04 October 2013

67!! — Day 2

Hérault to Gard and, luckily, back again, no thanks to the driver who decided to pass on a blind curve and was suddenly driving straight towards us on our way home. Experience has taught Michael to stay way over to the right on mountain bends in France and proceed with caution. It was a matter of inches. As he said, it seemed for an instant that 67 was as old as he would ever get.

Our destination was Alès, where, after an obligatory visit to what turned out to be a disappointing market (great bread "au lin," though, made with flaxseed), we headed in the direction of a huge slag heap that dominated the town. The first day we had gone down into a cavern of stalactites and stalagmites, the second we descended into a mine that had formerly been a training school. Chthonic activities very appropriate for a geologist's birthday.

A surfeit of photos, taken with Jean-François in mind, whose family toiled as miners in the Cévennes and Tunisia. Even without that inducement to snap away, the rusted machinery would have been a compelling subject.


St Barbara, patron saint of miners and geologists. Michael was reminded of the annual St Barbara's Day celebration at Harvard back in 1968, when he was determined to walk out over the recumbent bodies of the American grad students, lying in pools of bourbon. That's how he always tells the tale, anyway.

The canary in the mine.

Horses were also kept in stalls below ground.


We then drove home on a circuitous route through impressively forested mountains, the sort of scenery that we can never capture properly in photos.

St-Germain-de-Calberte, a small village famous for being visited by Robert Louis Stevenson on his Travels with a Donkey journey in the Cévennes and for its heroic and successful hiding of  42 Jews during the Occupation.

When we returned to our hotel, we found that two couples had arrived on four fabulous Harleys.

Delicious trout for dinner.

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