Monday, July 20, I visited the Tanargue massif by crossing extra-narrow departmental roads in sublime landscapes between 1000 and 1300 meters above sea level, sketched by Jean Yanne: "I hate departmental roads ..." I love to drive at 25 km/h between light and shade passing from fragrant fir stands to steep grassy slopes. Before leaving Thueyts I went down the steep path to reach the Ardèche river carving its bed in a narrow gorge of basalt passing under the Pont du Diable (Devil's Bridge), here. It was 7.30 am when I saw it in low-angle light. At the end of the morning I parked on the roadside, D301, about 3 km upstream from the village of Borne.
Tuesday July 21 I left with regret my bivouac before Borne at 1100m altitude; what a peaceful night! At daybreak I headed for the Col de Meyrand to avoid passing vehicles on the narrow D301 road. Certainly the morning mist had not dissipated. Then I drove through the villages of the Ardèche defiles. Vogüé caught my attention as one of the most beautiful medieval villages in France. Its castle is still the property of the de Vogüé family. Then it was Rochecolombe and Balazuc. After a few minutes of waiting at the entrance to the Défilé de Ruoms, the alternating direction D4 road runs through open tunnels overlooking the Ardèche river. Finally I arrived at Vinezac to bivouac in the parking lot above the cemetery.
Wednesday July 22 I spent more than two hours visiting the city of Aubenas, here. I arrived shortly after 7.00 to avoid the heat, alas the weather was gloomy after a stormy and rainy night. The low light made the photos bland. The Château Montlaur is emblematic of the city and was occupied by the most prestigious families of the Ancien Régime. Alas it is being renovated. The other two curiosities, the St-Laurent church and the St-Benoit Dome, are set in the old town without receding for the photo. St-Laurent Church has remarkable woodwork as well as a baptistery surmounted by a symbolic golden sculpture. The Dôme St-Benoit can be visited with a guide by appointment; Again I bivouacked in Thueyts. Tomorrow I will leave Ardèche to enter Auvergne, the land of Arvernes whose king best known as an opponent of Julius Caesar was Vercingetorix.
The objective of Thursday July 23 was to reach Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille, here, which will be the starting point of my hike on the "Chemin de Stevenson", GR70, on September 7th. To arrive at this village I traveled, as before, on narrow roads, fortunately without any vehicle to pass, but with encounters of the third type, sheep moving slowly here and there. The journey through mountains and dales and at the end of the route along the Loire river was embellished by the ruins of medieval castles on hilltops watching the surroundings. Before entering the Monastier I made a detour of about 2 km to see an expensive curiosity from the beginning of the 20th century the Recoumène Viaduct, here for the railway line, Transcévenole, which never existed . The village conceals some tourist nuggets including the abbey church, the abbey castle as well as a treasure. At the start of the afternoon I returned to bivouac facing the Recoumène viaduct.
|Église abbatiale St-Chaffre, Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille|
Friday July 24th I was walking around Le Puy-en-Velay, here, for nearly five hours; I entered the old town via the Pannessac Tower. Unfortunately, I saw neither the cloister nor the Treasure of religious art, however I wandered the tour suggested by the Green Guide book. Of course I climbed the Rocher Corneille and then I climbed inside the statue of Notre-Dame de France, here. The gallery shows the interpretive panels of the statue taken on the way down. I ended this great half-day with a visit to the Crozatier museum. I found a bivouac in the Decathlon car park, hoping not to be ejected. Tomorrow morning I will climb the Rocher Saint-Michel in Aiguilhe to visit the eponymous chapel at the top.
|Statue de Notre-Dame de France|
Saturday July 25 began at 9.00 am by climbing the 268 steps of Rocher Saint-Michel d´Aiguilhe leading to the eponymous chapel, here, at the top of an 82 m high lava needle. It dates from the 10th century AD. The columns simulate an ambulatory; the vault is decorated with frescoes from the same period. Around 10.30 am I headed towards the Fortress of Polignac, here, perched on a volcanic chimney at 62 m high. Certainly the French Revolution sold it as a national asset and served as a basalt stone quarry. Still by narrow departmental roads, I arrived in the early afternoon in Chanteuges, which I visited in the middle of the afternoon when the temperature dropped. The old Roman-style abbey church here is built of basalt rubble. In an adjacent room, interpretive panels present the different styles of the capitals. I selected the most enigmatic with the photo on the panel and the one I took. Haute-Loire department is rich in castles and abbeys of the Middle Ages partially in ruins following the destruction by the French Revolution. I bivouacked in the parking lot of the disused railway station.
|Chapelle & Rocher Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe|
|Bivouac at Chanteuges|
Sunday July 26 I left Chanteuges station for Brioude, stopping in Haut-Allier and the Sénouire valley to visit the churches erected between the 10th and 13th centuries. But the winding roads slow me down, so I had to select a church, that of Lavoûte-Gilhac, here, on the road that runs along the Allier river. I arrived around 10.00 in Brioude, here, to attend mass in the Basilica of St-Julien. "A huge stone reliquary erected above an illustrious tomb ..." by Bernard Crapet. The building is in Roman style, built with stones of various colors. The inverted nave of the nave is impressive by its height and narrowness. The faithful attended the religious service in large numbers. I bivouacked at the Bageasse campsite
|Camping at Bageasse, Brioude|