau and then had a wide forest track to walk through. Very pleasant. The path took me through Gardille forest en route to the charming hamlet of Chabalier where there is a charming effigy of Robert Louis Stevenson and his trusty donkey Modastine. Very cute. The rest of this very short 12 km hike was very pleasant. I arrived at the charming hamlet of Chasserades at about 2:15 PM. As I was approaching Chasserades I noticed the most interesting cloud formations, a drop in temperature and threatening skies. It really looked like it was going to rain. I quickly made my way into the hamlet but the hotel that I was staying at did not open until 3 PM. I parked myself on the side of the road in the shade and had a great packed lunch. The rain thankfully never materialized. This was the earliest I had ever completed my hike day.

At 3 PM I was greeted by a very friendly French hostess and a fresh glass of fresh, homemade lemonade. Very refreshing! The hotel is very charming with uniquely inspired names and decor for each room. Mine was named “Cocoon”. How fitting!  I had a very leisurely afternoon and explored the hamlet. The Saint-Blaise church located in the hamlet dates back to the 12th century and it’s bell tower has been completely restored. On the way into the town I noticed a strange looking brick tunnel. This covered gallery is built along the line of the Mirandol viaduct which is the largest work of art on the Mende-La Bastide “Trans-cevenol” line and stands at a height of 1215 m-second in France only to the trans-Pyrenean. The covered galleries are built along the line and are located in places with high wind exposure that would otherwise cause a build up of snow on the lines.

One interesting story about this hamlet is as follows-apparently Robert Louis Stevenson stayed the night here sleeping in a room with some French railway engineering surveyors working on the Mirandol viaduct. He stated “there were four beds in the little upstairs room; and we slept six- but I got the window open. Hey, Bourgeois, il est 5 heures! was the cry that awakened me in the morning”. The line they were building finally opened 24 years later.

This was going to be a most pleasant afternoon in this charming hamlet and the order of the day was to relax and re-energize after the previous two days of vigorous hiking. The food served at this bed and breakfast was plentiful and excellent. Everything was made that same day from local ingredients. It was a full house but I was the only English speaking guest. This was the first time on the Stevenson Trail that I had seen and visited with so many other fellow hikers. A few of the French guests had some rudimentary English phrases so we were able to communicate. Again, they were most gracious and inclusive.

Earlier in the afternoon I had stopped by the very small local grocery store [which I believe is owned by the bed and breakfast owner] to buy a few items for the hike the next day and also to order a sandwich to be prepared for the next morning. The fellow in the grocery store mentioned a free concert that evening in the Saint-Blaise church starting at 8 PM. Dinner at the bed and breakfast was served at 7:30 PM. Dinners in France are long affairs! I was hoping to get through the meal relatively quickly but this was not to be. All of a sudden the hostess-who had little to no command of English- felt the need to have a long conversation with me. It was quite comical, but again, endearing. Dinner finally wrapped up at 9:15 PM. I quickly walked up to the church and went inside and was greeted by a beautiful scene. An audience of about 30 people were seated in the pews and the inside of the church was lit only with candles and two small strobe lights at the front altar. The performers were two male French folk singers one of whom was playing a guitar and both provided vocals. They were apparently on a tour of old French churches along the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail for most of July 2015. What an experience! The temperature inside the church was cool and the acoustics were amazing. I allowed myself to be enveloped by the music. After listening to one song I grabbed my camera, which thankfully I brought along, and recorded some video. The performance ended by 10 PM and even though it was free I quickly ran down to the bed and breakfast to get my wallet to donate some money to the performers. They certainly deserved it. I finished off my evening with a most pleasant walk through the village and then finally retired to my “Cocoon” and fell asleep reflecting on the amazing experiences I had that day.


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