When we were planning the Robert Louis Stevenson trail we didn`t find available accommodation in the small village of St German de Calberte. So we booked a night about 3km outside of the village at the bottom of the valley. We arrived at the tiny settlement in the early afternoon and then we followed a quiet tarmac road down to the valley. There was a farm near the road and a sign indicated that our pre-booked room for the night was somewhere there. Hesitantly we approached the house along the long driveway. Vine leaves crept up to the terrace`s roof and there were jugs hanging on the stone wall.
The door was wide open, a big lazy dog was lying on the terrace. He looked up from his nap and then he put his big head back on his paws wearily. Jacint stepped into the house saying ‘hello’. Before long a lady in her fifties appeared and greeted us with a big smile and rapid French. She was a bit disappointed that we didn`t speak her language, but even though she only spoke a few word of English she remained chatty. We were offered some refreshing cold drink. She then mysteriously informed us that we were about to spend the night in a gypsy caravan. After finishing our drinks we followed the tarmac road for a few hundred meters and at the edge of the forest there was the gypsy caravan and higher up on the steep mountainside three treetop houses.
The red gypsy caravan had a small terrace overlooking the valley with the stream. The scenery was dominated by the towering mountains on the other side of the valley.
Inside the caravan there was a double bed, some shelves and a small bathroom with shower. It looked very neat.
Our host gave a satisfied smile when we expressed how much we loved the place. She told us that breakfast would be in a basket on the table on the terrace at 7:30 and after breakfast she or her husband would take us back to St German de Calberte where we could continue the trail.
She then left confirming once again that we didn`t want to buy dinner.
We changed and went down to the river where we cooled our tired feet and enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine. While the cold stream was making our feet numb the rocks around us were still radiating the heat.
As evening was approaching the tranquillity of the place and the views were begging for some wine. Regrettably we didn’t bring any so Jacint went back to the house to see if he could buy some from our hosts. He came back with a wide smile and a bottle of organic red wine from the local area. We ate the leftover baguette with some tasty duck pâté then sat on the small terrace sipping the delicious local wine. We watched as the bright day slowly gave way to the night. Soon stars dotted the sky and on the mountain across the valley only a few flickering lights were indicating that the mountainside was inhabited.
It was very quiet, only rustling leaves and a woodworm slowly making its way through the wooden wall broke the stillness as we settled down for the night in the caravan.
In the morning we woke early, feeling rested. Packing up was a well practised routine by then, and when we emerged from the caravan there was a wicker basket on the small table. It contained our breakfast of toast, home made strawberry, apricot and chestnut jam, a big thermos of coffee and a small bottle of milk.
As we were having our breakfast the residents of the treetop houses woke up. The wooden houses were higher up on the slope, well-hidden by trees. A wire rope run from a tree by the path up to each of the houses. Our hosts hang the basket of food on a hook, at the bottom of the slope and the guests pulled it up on the wire rope. It saved many steep climbs for the host and for the guests it was a fun way to get their breakfasts.
After breakfast our host drove us back to St German de Calberte, where we said our farewells and continued the trail.