Wednesday, April 11, 2012

France: On Stevenson’s trail: honey and horses in the Cévennes - Full Story

Ruth Styles
11th April, 2012

Robert Louis Stevenson’s account of his epic 1879 journey through the Cévennes is one of the high points of travel literature but as Ruth Styles found out, there’s still plenty to be discovered

Travel writing is supposed to be about providing a lyrical introduction to a new place or at the very least, showing a destination in a new light with a quirky angle and new things to do. But how do you do that when said destination is the Cévennes - an area so beautiful, so wild and so historic that the world and its wife have waxed poetic about it? And worse still, when the experience you’re writing about has been done before by the luminous likes of Robert Louis Stevenson?

Stevenson’s 1879 Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes was one of the first travel tomes to grab the popular imagination and paved the way for the likes of Paul Theroux, Ryszard Kapuściński and William Darymple. His adventures along a 120-mile route through some of the most beautiful countryside on Earth with only Modestine, an entertainingly cantankerous donkey, for company, make for a wonderful read. So here I am, attempting to follow in some very illustrious footsteps, with an equine adventure of my own. Not for me though, the crotchety charms of a donkey (although you still can if you want to); instead, I was in the Cévennes in pursuit of an altogether more thoroughbred beast: the Arab.

As well as being the scene of Stevenson’s 19th century adventure, the Cévennes is also famous for its purebred Arabian horses, from whose bloodlines have sprung some of history’s most famous steeds...

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