Doesn't matter where you go in Gorges du Tarn, you're apt to come across something worthy of taking your camera out of its bag.
Whilst driving along the Gorge de Dourbie I saw this bridge and thought it one of the most photogenic I'd ever seen. Somewhat surprisingly, the bridge and the two houses had a name, Le Moulin de Corp.
To access the bridge you have to go through someone's backyard though apparently it's a public right of way as there are signs there. The owners of the house on the river must, at times, find it hard to put up with the public traipsing through their backyard.
Anyhow, I actually saw the owner and made sure it was okay.
When I reached the bridge I was fascinated as to how you could have a river literally running on the foundations of your house. It wasn't a place I'd like to live in should there be floods imminent.
However, at other times the soothing rush of water would be wonderful I imagine. The Dourbie was flowing quite well when we were there and made for a fascinating stop.
These are some of the buildings you'll see in and around Meyrueis. Much of the architecture is relatively modern (19th century) with a sprinkling of mediaeval stuff here and there, particularly the bridges.
As I said in the opening, it's a good place to base yourself if you want to explore the Gorges du Tarn.
This village was originally conceived by the Knights Templar in the 12th century but, when they fell out of favour in the 14th century with King Phillip (he owed them money) the Knights Hospitaller (Knights of St. John) took over in 1312 and included the walls and church we see today.
It's a little out of the way but the tourists flock there nonetheless, partly because it's worthwhile seeing and partly because the buses can get there.
We were also lucky enough to see the sheep get herded through the adjacent village while we were there, just after I took the picture of them.
You can walk the ramparts when you get in there but it costs. I can say that you do get the best views from up there though.
Most houses are equipped with an exterior staircase, allowing access to balconies and upstairs living quarters.
This is one of France's prettiest villages and I regret not taking a picture of the sign explaining the tower when I was there because I can't find any information on the internet.
Still, my brief walk around the village was enjoyable and the views from beside the tower are exceptional. Then again, any views in the gorge can be thus labelled!
After the Roman domination, which saw the foundation of Meyrueis and the installation of potters in Rozier, the Francs, the Visigoths and then Saracens disputed the area. As of the Early middle ages some powerful families, the Old one of Anduze with Meyrueis in Rozier, cut great strongholds.
In parallel the Benedictines, installed in the valleys reflecting the value of the soil by important clearings. Thus were born the majority from the villages of Causses.
With the demographic rise of XIIe century and the technological developments, the country entered the commercial era. The merchants took steps in the community of Meyrueis, obtaining the introduction of active fairs and especially a broad municipal autonomy.
Consequently, the chief town acts as small capital of the area. However, the administrative and religious barriers, inherited from antiquity continued, throughout the Old Mode to quarter the canton between the provinces of Gévaudan and Languedoc and the dioceses of Mende and Nimes.
The 100 year old War, the Great Plague, then the Wars of religion in XVI and XVII centuries continued the processions of misfortunes. The processions remains were marked by an economic development, based on agriculture, but also the trade and the textile (wool, cotton-spinning and silk) and by religious persecutions in the Cevennes part of the country.
The Revolution officially reunified the canton by integrating it into the new department of Lozere. The Causses survived during this period of the difficult times because the population had remained faithful to the King and the Church.
The XIX century was the era of industrial prosperity for Meyrueis (Hat industries, spinning mills, nail factories, mines…) then decline. From 1850, the canton periodically saw decreases in its population and étioler its activities. Tourism took over partly from 1890.
The War of 1914-18 made cuts among the male population which worsened of as the war was prolonged.
World War II also knew tragic hours with the combat of the Parade (May 44). In the last decades, great progress of equipment was made: roads, water conveyance on Causses and the agricultural profession, in spite of the difficulties knew to follow the evolution.
It is thus a little populated country, alive under rather harsh conditions but dynamic and full of hope in the 3rd millenium.
Causses simply means "high places" and there are a lot of them above the gorges that most people come to see. This is the land that the rivers cut through but there are villages up there, though they are small and of relatively recent origin.
For me, they are hauntingly attractive places. During the winter it must be absolutely freezing up there but it was simply cold during the times I spent up there. Also up here are crosses that you come across from time to time.
The Causse Noir (Black Causse) is located in Aveyron department of France in the Massif Central area (Central Range). From 1996 it was included in the Grands Causses Regional Park to preserve both natural resourses and ancient heritage of the land. The Causse Noir is fully encircled by cliffs overhanging the Gorges de la Jonte, Dourbie and Trevezel. The Causse Noir is well know for Montpellier-le-Vieux, a natural area of chaotic jagged rocks full of fanciful formation caused by water erosion over the Limestone plateau. Also, many great caves as the famous "Grotte de Dargilan" occurs in the area.
On the western edge of the Cevennes National Park at the junction of the Dourbie and Trevezel rivers stands Cantobre, built on the site of a 12th century Castle. The generally south-facing village is situated some 580 meters above sea level, which gives it clear hot sunny days with cooler pleasant evenings.
The castle was destroyed during the religious wars of the 17th century and the present village has evolved over the centuries as a home for the peasants who worked the terraced hillsides and in the local small mines. The village suffered in the middle of the last century from de-population brought about by the end of mining and the general movement from countryside to town.
In the second half of the last century water, telephones and reliable electricity were brought to the village and over the past 30 years the village has again blossomed with the 25 houses of the village being steadily rebuilt, renovated and modernized. The whole village still retains its ancient aspect, which is tightly controlled by the ’Batiments de France’.
The village skyline is dominated by its 12th Century village church, and the weird rock formations. The village remains a working community with the village gardens spilling down the hillside below the village towards the Dourbie River.
The village has no shops, however, several visiting tradesmen who supply its daily needs serve the village. The local small town, Nant, is only a 10-minute drive away and is amply served with shops, bars and restaurants. The nearest large town, Millau, is 25 Km away through the Gorges of the Dourbie and has all the facilities you would expect from a town dedicated to the tourist.
In the scheme of French chateaux, Roquedols is well down on the list but, it's where it is that makes it a little unique.
Set in woodland at one end of Meyrueis it's a little treat for those who venture alongside the stream that's beside the Rue du Barriere. You simply follow it upstream until you get to the chateau.
From what I can ascertain, it's currently owned by the forestry people who, understandably I guess, don't have much interest in maintaining it which is a shame because the exterior is better preserved that all the chateaux I have visited so far in France.
It takes about 20 easy minutes to walk there or you can drive your car to about 300 metres from the grounds.
The small garden with trimmed hedges featured makes a pleasant sight as well.
It dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, but, in all probability, there was an earlier building on the site.
In 1715 the castle passed to the Smith family of Bossuges. In the nineteenth century, Baron Roquedols made a brilliant career in local politics. On the termination of the last representative of the lineage of Pages, in 1885, the barony was sold to Breuil, Dayre and Jouve. The castle was then later repaired by Dol, an industrialist family from Marseille . The area was then over-harvested by the three partners whose business wasn't going all that well.
After this the land was sold to Mr. Dol (1893). At his death, Roquedols returned to his grand-son, Gabriel Joseph-Auguste-Dol. In 1933, Gabriel Dol entered into an agreement with two timber merchants, gentlemen and Joubert Fabre, allowing them to exploit the surrounding woods for twenty-five years for use ultimately as charcoal, except for the trees around the castle. The following year, the service of Water and Forests (now NFB ) in turn received an offer to buy the manor (1934). In 1937, a decree classified 269 hectares of forest area around Roquedols under protection, then, in 1938, the deed was passed.
In 2006 it was closed to the public due to reasons of public safety with the electricity and such which, in my opinion, is a great shame.
Getting inside costs you money, though I should mention here that it's linked to other sites and you can get a discount if you have visited another of them.
The following is from my notes at the time: "So we moved around to Abime de Bramabiau, the place we’d visited days earlier that had the electricity fail. Rosemarie was crook so I went alone, actually with a dozen other tourists and guide, into the 2 star ranked attraction. Personally, I think Michelin have got it wrong. This place is a stunner.
The Bonheur (good time) river flows in at one end before it disappears and emerges as the Bramabiau (ox that roars). To be honest, I’ve never heard an ox roar but I’m certain it sounds nothing like the noise I was hearing. The fresh from all the rains echoed through the narrow cave and tingled the senses, especially when you gazed 70 metres upwards to the roof of the crevice.
In other parts it defies belief that the roof isn’t about to fall in at any moment; massive rocks are jammed in sediment that seems certain to crumble and the whole lot fall on your head. In another spot there’s a massive tree stump that came through in a flood (they have about one a decade) and ripped all the wiring out; in another there’s dinosaur footprints in the ceiling; in another a large waterfall formation of limestone; elsewhere there’s water dripping through numerous cracks (they advise you to take an umbrella or raincoat.
For me, this was caving in the raw, and I loved it!" So there you have it.
There are a couple of aspects to Abime de Bramabiau; first there's the history, then the walk down, then the actual tour inside. The first two don't cost you money.
These pictures reflect the trip down. It's a 10 minute walk if you take it slowly and you descend through a pretty forest to the Bramabiau river then walk upstream to where you wait for your tour guide.
As mentioned in the previous tip, the view alone is worth a look, here are some samples. The town you see is Meyrueis and the valley is the Gorge Jonte.
In the third picture, notice the ruins below the cliff face - extraordinary.
This is one of the better cave systems I have visited, rated 2 stars by the Michelin guide, though their literature and material claim it's a 3 star venue. It's situated on a hill that overlooks Meyrueis and is worth the short drive for the wonderful views alone.
It's the largest cave system in the Causses and Cevenne region and has some excellent formations.
"So come and see Dargilan even if you know the prettiest caves in Europe" E. A. Martel, founder of French caving remarked over a century ago. A bust of him is situated not far from the entrance to the cave.
The 20 metre tall stalagmite is often seen and featured in material about the caves but my favourite, shown in the first picture, is the so-called frozen waterfall.
The so called pink colour is more an off brown, so don't go expecting rose colours to be spouting everywhere because you'll be disappointed.
The differing colours are caused by, you won't be surprised to know, different minerals coming out of the surrounding rocks.
There are quite a few steps and it's not wheelchair friendly.