L'Etoile Maison d'hôtes

Our journey to discover authentic France

Notre voyage à la découverte de la France authentique我们探索纯正法国的旅程Наше путешествие, чтобы открыть для себя настоящую Францию
Margeride in Lozère

Tom Corey, Rock Eddy Bluff Farm, Dixon, Missouri USAIn the heart of a three-week journey, we embarked on a quest. Our mission was not for gold or glory, but to uncover a fragment of the soul of France, a whisper of its essence that lay hidden, far from the well-trodden paths of Paris, the Riviera, the châteaux de la Loire, or Provence. We yearned to immerse ourselves in the distinctly French sights, sounds, and scents of the countryside. A daunting task, indeed, for a pair who spoke barely a word of French and knew little of France itself.

As if guided by the hand of destiny, we crossed paths with Philippe Papadimitriou. It was he who became our compass, guiding us towards our goal. For this, we are eternally grateful.

Tom, Philippe, his mother and Kathy on the banks of the Chassezac next to the medieval village of La Garde Guérin in LozèreOur serendipitous meeting was born from a shared passion for hospitality. Philippe, the heart and soul of La Bastide-Puylaurent in Lozere, nestled in the bosom of Southern France, and we, the proud innkeepers of a quaint establishment in Dixon, Missouri, USA. During the winter months, when his gite was closed, Philippe reached out to fellow innkeepers across the USA, proposing a unique exchange of visits to learn from one another. We were among the lucky few who received his proposal and accepted. And oh, how glad we are that we did!

The experience was a tapestry of enjoyment and education, leaving both parties forever changed. We believe we, Kathy and I, have perhaps gained the most. Our eyes were opened to a more robust view of hospitality, offering a glimpse of what could be for the American hospitality industry, which, truthfully, is becoming worn, repetitive, and over-wrought.

But let us regale you with tales of our adventure! The photograph above captures a moment in time, featuring me (Tom), Philippe, Philippe's mother, "Virgine", Kathy, and of course, "Billy" the dog. We were on a day trip to the Saturday market in Les Vans, navigating roads that twisted and turned through the canyons of the Chassezac, with rushing rivers as our constant companions.

The countryside was a canvas of awe-inspiring authenticity. Tiny stone hamlets, their terracotta roofs glowing in the sun, clung to the mountainsides. Countrymen in this part of Ardeche tended to their sheep and goats in stone biers, nestled beneath groves of chestnut trees. Vineyards clung precariously to the slopes, a testament to the tenacity of nature.

Biking along Borne valley from La Bastide-Puylaurent to Pied de BorneIn the summer, the area, known as the Cevennes, is a haven for hikers from all over France, Belgium, England, Germany, and the Netherlands. While the pleasures of hiking on the GR or GRP of Ardeche, Lozere, and Gard in the Cevennes mountains are well-known to many Europeans, they remain a hidden gem to Americans. We hope, in some small way, to change that.

In 1878, a young Robert Louis Stevenson found himself here. His journey, while not as famous as his other works, is immortalized in "Travels With A Donkey In The Cevennes."

We had reserved three weeks for our visit to France, with a few days at L'Etoile Guest-House before venturing off to explore other areas. However, we found ourselves so captivated by Philippe's warm hospitality that we ended up staying a full week. Leaving was a regret we carried with us.

In front of the Chassezac gorgesOur journey began with a car ride from Paris, departing from Gare de Lyon in our little red Citroen. To reach Philippe's gite, one could also board a train to La Bastide from Paris, or take the speedy TGV to Nimes, then back by a slower train to La Bastide. Philippe recommends the slower, more scenic through-train, as the elapsed time is nearly the same. Of course, there are even quicker options involving a combination of flying machines and trains or cars.

Just like in America, auto touring involves a choice between slow and scenic or slick and fast. We chose the former, following the yellow roads on the Michelin map. A tip for fellow travelers: forget road numbers. Instead, keep in mind the names of several towns ahead on your planned route. And always carry a detailed map.

Hiking is the main recreation around La Bastide. But with the weather being rainy and changeable in March, we toured by car and bicycle with Philippe. We suggest the following activities for a truly memorable experience.

Kathy, Philippe and TomFor a truly wonderful outing, bike 22 kilometers down the canyon to Alzons and Pied-de-Borne. The scenery is magnifique, and the gentle downward slope through small hamlets along the road lends a truly French flavor to your ride.

Pretend you are a pilgrim at Le Puy en Velay and ascend the high hill to the abbey. Saturday is market day at Les Vans, along roads down the canyon that definitely have "pucker factor". Enjoy each day awakening to the gurgle of the swift stream running beside L'Etoile.

We can't wait to return and see L'Etoile during the season when it is open for business and see Philippe in action. If you are considering a visit or an exchange with Philippe, we'll be glad to share all we know about this wonderful place.

From "A High Sunny Place". The book may be obtained at the following web address: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/rockeddy

If you plan to visit Philippe in La Bastide, let us offer any information that would assist you. Contact Tom & Kathy Corey,  Rock Eddy Bluff Farm, Dixon, Missouri USA. Email at corey@rockeddy.com or phone (573) 759-6081 (Map) Maison d'hôtes Lozère


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 GR®7, GR®70 Stevenson trail, GR®72, GR®700 Regordane way, Cevenol, GR®470 Allier river, Margeride. Many hiking loops. The right place to relax.