La Bastide-Puylaurent in Lozere

At La Bastide-Puylaurent, in the heart of Lozère, these sturdy men and their mules transported goods, food, mail, and sometimes even travelers, across steep valleys and snow-covered passes.

Les muletiers à La Bastide-PuylaurentMaultiertreiber in La Bastide-Puylaurent


Mule drivers at La Bastide-Puylaurent

Mule drivers at La Bastide-Puylaurent

Mule drivers at La Bastide-Puylaurent 1The table that Mazon provided us about the Muleteers highlights the picturesque nature of these characters. Let’s listen to it: "The muleteer always wore a scarlet red woolen cap on his head, a cap that was customary to keep on even in any honorable company, including at church. On this cap, a heavy and wide felt hat, with broad brims that could be folded down like a parasol in sunny, snowy, or rainy weather, and raised into a bicorne shape when it was necessary to go against the wind.

This hat was sometimes adorned with a red cordillera and a tassel of the same color. The muleteers tied their hair into a queue behind their backs and only reluctantly allowed this venerable appendage to be cut off. During the Restoration period, without exception, they still wore it, and many had retained it after 1830. Like the boatmen of the Rhône, they had their ears adorned with sturdy gold rings, with the difference that an anchor hung from these rings for the boatmen, while the muleteers had a mule shoe pendant.

Mule drivers at La Bastide-Puylaurent 2

The tie was red, and so was the waistcoat; vibrant colors were favored in the mountains. The jacket resembled that of prominent figures from the highlands, made of white cadis fabric, adorned with large copper buttons, and cut generously like a sailor’s jacket. Interestingly, it bore a remarkable resemblance to the jackets worn by the Bretons.

The breeches, made of green boutique cadis, were short and snug. The gaiters, also of the same fabric but in white, were long, richly buttoned, and secured at the knee fold by red garters adorned with a shiny buckle.

The shoes were of the Marlborough style, heavily reinforced with iron, and each equipped with three leather earpieces to hold the gaiters in place.

A vivid red woolen belt encircled the waist, folded two or three times. Even the most modest of Cévennes muleteers was more impressively cinched in red than any commissioner of the Convention or the Paris Commune. And atop this attire, in times of rain, snow, or cold, the muleteers donned the mantle of the mountain folk, commonly known as the cape or sometimes the limousine.

Mule drivers at La Bastide-Puylaurent 3It is worth noting that this traditionally colorful costume was not the only one, but Mazon seems to have described a fairly common type, at least towards the end of the heyday of the muleteers.

Even more picturesque were the mules grouped into teams, known as “couples,” which could sometimes exceed twenty-five heads. Each mule could carry wine in two containers: “boutes” if made from cowhide, or “ouïres” if made from goat skin, each with a capacity ranging from 70 to 80 liters. Each beast was strongly and richly adorned.

Let’s listen to Mazon once more: “Three copper plates, approximately 15 cm in diameter and rounded in shape, adorned the upper part of the head. One lay flat against the forehead, while the other two, positioned on the right and left temples, were accompanied by red woolen tassels that floated in the intervals. These plates were called ‘lunettes’ by the common folk and ‘phalères’ by antiquarians. They had a powerful effect, especially when the couple paraded under the rays of a scorching sun. It was a true spectacle of flashes and brilliance…” But the most beautiful ornament of the mule, at least the most conspicuous, was the long and splendid red woolen plume, standing a foot high, which rose between the animal’s two ears and completed its theatrical decoration. These muleteers are almost all mountain people known as “padgels.”

The main places of origin for the muleteers include Luc, La Veyrune, La Bastide-Puylaurent, Les Huttes, St Laurent-les-Bains, La Garde-Guérin, Altier, Villefort, St Etienne-de-Lugdarès, Loubaresse, and Le Petit-Paris (which is in Montselgues).


Mule drivers at La Bastide-Puylaurent 4Long ago, when roads were still dirt trails and the Cévennes mountains jealously guarded their secrets, the muleteers were the discreet heroes of these wild lands.

In La Bastide-Puylaurent, at the heart of Lozère, these sturdy men and their mules were essential links in the logistical chain. They transported goods, provisions, mail, and sometimes even travelers through steep valleys and snow-covered mountain passes. Their mules, faithful companions, knew every stone of the path, every turn, every ravine.

The inn in La Bastide-Puylaurent served as their refuge. It was there that they gathered after long days of labor, exchanging stories around the crackling fire. The muleteers came from all walks of life: valley peasants, seasoned mountaineers, and adventurers seeking a bit of fortune. They shared their joys and sorrows, their exploits and setbacks.

Mule drivers at La Bastide-Puylaurent 5Once upon a time, a young muleteer named Pierre arrived in La Bastide-Puylaurent. He was different from the others: dreamy, curious, hungry for discoveries. His mule, baptized Étoile (Star), had a coat as immaculate white as mountain lakes, and eyes as deep as the valleys they traversed. Together, they roamed the trails—Pierre singing ancient ballads, Étoile nodding her head in rhythm.

An exceptionally harsh winter descended upon the Cévennes. Snow blanketed everything, isolating La Bastide-Puylaurent from the rest of the world. The muleteers were stranded, their mules confined to the stables. Pierre and Étoile spent weeks at the inn, waiting for the weather to improve.

It was there that Pierre met Marie, the innkeeper’s daughter. Her eyes sparkled like the stars above the mountains. She regaled him with local legends—the woodland spirits, the fairies hidden in caves. Pierre listened, captivated, while Étoile dozed by the fireside.

When spring finally melted the snow, Pierre and Étoile resumed their journey. But this time, they weren’t alone. Marie joined them, riding her own mule. Together, they explored the valleys, uncovering hidden treasures, crystal-clear waterfalls, and breathtaking landscapes. The muleteers of La Bastide-Puylaurent had a new tale to tell: that of Pierre, Étoile, and Marie—a trio inseparable, who found love amidst the heart of the mountains. Their laughter echoed through the valleys, mingling with the sound of hooves on ancient paths.

Even today, as you wander through the Cévennes, you might encounter a white-coated mule and a couple hand in hand. No one knows if it’s the ghost of Pierre, Étoile, and Marie, or simply the spirit of those muleteers still watching over La Bastide-Puylaurent.


L'Etoile Guest-House between Cevennes, Ardeche and Lozere in the South of France

Old romantic Hotel, L'Etoile Guest-House is a mountain retreat in the South of France. With a beautiful park along the Allier River, L'Etoile Guesthouse is located in La Bastide-Puylaurent between Lozere, Ardeche and Cevennes. Hiking trails: GR®70 Stevenson trail, GR®700 Regordane way (St Gilles trail), GR®7, GR®72, GR®470 Allier river trail. Hiking loops: Cevenol, Ardechoise, Margeride. The right place to relax.