Friday, July 23, 2010

A Postman's “Castle” - 12 July 2010

Hauterives is the location of the Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval, our first stop of the day. This creative folly is the work of a postman who collected rocks on his 32km postal round, and over a period of 33 years, built a whimsical folly. Stairways lead up to turrets and vantage points, over the “castle”. All manner of building styles are involved, from Egyptian, Roman & Aztec. The locals considered him slightly mad, but he persevered, and when the local authorities changed their minds about allowing part of his construction to be a mausoleum for himself and his wife he started again, at age 78, and built his own tomb in the local cemetery, using the same type of building style.

Our intended destination was Millau, so we took the scenic route along the Ardeche, and over the mountains. The road was full of hairpin bends, gorges and stunning scenery. Every vehicle (except one) was extremely courteous, and made it easy for us to pass, and we had a brilliant time enjoying various mountain roads.

We were very tempted to stop for the night at at picturesque gorge village of Pont de Mont Verte, but decided it was too far from Millau. So carried on to Florac, over a high mountain switch back road, across a plateau to La Malene. By this time we were only 35 minutes from Millau, so decided we should stop at this very appealing town. The combination of arch bridge and medieval town rising out of the surrounding cliffs, was irresistible. But just as we paid for the campsite, the thunder and lightening moved in, and we put up the outer shell of the tent in an almighty deluge. The extremely heavy rain lasted for at least 30 minutes, and as soon as it stopped, we decided to explore the town for dinner, while the world dried out.

After spending most of the day with pharmacy thermometers registering 36 – 37 deg, we now found ourselves in a muggy 31 degrees, which was not totally adequate to dry everything out. But by the time we had a salad in a local restaurant (while our neighbouring table dined on the most enormous platters of steaks and frittes we have ever seen), the campground had returned to a much drier appearance and we looked forward to seeing it in the morning sunshine.

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