Monday, June 06, 2005

Travels in the Cevennes

Back in March I popped into the Oxfam shop at the Custard Factory and bought a 1907 copy of Robert Louis Steveson's 'Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes' (for £1!). RLS acquires a donkey, which he names Modestine and loads her with all his baggage, though quite quickly he finds its easier if he carries some of the load himself. They tramp through the hills between the Massif Central and Montpellier, over a period of two weeks in autumn, sleeping in both local inns and under the stars ( a al belle etoile).The book is a beautiful mix of descriptive narrative and commentary on the region's reglion and history. After spending 'a night among the pines' RLS writes:

I hastened to prepare my pack, and tackle the steep ascent that lay before me; but I had something on my mind. It was only a fancy; yet a fancy will sometimes be importunate. I had been most hospitably received and puntually served in my green caravanserai. The room was airy, the water excellent, and the dawn had called me to a moment. I say nothing of the tapestries or the inimitable ceiling, nor yet of the view which I commanded from the windows; but I felt I was in some one's debt for all this liberal enterainment. And so it pleased me, in a half-laughing way, to leave pieces of money on the turf as I went along, until I had left enough for my night's lodging.

RLS became quite attached to his beast of burden, as it seems Dervla Muphy did with Juanna and Jock in Peru and Ethiopia. And I, too am terribly attached to Toulouse, even though just a bicycle! Its such a fabulous read - I would bever have though it was written over 100 years ago (my copy is a sixth edition).

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