La Cavalerie picnic areaJanuary 10 in France
The scenery on today's drive certainly kept us interested as we crossed the Massif Central mountain range. Bare trees and faded brown beech leaves covered craggy hills. Viaducts crossed ravines in which small stone built villages nestled and several tunnels plunged through inclines too steep to climb.
Adding to the vines and Egrets we saw yesterday, we began to spot another sign of southerly climes - Processional Pine Caterpillar nests! We'd first noticed them in Italy last year; off white balls of spun silk, not unlike a large spider's nest, lodged in pine trees. These caterpillars will release poisonous hairs that can produce a bad reaction, especially in dogs. We must have seen thousands of nests on our route and so needed to be mindful when taking Poppy out of the van.
As the road climbed to over 1000m there was a powdering of snow over the fields. On one particular descent below the snowline, white light peaked out from under the steely clouds on the horizon, highlighting a strip of snow covered mountains underneath. Up and down we went, the temperature dropping to 3°C, the snow becoming thick in places. Thankfully the road was in excellent condition, fully cleared of any of the white stuff.
The soil became less fertile the further south we progressed. Many of the cliffs were sandstone and consequently the houses in towns and villages we passed through were made of the same. Pollarded Plane trees lined boulevards in these urban areas. Together with the chairs and tables set up outside cafés, the effect was an undeniably French atmosphere.
The original stopover we were heading towards was a small car park off a dual carriageway on top of a high altitude plain. The turning wasn't clear and we missed it, but soon found a cosy gravel car park off a quieter road with grass, picnic tables and a pond. It was far less exposed than the first one and Poppy could even spend a bit of time off the lead. We'd decided not to drive too far today and had settled ourselves in by 2:30pm. The sun even treated us to a brief spell and we took a short walk along the nearby gravel road.
Night brought some of the most amazing stars we've ever seen. There was no moon and very little light pollution so the constellations reached down close to the horizon. Orion, the Plough and the Milky Way were all super clear, although it took Vicky a while to spot the big 'W' of Cassiopeia as there were so many other stars shining brightly around it. We stood in the cold craning our eyes skywards feeling very, very fortunate.
The sky might have started off clear but the night brought snow clouds and we woke to a few centimetres. The car park was waterlogged and Martha's wheels slipped a little as we climbed the sloped exit, but all the roads had already been well cleared and we had no problems after that.Read more