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The Enlightened Traveller
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Delighting Mind, Body and Sole!
Delighting Mind, Body and Sole!

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Flamingos and Camargue

We love France’s only delta, aka Camargue, and have a short walking tour that traverses it in spectacular fashion from Roman Nimes to the Crusader walled cité and port of Aigues-Mortes.

It is a fragile eco-system that needs protecting and we are determined to play a small part in helping to conserve the delicate balance between the competing interests of the natives, farmers, industry, tourism and, above all, its precious mix of flora and fauna.

To this end, we adopted a pair of flamingos in 2006 and have great pleasure in announcing that we have doubled our sponsorship commitment this year.  We will be bringing you the life and times of our first bird, Rita, in the days to come. In the meantime, do check out our article on Camargue here

http://www.enlightened-traveller.co.uk/pages/pages.aspx?pgId=409


as well as the following Camarguaise links:

The Flamingo Atlas at: http://flamingoatlas.org/index.php

Tour du Valat at: http://tourduvalat.org/en

Reserve National Camargue at: http://www.reserve-camargue.org/?lang=en

La Société Nationale de Protection de la Nature at: http://www.snpn.com
 
  
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The Stevenson Trail
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Hiking Stevenson Trail in May 2013 by John Westwater of Seattle WA, USA.

We are very grateful to John for taking  the time to write up this account of this hike and for sharing it with our readership.

"We arrived at Lyon’s St. Exupery airport on the evening of May 6. Next morning after a quick bath and breakfast at the Simplon, we took a taxi to the Gare Perrache and caught the TGV to St. Etienne. There we changed trains for the final stage of our journey to Le Puy, arriving at 11.15 a.m. It was seven years since we arrived at Le Puy for the first time to walk the Way of St. James to Figeac. Then we arrived on May 12th; this time it was May 7th, just 5 days earlier. We did not return to Le Puy after that walk, so Jan wanted to revisit the Cathedral to light a candle to give thanks for its successful completion.

For breakfast next morning we had coffee, soft rolls and jam. Then it was time for the taxi ride to Le Monastier, the starting point of the Stevenson Way. The driver drove at a measured pace, entertaining us with various pieces of local knowledge. Dandelions were everywhere in bloom; he told us that their leaves make a good salad. He pointed out a mountain which he claimed was the source of the Loire and stopped to show us a monument to four soldiers of the Maquis. He explained that he would be doing the transport de baggages for the first three days of our walking. When finally we reached Le Monastier and he left us outside the Abbey, we felt we were saying goodbye to an old friend.

We walked around, but were not able to enter, the Abbey. Another visitor used our camera to take a photo of the two of us outside it. Then we made our way to the ‘8 to 8’[Huit a 8], the French equivalent of a 7-11, and bought apples, a baguette and a goat cheese for our lunch. So equipped, we set out on the Stevenson Way. As a Grande Randonnee route, it is designated the GR70, making it an appropriate trail for two seventy year old walkers. Stevenson spent a month in Le Monastier before purchasing his donkey, Modestine, and, with her as his sole companion, beginning the walk he was to make famous. He writes ‘it is notable for making of lace, for drunkenness, for freedom of language and for unparalleled political dissension’. We stayed in Le Monastier less than an hour, making no attempt to determine whether it maintains to this day its high reputation.

Wednesday May 8th was a beautiful sunny day, perfect weather to begin our walking. From the plaque which claims to mark the exact spot from which Stevenson started his journey, we looked out over the lush green of the immediate valley and to the right toward far distant hills. It did not take long to make the descent to the valley bottom and cross the river Gazeille by a stone bridge. From this point the path climbed upward through woods, the climb initially made more difficult because a stream had spilled onto the path and we had to pick our way over wet and slippery stones. Once we regained the uplands the walking was easy. During the course of the day we encountered seven fellow travellers, all proceeding in the same direction as ourselves. Three were adults walking singly; they passed us by with no more than a Bonjour. The others were a young family of four, walking at the pace of the two children. We passed them or were passed by them several times as we made our different stops en route and so fell into conversation.

In France May has four public holidays, twice as many as any other month. In 2013 Wednesday May 8th was World War II Victory Day and Thursday May 9th Ascension Day; they were taking advantage of this two day holiday to walk the first two stages of the Stevenson Way, like us walking today to Goudet and then continuing on next day to Le Bouchet Saint Nicolas.

The steep descent into Goudet was the most difficult walking of the day, indeed the badly eroded rocky track was the worst of the entire walk. The erosion had made it a V-shaped gully, tumbled with irregular stones and boulders on which it would be easy to turn an ankle. This was the only walking for which I would have chosen heavy mountain boots rather than the light walking shoes which we had chosen. Jan did have the advantage here with her walking poles to provide extra stability. The erosion was not just caused by the weather. At one point during the descent we were forced to scramble up the sides of the gully to make way for an upcoming 'quatre-quatre' (all terrain vehicle). Further on I noticed a narrow path making a traverse to the left. Following it a little, I could see that further on it traversed back to the right, rejoining the GR70 a hundred yards further down. So we took this welcome diversion to escape some of the awkward scramble. Mercifully just beyond this point the GR 70 ceased its plunge down the fall line and made a comfortable final traverse into Goudet. We arrived at our accommodation at 3.30 pm. The stage from Le Monastier to Goudet is a short one (just under 10 kilometers); it gave us pause to realise that we had averaged only 2 km an hour. Most walkers make their first stage from Le Monastier to Le Bouchet (22 km)."

To continue reading the article, please click this link:

http://bit.ly/1kXRZpV
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St James' Way in France is one of the two 'must do' walking tours in The Hexagon. This 7-day adventure takes you along the most popular of the four 'French Ways', the Via Podiensis or Le Puy Route, from Le Puy en Velay to St Chely d'Aubrac.

Your feedback from post-tour evaluations has consistently suggested we add this trail to our portfolio, so we are delighted to do so for 2014 and in our own original format.

Walking St James' Way is, indeed, a special human experience. Everyone has their own particular reasons for wanting to hike El Camino Francés. However, what distinguishes you from pilgrims is the requirement to suffer along The Way. Far from it! Your objective is to walk the walk in moderate stages and talk the talk with other international travellers - and then 'eat the eat' and 'sleep the sleep' in the welcoming environment of exceptional guest houses or the best of local hotels. There you have the essential ingredients of our tour: an accommodation-led opportunity to enjoy the best of what the Way of St James has to offer in two formats to suit. What differentiates this trip from other 'Camino' tours is this emphasis on accommodation excellence. You only get one bite at the cherry, so here's your chance to do it in style.
 
Of course, we haven't talked about the walking yet; but then can thirty-five thousand and counting pedestrian travellers per annum really be hiking up the wrong path? We think not! And the most noteworthy aspect of the terrain and trail is, without doubt, its diversity - there is something for everyone and the changes occur on a daily basis as you meander through two departments [Haute Loire and Lozère] and two regions [Auvergne and Languedoc-Roussillon] before dipping your toe into a third: Aveyron in the Midi-Pyrenees. 

As well as abetting your Walk-Life balance, Walking St. James' Way will also help you address those burning personal issues. Like all therapy, you have to recognise the need, make the effort and buy into the cure. And if it doesn't provide the sought-after, long-term panacea, its cathartic qualities are an end in itself: chill out and exchange life's lessons with complete strangers in 'the middle of nowhere' and then re-join 'normal life' re-charged and re-vitalised. All the benefits of Person-centered therapy, then, without the Counsellor: Carl Rodgers would have given Via Podiensis his own stamp of approval!
 
How did you get to where you are today? Where are you going from here? Will you be happy when you get there? How will you know when you've arrived? Will your peers approve? Can you bail out somewhere along the way, or towards the end, with impunity? Or perhaps even, "What shall I do with the remainder of my life?" Just some of the questions that may go unanswered unless you join the Therapy Trail, aka The Way of St James.

St. James' Way is the French self-discovery trail 'par excellence.' Whichever format you opt for, be it 'guest house' or 'hotel' led, you will experience something unique and 'ecumenical' along The Way and return home a better person. 
 
If you seek one week's total immersion, walking in rural France, then choose the first section of the Le Puy Route and do it in style. Moreover, to facilitate your reintegration to normal life at the end, we are delighted to bring customers the following 2014 Special Offer for groups of 2 to 4 travellers booking by 15th November 2013: a free departure transfer to Aumont-Aubrac for easy onward travel, worth up to 200.00 Euros. Conditions apply, see website for details here: 
http://bit.ly/H3dTs9      
        
Get happy, get hiking along St James' Way!
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