We’re here: N44.32555 E3.59008. It’s a free aire looking over the small town of Florac. All The Aires France describes it as a ‘nice spot’. I’d describe it more as ‘spectacular’. Mountain life here looks beautifully simple; hard but simple. There’s a two storey wooden cabin around the corner, burning pine logs and sat next to a meadow with tiny lambs feeding on their knees. I want that house. Not yet though, travelling to be done (and it looks like the current occupants only just moved in)!
The weather is: splashes of sunshine.
The Millau Viaduct was tantalisingly close yesterday. The weather hid it from view, so we made a few km detour to get a better look this morning. It’s an engineering masterpiece, with the huge thrusting supports reminding me of the internal tree-like columns of the Sagrada Familia:
We admired it for a while before I whipped my shirt off, pulled on the rubber gloves and got under Dave. Half an hour later I admitted defeat; I can’t find the speedo cable to reattach it to the gearbox. We’ll ask for help on the forums again. Although the fault’s clearly been introduced by Fiat Narbonne, I can’t bring myself to make the 4 hour round trip to get them to sort it.
Les Gorges du Tarn call. The engineer who’d checked Dave’s habitation equipment over when we first got him had enthused about the Tarn river and the canoeing trip he’d done here. As we drove along the start of the Gorge, with the roaring gently river below us, I could see the attraction. I wasn’t too impressed with the Gorge though, I’d expected vertical cliffs, narrow winding roads, rock tunnels, precipitous houses and chateaux.
Ah, hang on, I’d misread the map and we were yet in the Gorge. A few more km and it all started to happen. We’ve never pulled over so much to admire the views. Our spirits were also lifted as the clouds parted a little to let the sun pour through.
The Gorge has a tiny population almost all year; the road was blissfully empty. Campsites strung out along the river must make 90% of their revenue in July and August, and from the looks of things half of the money will come from conoe trips. They’re everywhere except in the river at the moment, although the river is low.
This is one of those places in the world where you can’t help but think ‘why’ when you see where people have built their homes. La Sabliere is a good example:
Our 1000 places to see in France book tells us that Saint Enimie is among the prettiest villages in all of France. It tells us a load more stuff but we can’t understand it. Parking up, we spot a ‘liable to flood’ sign; we’re basically in the river bed. A photo on the opposite bank shows a flood in the 80’s with the water height far above the current position of Dave’s roof. Don’t mess with nature huh?
The town survives on tourism with 3000 cars a day passing through in summer. Hardly anyone here today though and we get the English section of the many signs to ourselves. Would you believe the story they tell? Turns out a 5th century princess was so chaste she begged God to prevent her upcoming marriage, and he was happy to oblige by giving her leprosy. What, that’s outrageous! Anyhow, this turned out to be something of an inconvenience so she later asked again how to be rid of it. The message comes back to find a river source in a faraway village (not faraway for us, we’re stood next to it) and bathe in it. Voila, leprosy cured.
We found the source; a 7m deep blue pool which kind of shimmers on the surface as the water pours up from somewhere unknown deep below the mountain. A sign nearby explains the presence of a crane: they’ve been removing huge stones from the pool which seem to have been limiting the water flow. We wonder why they’re not bottling the magical liquid; I’ve splashed a bit of it on my eczema, no improvement yet.
Another half an hour of 30kph twisties brings us into Florac where we’re being rapidly surrounded by huge shiny new French motorhomes. Charlie’s snoring having walked all of about 2 miles, Ju’s writing and I’m looking at the scenery and the map. Ah, another motorhome arrives, good job we got in early!