From Monistair to “East of Langogne…”

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A section of the Stevenson Trail, from the first day or two of our September 2023 hike…

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The last post noted that my two fellow travelers and I finally started hiking our 150 miles on the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail in France. (From Le Puy en Velay to Le Monistair on September 17, which came after my adventures in Paris and Lyon – two days each – before getting to Le Puy. Also after a first-day-hiking foot blister and a “no beer Sunday” in Monistair. )

Our second day – Monday, September 18 – we hiked 11.5 miles from Le Monistair to Bargettes. (But type that town in a search engine and you invariably get Baguettes, the “long, thin type of bread of French origin.”) But Bargettes is a small town right on the N88 highway, halfway between Goudet and Le Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas. Then on Tuesday we hiked 11 miles from Le Bouchet to “Arquejols,” and on September 20 (Wednesday), 10.5 miles to “east of Langogne.” That totaled up to our first four days hiking, and after we got to “east of Langogne” we got to take our first day off – of two – on the 15-day hike. And we were ready.

Besides, after that one day off we had to go for six straight days of hiking, which included one day of close to 14 miles. (Actually 13.8, but it felt like 14. And BTW: You figure how far to hike in a day according to how far it is to the next available lodging.)

And now for some housekeeping notes, including our normal line of march. Tom takes the lead, since he made the reservations and knows where we’re headed. Then comes Carol, and then I bring up the rear. (That habit is so ingrained since the 2017 Camino that I get nervous if Carol sometimes falls behind; she likes to take pictures of all the exotic doorways we see along the way.) And speaking of pictures, I use my 5.5×8-inch Amazon Fire tablet.

I can take fairly good pictures with it, and then once we settle in for the night I can post the pictures on Facebook, along with some written notes both “to the folks back home” and for later use. (As when writing a travel book.) I carry the tablet always at the ready in my “it’s European” small carry-case. (It only looks like a purse to some unenlightened folk.) With the backpack on I sling the carry-case over my shoulder, hanging just above my waist. In town, without the pack I shorten the strap and wrap it around my waist. (Also for easy access.)

But back to the second day’s hike, from Monistair to Bargettes. From what I remember there was no internet in Bargettes, so I had to wait until Tuesday, September 19, to post this:

Good morning from Le Bouchet St. Nicholas. A nice change of pace, hiking here from Bargettes. Relatively smooth path, for a BIG change. Made good time, maybe two miles an hour, not the usual mile and a half per hour the first two days. Once here, [I had] a cafe creme and tiramisu. (I’ll burn off the calories.)

Which gives you an idea how fast you can expect to go on a Camino hike, if the path is smooth and level, as opposed to steep and strewn with rocks. Also, I find that going down a steep and rock-strewn path is a lot tougher on the knees than going uphill. Which brings up “fear of falling.” Somewhere along an earlier Camino I came up with the idea, “If you do fall, fall backwards. The pack will cushion you.” Which turned out to be a bit of foreshadowing…

For another thing, there aren’t a lot of outside influences to occupy your mind on a Camino. But that’s one of its main charms, for some of us anyway. Back home, all the phone messages to check, projects to complete, people and deadlines to meet. But on a Camino, life is reduced to an utter simplicity. You have lots of time to think, to ponder and to remember, at least when you’re not occupied with planning your next step so you don’t slip and fall. Then there are those awe-inspiring mountain vistas (for which you pay a price). But the highlights tend to be stops along a day’s hike, or the end of a day itself. Like that cafe creme and tiramisu in Le Bouchet, or earlier that day, a late lunch in Goudet. Of “sliced tomatoes, hard salami, along with bread and some gray mystery stuff. I didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t have much flavor.”

Still, I did get to enjoy a beer in Goudet, nestled as it is right next to the headwaters of the Loire River. (Narrow and rock-strewn, before it widens and flows northwest to Orleans, then west to the Atlantic.) I could do that because it was after the noon hour, according to a hard and fast rule I now have; “never have a beer on a Camino hike before the noon hour.” (Possibly because of that incident on the 2017 Camino Frances when – after a before-noon liquid lunch – my mountain bike ran me into a steep-sided ditch with lots of brambles.) But we digress.

One thing I do remember from those first two night-stops was the rules and regulations we had to follow. In Bargettes we had to leave our shoes and packs downstairs, and the lady who ran the place was a “light fanatic.” (I wrote a more spicy term in my notes, but “discretion is the better part of valor.” Plus I might want to go back there some day.) Anyway, you had to turn off all lights when you left your room. I forgot – one time – and Tom got no little grief about that. All of which led to this post on Wednesday morning, September 20, at “Arquejols:”

No restrictions like the [first] two nights. Turn off all lights when you leave a room, leave your pack downstairs, wipe your feet, or [having to] climb four STEEP flights of very narrow stairs, with your 20-pound pack scraping both sides of the stairwell, all on feet and legs sore from hiking all day. Not that I’m complaining mind you! It’s just that I appreciated the wide open space for a change.

Which brings up Arquejols and “camping above the clouds.” One much-appreciated part of that third-night stop was “much room to spread out.” And I well remember how we stumbled on to that place. It was Tuesday afternoon, the 19th, getting near the end of the day’s hike. As always I depended on Tom or Carol or both to guide us in to our lodging, which this night (I’d heard) was some kind of campground. The sun was bright, the day had warmed up nicely, the path was smooth and heading just slightly downhill. There were grasslands on each side of the path, when looking off to my right I saw what looked like a tipi, which seemed out of place. Tom and Carol had hiked on ahead when something clicked in my brain. I’d seen my share of tourist-friendly campgrounds back in the states. I called out to Tom, “Could this be it?” And it was.

From what I can tell there is no town of Arquejols, which doesn’t have a French-to-English translation either. The website for the place is Camping | Camping Au-Delà des Nuages | Rauret. It speaks of eco-camping “beyond the clouds,” along with living in harmony with nature. What I saw was four wide-set-apart cabins, two to sleep in – one for Carol, the other for Tom and I – along with one with a kitchen for meals, and the fourth combining a shower, wash basins, “WC” and a clothes washer. I noted that it was “too primitive for some, but for me the camping spelled ‘freedom.'” Still, I didn’t get the “above the clouds” bit until the next morning.

Wednesday morning, the 20th, was chilly as it had been. (Fortunately that Gorton Fisherman raid jacket provided a lot of warmth.) Then, gearing up and getting ready I stepped outside and looked to the south, where we were ultimately heading. Look south past the dirt path, through the wheat-grassy camping-yard area, all you could see was blue. The distant Cevennes Mountains beckoned, cloaked in deep blue, and in between us and our ultimate mountain-path destination was a thick layer of level clouds. (We were a lot higher-up than I’d thought.)

It was lovely, that morning, being above the clouds as we were, but it was time to get moving along. “Tomorrow we get to take a day off from hiking!” And we were ready.

I’ll write more about the pleasures and pitfalls of the actual hike later, but now it’s time to get on to “East of Langogne.” Incidentally, Google Maps has the distance between “Camping Nature Beyond the Clouds, Arquejols” and Langogne as just a tad over nine miles. And supposedly taking a mere three and a half hours to hike, but I’m not sure that’s the GR-70 way. (When driving I always add 20 percent to Google Map estimates. I figure they figure you’re driving like a bat outta hell and there are no traffic tie-ups.) But we had a very nice lunch on the way.

That highlight-nice lunch was in Pradelles. Of that town Stevenson wrote, “Pradelles stands on a hillside, high above the Allier (river), surrounded by rich meadows.” He experienced an “ungustly smell of hay” the day he passed through, on a “gusty autumn morning.” (Indeed.) He was now “upon the limit of Velay,” the district, and beheld “wild Gevaudan, mountainous, uncultivated, and but recently deforested.” And home to the Beast of Gévaudan, the “Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves.” But we saw no such terrors. (Not yet anyway.)

According to Google Maps, Pradelles is a little over 5.3 miles from the campground and 3.5 miles to Langogne. (Called one of France’s “most beautiful villages” and in fact the only “most beautiful village” along the Chemin de Stevenson.) For a total of 8.8 miles, but Tom calculated the distance at 10.5 miles. Either way, we ended up getting lost and having to backtrack, but that’s a tale for a bit later. First, one of the gastronomic highlights of the hike.

In Pradelles we stumbled on a mom and pop restaurant, Brasserie du Musée. A lot of locals go there, but the day we were there there was “only one poor lady waitress.” We had to wait a half hour, but it turned out worth the wait. If I remember right the first course was a salad, but the second course was rice and something like pork loin. Carol talked to the waitress and learned the dish was called: “Araignee de pore sauce tomate.” Otherwise known as: “Pork spider marinated in thyme, lemon and fresh green pepper & sautéed tomatoes and onion.” (There’s a link in the Notes.) I thought that was delicious, but then came the dessert course. I noted, “As often happens this trip, not sure what it was, but tasted GOOOOD!” But then Carol talked to the waitress, who indicated it was something like “pate apricot crème sucre???”

Carol said the second course and dessert were both authentic regional dishes, and I believed it. “That’s why we ‘hike for many days in a strange land!’ The challenge, the adventure, the food.”

But then it was time to get back on the trail. Langogne was only 3.5 miles away, a short hike, so “what could go wrong?” (Unless it was some more of that “gang aft aglay” stuff.)

But that’s a story for next time…

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Is this what we headed to, “east of Langogne,” away from all apparent civilization?

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The upper image is courtesy of my Kindle tablet. (I took the picture.)

The “East of Langogne” in the title is a nod of sorts to the Steinbeck novel, East of Eden. Which is appropriate because that day off in Brugeyrolles really was “heavenly,” like the Garden of Eden.  

Re: “It’s European.” From an old Seinfeld episode where Jerry has a carry case that New Yorkers keep saying looks like a woman’s purse.

Back in Le Puy to Monistair – finally, we’re hiking. I wrote there that, “Looking back on the hike I didn’t take as many descriptive notes as I should have.” Actually I did, but those notes were in a journal I just discovered, on or about May 7, 2024. I had been running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, wondering where I put my journal for 2023 journal. As it turned out, I couldn’t find it because I was looking for the wrong book format. All my earlier yearly journals have been 8×10 inches, but somehow – when I ordered one for 2023 – it came in a smaller format, six-by-eight-and-a-half inches. That’s why I opted to carry it along in my pack, rather than writing things in a smaller notebook, then transcribing all that into the regular journal once I got home. And as it also turns out, I did write a lot of usable notes in the smaller journal. The long and short of all this is that I’ll have to update that “Le Puy to Monistair” post, and also go back into the Stevenson Trail book I’m writing up for Christmas, adding in all the interesting details from the journal that I left out before finding it.

The Loire is the longest river in France, according to Wikipedia.

On the plus at Bargettes, “Dinner was good and filling. 3 courses. Salad. Pork loin and veggie dish, saucy and good. And fruit cup. BIG fruit cup.”

Pradelles stands on a hillside.” From page 18 of my Kindle PDF of the Stevenson book. Back on page 14 Stevenson wrote that the “auberge of Bouchet St. Nicholas was among the least pretentious I have ever visited, but I saw many more of the like on my journey.” A two-story cottage, “cheek by jowl” (my phrase, meaning crowded with people), a sleeping-room with two beds; he slept in one and “a young man and his wife and child” slept in the other. (Or as in “positioned very close together.”)

See Pradelles (Chemin de Stevenson) – I Love Walking In France. The “pork spider” link,…/15462173-araignee-de-porc-marinee. The dessert link,

The full title in French for the place we stayed east of Langogne was “Les Cremades Chambres d’hotes Gite d’etape.” And “Brugeyrolles” is not to be confused with Brugairolles, a commune in the way-south of France. Wikipedia. But that comes up in the next post…

The lower image is courtesy of blog with one sub-title, “Reflections of a Tamed Cynic,” including this thought:

Sailing into uncertain waters was dangerous, and not everyone who set out came back. Mutinies were not unusual, and interactions with the locals was sometimes fatal. But the worst part was moving ahead, and not really knowing where you were going.

(Emphasis added.) Which BTW is how I felt after leaving Langogne – later that afternoon, after lunching in Pradelles – and heading somewhere into the unknown, seemingly uninhabited “east…”

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