The Causses and Cévennes became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 in recognition of its unique "cultural landscape". You can see more about this here.
Le Vieux Mas itself is in a tiny rural hamlet, of fewer than half a dozen houses. It is set on a hillside in about an acre of garden, meadow and woodland, and so feels remote from all hustle and bustle. It is at the end of a tiny lane, so there is no passing traffic virtually no artificial light at night, and it is almost totally quiet. The house is about 10 minutes up a winding road from le Collet de Dèze, which is on the N106 half way between Alès and Florac, within the Cévennes National Park.
Cévennes is a wonderful area for outdoor activities
such as walking, cycling and horse-riding. (It has
also become popular for travelling accompanied by a
donkey, in emulation of Robert Louis Stevenson.)
There are many marked footpaths, tracks and trails, and
you can hire equipment (or your animal of choice)
locally. The local rivers are lovely to swim in and
you can also fish - permits are available from a shop in
the village (though Alex did not have one for his early
efforts pictured here). There are tennis courts in
le Collet de Dèze and table tennis and table football at
Le Vieux Mas. In the summer there are many other
activities and attractions, such as Forest
parc a tree-top "parcours".
Some of the local villages still have a certain severity about them, but numerous museums such as the Musée du Désert record the complex history of the area, and there are some working museums such as the Maison de la Châtaigne. There is lots of very detailed information on all this at the house.
de Dèze is a busy village, with a post office, a
couple of bars and restaurants, a bakers and various other
shops including a small supermarket which sells a fair
amount of local produce. There is no need to go
further to shop, although we generally do a big weekly
shop in Alès (about 40 minutes away), which
has banks, hypermarkets and all the facilities of a busy
town. Florac (pictured, and also about 40
minutes) is a smaller town at the head of the Gorges du
Tarn, and an attractive place with an attractive market
selling local produce. There are many other markets
of varying kinds within striking distance of the
In the wider area of the Cévennes, Causses and Gorges, there is more fine walking, canoe trips to be made on the rivers, prehistoric sites to visit, as well as some of France's finest caves. The nature is wonderful, with many wild flowers in spring (including endemics) and good birdwatching. There is more about much of this on the Cévennes National Park website.
Vieux Mas is also close to some of France's most
interesting and historic towns and sites, and the
coast. Arles, where Van Gogh painted his
most famous works, has a fine Roman amphitheatre. Avignon
is a chic southern town with the papal palace (pictured)
well worth a visit. Montpellier, another gracious
city, has one of the best art galleries outside Paris. Nîmes
our nearest city, has a well preserved Roman Temple and
an attractive car-free centre. Pont
du Gard is world famous, another World Heritage
site, and needs no introduction. Uzès
is another attractive town with one of the best markets
in the region. Many of the smaller towns are worth
exploring too: for example Vézénobres
(just beyond Alès) is an attractive medieval hill town
which is the French fig capital with a festival of figs
For a contrast, the Camargue is also within easy reach. A still-fantastic wetland, you would not want to stay there, but it is within easy reach of Le Vieux Mas.
In fact all these places are between a 1 and 2 hours drive and so easy day trips.