L'Etoile Maison d'hôtes

In summer, hikers from France, Belgium, and the UK frequent this area. They hike trails through the rough terrain, reaching a network of gites positioned a day’s hiking distance from each other.


Coming down from La Bastide-Puylaurent

1 Coming down from La Bastide-Puylaurent in LozereThe ride down the valley to Pied-de-Borne is twenty-two kilometers. On that day, the three of us were keen for the sun and the breeze and the swooping sensation of coming off the higher country, winding down through the long, sloping valley of the River Borne. Philippe went first, peddling out of La Bastide-Puylaurent, seeming to dwarf his bicycle with his long, lanky frame. Kathy and I mounted and followed, calling to our French friend that this was not going to be a race; instead we intended to enjoy a leisurely ride in the countryside of the Cevennes. This was to be fun!

2 Coming down from La Bastide-Puylaurent in LozereSomehow Philippe was able to overcome his impulse to race pell mell down the mountain, waiting hours later at the bottom. Instead, the three of us lingered beside small streams, conversed with countrymen tending their sheep in stone biers by the side of the road. We romped beneath patterns of light streaming through overarching chestnut groves. Such a day can be recalled and played back in one’s mind years later, much like a movie reel.

How unlikely it was that we would be here in southern France on such a day with a good friend. An improbable combination of events had brought us to this place and time. If we could retrace that chain of cause and effect it would be roughly like this: Philippe, who operates a gite d’etape (an accommodation with one-half board) in an old Hotel in the south of France, has several months each year to travel. He speaks English well - the product of other events in his life. He loves adventure and meeting new people.

A year earlier he hatched a plan to use the Internet to locate guest accommodations that interested him around the world. He sent an email to each, proposing a trade; he would visit them for a week in exchange for a week at his gite. We eagerly accepted the proposal when it arrived. We knew almost nothing about him and were surprised when he showed up at our place alone with one small bag. Thus began a treasured friendship. Events leading to the long sunny ride down this valley were set in motion.

A wayside on the road… a little to eat, some wine and easy conversation. We had not been biking more than one hour when a tiny cafe appeared around a bend in the road. At a small table the conversation turned to Philippe’s past life.

3 Coming down from La Bastide-Puylaurent in LozereGliding down a long stretch of road with an idyllic panorama unfolding before me, I am reminded that in this countryside Robert Lewis Stevenson led a donkey for a prolonged journey in 1878. His book, "Travels With A Donkey In The Cevennes" is an account of his time here.
Near the road, small vineyards hang precariously from the slopes above us. Tiny stone hamlets under terra cotta roofs lay isolated on mountainsides nearby. An abbey "Notre Dame des Neiges" leans from a precipice, another caps a small hill.
In summer, hikers from France, Belgium, Germany, Nederland and the UK frequent this area. They hike trails through the rough terrain, reaching a network of gites (guesthouses) positioned a day’s hiking distance from each other. They arrive each night in time for five-course meal, an evening of companionship, and a bed. They are served breakfast in the morning, then may purchase a loaf of bread that Philippe has baked, and they are off again for a day in the mountains and another waiting gite in the evening.

The wonderful part of the ride down the Borne Valley is that it is all downhill. There is no peddling, only braking occasionally to slow your speed. I have always considered peddling a bike uphill to be a highly overrated activity. So, I am free on this day to find full pleasure from the downward twists of the road.
It was only a passing thought then - mostly a passing sensation of appreciation for the splendid day at hand. The thought was this: my life so far has conspired to give me this day on this road with this woman I married and this friend. There have been so many junctions on the path of my life and also the lives of my two companions, and today they have all intersected on this one road to Pied-de-Borne.

4 Coming down from La Bastide-Puylaurent in LozereGatherings of stone houses pass by on our downhill glide. Here, simple folks find sustenance, raise families and learn to pose few questions about their existence. I suspect that only a rare individual has made the trip to Paris. They marry when it is time -- to a person not too closely related -- and proceed straightaway with an orderly existence in the houses of their ancestors.

Yes, life decides great and small issues in their span of years. But for them it is easier; there are fewer junctions in the road. For them the list of choices is simply shorter.
It is late afternoon when we wind down into the town on the lake, the end of our cycling. Again we stretch out around a cafe table ordering food, wine, coffee. We sense the pulse of one another’s appreciation for what we have just completed. We find contentment, camaraderie. Soon, we and the bikes will return to Philippe’s gite named "L’Etoile Guesthouse" (The Star) in the small village of La Bastide-Puylaurent. But now there is time for easy conversation.

5 Coming down from La Bastide-Puylaurent in LozereI asked Philippe again about his time in America as a young man. He was eighteen when he and his brother, speaking almost no English, flew to New York and hitchhiked to California. There was gold in California, they had heard. They scratched together the money for tickets and jumped aboard the airplane.
"That was a gritty decision for someone so young,” I said.
"But, you forget Tom. I do not decide. Life decides,” he responded.
"And what has life planned for you now ?”
"I don’t know. The gite is too much.... sedentaire: I must do something where I move." Philippe stared pensively out to the lake. "We are good for something, but what..….it is difficult to know."

A few more years have ticked by since that day. The road down from La Bastide-Puylaurent remains as it was. But other roads now stretch ahead, winding up over distant, unknown horizons.
We have shared more days with Philippe when he visited to our place in the Ozarks again two years later. Always during his visits he prepares a delicious French meal for our guests and us. We hold long easy conversations about philosophical subjects and the art of living, the human condition. We canoe the river, cut firewood, plan our endeavors. Often he shows his mischievous side. One young man at a local garage went wide-eyed when Philippe confessed that he had been forced to leave France. "I am afraid that the women there want only one thing from a man. It is difficult and often I cannot resist. I must come here to America for some rest and peace."
At the garage they still speak of Philippe. By Tom Corey

From "A High Sunny Place". The book may be obtained at the following web address: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/rockeddy Coming down from La Bastide-Puylaurent in Lozere

Visit our two websites:
Philippe's in France: https://www.etoile.fr
Tom & Kathy's in Missouri (USA): http://www.rockeddy.com (Map)



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. Many hiking trails like GR7, GR70 Stevenson trail, GR72, GR700 Regordane way, Cevenol, GR470 Allier river, Margeride, Gevaudan. Many Hiking loops around L'Etoile Guesthouse. The right place to relax.

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