I wrote a story about the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in southwestern France for Perceptive Travel. It’s called “How to Accept Your Donkey,” and not exactly a “footsteps” article, as I regularly had to remind myself to follow Stevenson as I went, break to talk about “donkey people,” then gradually learned to ignore Stevenson completely. But it was a great trip. I had the trails mostly to myself. I stayed at little guesthouses where a private room and a big dinner ran about 40 euro. And I took along Pepito the donkey, the only childhood toy that made the trip with me to college.
Here are some photos. But, dammit, read that article. It took me about 200 hours to write. (Sadly, no joke.)
The amanite mushrooms sprout like crazy in October. They look great, but are poisonous.
Around this little lake between Cheylard and Luc is where Stevenson breaks from his narrative to give his travel creed: “I travel for travel’s sake; the great affair is to move.” Exactly where hardly matters.
Pepito the donkey.
I seriously considered renting a donkey to make the walk. I didn’t. On the way, I saw exactly one donkey. This one. And it delighted me.
Pont du Mont Vert. Stevenson walked thru. I drove.
Stained glass in the “tottering church” of Cheylard. There were pornographic engravings in the stairway to the altar, but the village priest, apparently, had rubbed out the gigantic penises.
Village abandoned around the time Stevenson walked through the area (135 years ago).
Sitting with my journal, a half-liter bottle of a local red and 60 gnats, I didn’t realize a giant ravine was just across the road until I climbed the hill in the distance and looked back. Just after the photo, two French “rednecks” came. One had a USA flag t-shirt on, the other yelled at his dog.
I got lost once.
I would walk 100 miles to make a pay phone call.
Florac is home, they say, to “the best hamburger in France.” And it’s pretty super. Just eat it with fork and knife. And, yes, your eyes don’t deceive you: this classy place does go “ketchup packet.”
These god damn cows chased me across a limestone plateau. They flanked me but didn’t catch me. And, yes, I ran as fast as my boots could take me.