It had been a cold and frosty start to the day so we had a slow morning in our cosy camper van.
We were in a very pleasant spot on the outskirts of the medieval village Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon in Southern France.
The village was tiny and we had explored the fine buildings in this historic settlement the previous day so that morning we decided to explore a little bit of the surrounding countryside.
We walked first to the far side of the village, following a road which had a signpost with directions to “the station”.
There was no evidence of a railway and we thought it unlikely that there would be a station for a population of less than 250 but our interest was piqued so we started to walk in the direction indicated by the sign.
We crossed a beautiful mill stream and met a very friendly marmalade cat that followed us for a while.
It was surprisingly chilly but we were still amazed to come across an incredible wall of massive icicles sparkling in the sun at the roadside.
Shortly after seeing the icicles, a narrow track tempted us off the road and we walked for about 20 minutes along this picturesque incline.
As we crunched along the silver frosted grass we both felt the ghosts of travellers past – this was obviously a very ancient thoroughfare along which many pilgrims and other travellers had made their way over the course of many hundreds of years.
The path ended when it came to the road which had curled round the hill in a series of bends. Crossing over, we continued along the track which was still white with frost even though it was two o’clock in the afternoon.
At the top of the hill we caught sight of a long viaduct which stretched across the valley below. Perhaps there was a railway?!
As we reached the base of the viaduct we saw a notice for a “vélo-rail” which means “bike rail” in French. We wondered if the rails had been ripped up and a bike path built in its place but further along the road we discovered that our assumption was incorrect.
First we found a small 19th Century station building that had been faithfully restored to its former glory (so strange as it was literally in the middle of nowhere!)
We then saw some strange contraptions that looked like flatbed rail trucks but had bike pedals fixed on top to propel them along the rails.
There were also a couple of little passenger trains but like the vélo trucks, they were laid up due to Covid restrictions. What a wonderful view we would have had if we’d been able to cycle a vélo “truck” over the viaduct!
The following day we moved on to our next destination – a strange, isolated and tiny medieval village called Mourèze, built in the middle of a spectacular dolomitic limestone outcrop known as the Cirque de Mourèze.
It was very misty (really foggy in parts!) when we first started our journey but luckily it soon cleared up.
Soon we were enjoying fine views of vineyards as far as the eye could see, interspersed with minute villages, some with very narrow streets that were somewhat nerve wracking to drive through in a camper van!
We were able to park just outside the village of Mourèze (population approximately 150) and once we were settled we set off to explore.
The village consisted off a collection of mostly quite ancient cottages, a massive Church, a few Bed and Breakfast places and the ruins of an ancient castle.
Walking through the village didn’t take long and soon we were on the other side on one of the many hiking trails in this area.
As we walked, everywhere we looked we could see the amazing 160 million-year-old limestone giants, which had been eroded into strange shapes by wind and water over the millennia.
At first the trail resembled a dried up river bed but soon we were rock hopping our way up a more rugged path.
The landscape reminded us of the movie “Picnic at Hanging Rock” when the school girl Miranda and her friends disappear without trace!
We weren’t sure how long the the trail was or where it came out and as the sun was beginning to dip in the sky we decided to retrace our steps rather than risk getting lost in this mysterious landscape.