A few road trips in France
From the Cévennes of Stevenson to the Provence of Peter Mayle and the Paris of Hemingway, explore a few French regions through the eyes of three English-speaking writers.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the pioneer
In autumn 1878, in order to forget a heartbreak, Robert Louis Stevenson decided to cross the Cévennes Mountains by foot. He was helped in his trip by Modestine, a donkey he had bought for "65 francs and a glass of spirit". In his travel log, the Scottish writer describes a country where Catholics and Protestants live in peace, which had not always been the case. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes intertwines the story of a traveller in the 19th century with the story of the protestant uprising that exploded in the mountains in the early 18th century.
The book became a landmark as one of the first works illustrating a new genre: outdoor literature. After Stevenson's death, his fame grew, and his travel became a tourist attraction. Today, you can still walk the GR70 trail, commonly known as the "Stevenson Trail".
Hemingway and the lost generation
During the 20's, Paris was the largest cultural capital in the world. Artists and aristocrats from all over the world would jumble together in search of distractions and inspiration. During this period, the poet and benefactor Gerturde Stein supported a group of American authors as brilliant as disoriented. She would call them "the lost generation".
Among them was Ernest Hemingway. He had just given up his occupation as a journalist and was trying to make a livelihood out of his writings with Hadley, his wife at the time. He tells his bohemian life in A Moveable Feast: his portrait of Paris overflowing with energy fuelled even more the international reputation of the French capital.
Peter Mayle, the hectic life of an Englishman
A British retired publicist, Peter Mayle settled in the Provence region with his wife in the 80's. He was supposed to write a novel, but caught between the jokes of the workers building his house, the local truffles bootleggers, his neighbour's wayward donkey and a thousand other distractions, he realized life in Provence was too much fun to have the time to write. Eventually, he wrote the tale of his new life.
Gradually, word-of-mouth changed A year in Provence in a huge literary success. Readers from the UK or other love to see the (bad) habits of the French so well shelled out. Once again, the masterpiece drew many visitors... To the point that Mayle's neighbours complain that he's often the reason behind the bread shortage in the local boulangerie!