Driving to the Corniche des Cévennes

Author Rick Lee runs a writing course in the Cévennes. Here, he writes a short story on an experience in France – similar to what you could write if attending his autumn writing course.

‘One of the best things about living in France is the driving. We’ve been finding our way south of the Loire since the late 70s – from Burgundy down to Provence, the secret way through Le Mans down the Vienne to the Lot and the Tarn, across the Alps and into the Pyrenees – always hunting out the scenic route rather than the motorways.

But now we live in France we can just get up and set off!

We’ve been here over eight years – most of which spent living in La Creuse, the hidden heart of France with its dark forests and winding lanes.

It was from there that we used to set off down to see our friends near Ales.

First, we had the anticipatory pleasure of slowly gaining height on the D941 up to the Puy de Dome, with the breath-taking view of the unsung charms of Clermont Ferrand.

Most people zoom past this intriguing city on the A75 heading south, probably thinking it’s a dreary place still making tyres for a living. Not true – check it out.

The A75 must be one of the best toll-free motorways ever. Without realising it you gradually climb to over 1100 metres at the Col des Issartets – higher than Snowdon! Big sweeping bends over the Monts d’Aubrac, heading for the astonishment of Foster’s dream bridge at Millau.

But we take a left before then, down through Marvejols and on to the hills of the Cévennes, the upper reaches of the Tarn and the Gard.

South up to the Col de Miramet and the amazing descent to the sleepy mountain town of Florac, zigzagging round the corkscrew bends and squeezing past enormous camions and convoys of mad cyclists.

Stop for while in the plane tree shadowed Esplanade Marceau Farelle. You’ll need your wits about you for the next couple of hours.

The Corniche is signed at the end of the town. The climb is beguilingly gentle to begin with. Above you hang the serrated edges of the Rocher de Rochefort.

You climb up through the tiny village of St Laurent, clinging to its promontory like an airborne limpet.

At the top you reach the Corniche.

From here the route is sublime.

Apart from the steep descent to and ascent out of delightful Pompidou with its smart new main street, the road from the Col des Faisses to the Col d’Exil’ is an effortless sweeping drive, with awesome panoramas of the surrounding hills.

The best time to do this is in mid-autumn with the views framed by the golden plumage of yellowing chestnuts and oaks.

The urge to stop and stare is kept in fine balance by the desire to just float along glimpsing the stunning snapshots through the gaps, until you reach the exhilarating descent to the bustling bars of Anduze.

We never tire of this route: rain, sunshine or mist-laden, it’s a joy.’

Visit www.rick-lee.co.uk for details of Rick’s writing course in the Cévennes this autumn.

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