Our most recent trip in Precious, the campervan, took us to Lozère in the Massif Central. And trust me, it’s certainly a massive Massif!
We set off Sunday mid-afternoon, our first stop being at Guéret Station to drop Rors off for his train to Limoges, where he’s a student. Up until now, his weekly train has always been bang on time so we reckoned that we’d be able to drop him off for 4.27pm and get to our planned overnight spot in Briffons by 6pm, and thus in daylight, albeit fading. But you know what they say about plans. And sure enough, this week, somewhere between Montluçon (where the train starts off from) and Guéret, in a fit of rare daredevilry a herd of cows decided to spice everyone’s life up by going for a jolly along the railway track. Rors’ train was over half an hour late as a result of these bovine antics so we didn’t leave Guéret until after five, and consequently didn’t arrive at our destination until it was well and truly dark. And especially so in the fog and pouring rain. Fortunately, we know the route and have parked up behind the small village’s splendid church before, so it wasn’t as stressful as it might have been. We had tea, walked Tobi in the now dry dark and settled down for the evening.
A disadvantage to touring at this time of the year is the limited daylight, but it does also mean there aren’t many other campervanners around, all chasing the same night-time parking spots, and hordes of fellow tourists everywhere. In fact, we hardly saw anyone but then we were going to an even more sparsely-populated area of France than our own département of Creuse.
Next morning saw us again walking Tobi in the dark, and then raiding the bread dispenser, which had just been refilled. Once it was light we headed down (as in southwards) and up (altitude-wise). Our first stop was at a hot spring – a very hot spring. This was in Le Mont-Dore. Had the air temperature not been 2 degrees C, and had it not involved removing about twenty layers of clothing, I might have been tempted to have a dip although I’d definitely have emerged resembling a lobster! I’d anticipated mildly warm water, but this was boiling bath temperature.
We set off, up again, into Lozère in the Occitanie region of France, somewhere we haven’t been before. For most of our drive we were over 1000 metres, rising to around 1500 metres in places.
We stopped at some services and admired a viaduct designed by Gustave Eiffel, also responsible for the tower in Paris named after him.
Once off the motorway, the minor roads resembled an unravelled ball of wool, twining this way and that, with wince-worthy gradients thrown to live things up a little more. But Precious was well up to the challenge and we had interesting discoveries to make in the Cévennes National Park.
From there we followed more twisty, steeply-gradiented roads to Saint-Laurent-de-Trèves and its dinosaur footprints. There are several sites in France with such prehistoric prints, but most are part of tourist attractions that you have to pay to get into and which close once the summer season is over. Saint-Laurent’s are free and accessible to all, thanks to the kindness of the individual who owns this land where tridactyls left their marks 190 million years ago.
The scenery is breath-taking, as you might expect when you’re at 1,100 metres!
It was very different when the tridactyls were tramping around.
We had planned to stay overnight at Saint-Laurent, but the place that was recommended as a park-4-night spot sported a menacing sign forbidding campervanners from even contemplating such a heinous act. Now, this is illegal. Although some communes put up such threatening notices, they have no right to do so. There is no governmental legal text that permits the banning of campervans from parking overnight in certain places. Because that’s all you’re doing: parking. You are quite at liberty to eat and sleep in a vehicle whilst it’s parked. Only if you unload an array of tables and chairs into a public area does it become camping, and camping can be legally banned. But although we had the moral and legal high ground, we didn’t fancy causing trouble by staying put, and anyway, if they didn’t want us, we didn’t want them. So there! So we fortified ourselves with hot drinks and biscuits and set off for an alternative overnight venue.