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The Roof of France   By: (1836-1919)

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THE ROOF OF FRANCE

OR

THE CAUSSES OF THE LOZÈRE

BY

M. BETHAM EDWARDS

To M. SADI CARNOT.

THIS VOLUME, THE THIRD OF MY PUBLISHED TRAVELS IN FRANCE, IS INSCRIBED WITH ALL RESPECT TO HER HONOURED PRESIDENT.

CONTENTS.

INTRODUCTORY

PART I.

MY FIRST JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF THE CAUSSES .

CHAP.

I. FROM LE PUY TO MENDE II. MENDE III. A GLIMPSE OF THE CAUSSES IV. ON THE TOP OF THE ROOF V. RODEZ AND AURILLAC VI. THE LAND OF THE BURON

PART II.

MY SECOND JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF THE CAUSSES.

I. THROUGH THE MORVAN II. THROUGH THE MORVAN ( continued ) III. FROM LYONS TO AVIGNON BY THE RHÔNE IV. AVIGNON AND ORANGE V. LE VIGAN VI. NANT (AVEYRON) VII. MILLAU (AVEYRON) VIII. FROM MENDE TO ST. ÉNIMIE IX. ST. ÉNIMIE X. THE CAÑON OF THE TARN XI. SHOOTING THE RAPIDS XII. LE ROZIER XIII. MONTPELLIER LE VIEUX XIV. MONTPELLIER LE VIEUX ( continued ) XV. LE ROZIER TO MILLAU AND RODEZ XVI. RODEZ, VIC SUR CÈRE REVISITED. A BREAKFAST ON THE BANKS OF THE SAÔNE

INTRODUCTORY.

It is upon this occasion my rare and happy privilege to introduce the reader to something absolutely new. How many English speaking tourists have found their way to the Roof of France in other words, the ancient Gévaudan, the romantic department of the Lozère? How many English or for the matter of that French travellers either have so much as heard of the Causses, [Footnote: From calx, lime] those lofty tablelands of limestone, groups of a veritable archipelago, once an integral whole, now cleft asunder, forming the most picturesque gorges and magnificent defiles; offering contrasts of scenery as striking as they are sublime, and a phenomenon unique in geological history? On the plateau of the typical Causse, wide in extent as Dartmoor, lofty as Helvellyn, we realize all the sombreness and solitude of the Russian steppe. These stony wastes, aridity itself, yet a carpet of wild flowers in spring, are sparsely peopled by a race having a peculiar language, a characteristic physique, and primitive customs. Here are laboriously cultivated oats, rye, potatoes not a blade of wheat, not an apple tree is to be discerned; no spring or rivulet freshens the parched soil. The length and severity of the winter are betokened by the trees and poles seen at intervals on either side of the road. But for such precautions, even the native wayfarer would be lost when six feet of snow cover the ground. Winter lasts eight months, and the short summer is tropical.

But descend these grandiose passes, dividing one limestone promontory from another go down into the valleys, each watered by lovely rivers, and we are, as if by magic, transported into the South! The peach, the almond, the grape ripen out of doors; all is smilingness, fertility, and grace. The scenery of the Causses may be described as a series of exhilarating surprises, whilst many minor attractions contribute to the stranger's enjoyment.

The affability, dignity, and uprightness of these mountaineers, their freedom from vulgarity, subservience, or habits of extortion, their splendid physique and great personal beauty, form novel experiences of travel. The general character of the people here I do not allude to the 'Caussenard,' or dweller on the Causse alone, but to the Lozérien as a type may be gathered from one isolated fact. The summer sessions of 1888 were what is called assizes blanches , there being not a single cause to try. Such an occurrence is not unusual in this department.

The Lozère, hitherto the Cinderella, poorest of the poor of French provinces, is destined to become one of the richest. Not only the Causses, but the Cañon du Tarn, may be regarded in the light of a discovery by the tourist world. A few years ago the famous geographer, Joanne, was silent on both. Chance wise, members of the French Alpine Club lighted upon this stupendous defile between the Causse de Sauveterre and the Causse Méjean; their glorious find became noised abroad, and now the Tarn is as a Pactolus flowing over golden sands a mine of wealth to the simple country folk around... Continue reading book >>




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