Modesty forbids…

Last night’s meal was very good: a puff pastry thing with melted cheese, ham and tomato, followed by a main course of pork, butter beans and thinly sliced potatoes with cream. Then came the cheese course: a choice of “fromage dur” (me) and “fromage blanc” (Laurie). I got a nice selection of several cheeses. Laurie got a bowl of sloppy tasteless yoghurty mess and a small sachet of sugar. It was pretty unpleasant. How we laughed! Or at least I did.

Dessert was either a creamy vanilla confection or chocolate cake / brownie & cream. This was a run-of-the-mill two star hotel and the food was way above the standard you’d expect for a similar price in the UK.

Today’s walk was 23k, and the real start of Le Chemin de Stevenson. We took a look at couple of RLS-related objects and set off about a quarter to nine. The walk was pleasant – bucolic again – and had a lot less roadwork than yesterday. A fair number of ups and downs, but nothing too steep. At about 12, we arrived in the small village of Goudet and had a coffee in a local bar. I spotted a sign to a “Good Day” restaurant and Laurie commented that they had produced a rather poor pun. I was a bit slow on the uptake and he had to point out the name of the village again. How we laughed! Or at least Laurie did.

We were rather disappointed by the lack of refreshments available in the next village – Bargettes, but that only meant we were even more ready to “boire un coup (or three)” and devour a superb cheese and ham sandwich (cheese one end, ham the other) before making our way to the Gite d’Etape (slightly upgraded Youth Hostel) for the evening. The village is virtually without phone connection and any hope of there being wi-fi in the Gite was dashed.

The evening in the gite was very entertaining. Just before the meal was served, Laurie – who must have been feeling nervous about the blog – suggested nipping into the village for a Bertie. When we got back we discovered the meal – for which we were paying very little – included a carafe of wine. It later transpired that our four fellow diners seemed to consist of three teetotallers and a guy who was going to drive home after the meal. So that meant the best part of two carafes… The gite was run by a woman and a younger one who affected a cap: the food was excellent, with a distinct hand-knitted, wholemeal angle. A green salad – with brewer’s yeast, tamarind etc. – was followed by beef Bourguignon and saffron rice. At this point, cheese was offered and Laurie turned down fromage blanc after his previous experience. Commenting that he’d tried that the previous night and not found it to his taste, he was told that this stuff was the real McCoy and he must have been given factory fromage blanc last time. How we laughed. At least I did, as I tucked into my range of tasty local cheeses. Next came a nice piece of cake and a choice of coffee or vervein. I chose the latter, which was pretty vile. How we laughed. At least he did as I sipped my hell’s brew and he tucked into a cup of decent coffee. Conversation flowed: a long-haired, long-legged and long-nosed chap turned out to be a retired French GP who had travelled widely in Africa and done masses of GR routes. I managed to talk about hunting bears in Africa, until Laurie pointed out I’d said “ours” instead of “oiseau”. An easy mistake to make at that stage in the evening. Laurie says I snored. We were in a dormitory of 7. I slept well.

25th Sept

Today’s etape was from Le Bouchet to Langogne, a distance of about 26k. The weather was grey and heavily overcast, with a distinct chill. Over the last couple of days we have seen little adverts beside the track for a restaurant called variously “en-cas” and “cru-en-elle”,  neither of which made much sense. Today we found it. We went in for a coffee and possibly something to eat. It was run by a rather odd chap and a willowy young woman who is the chef. All the food is raw and “alternative”. The coffee, organic and sourced in Africa was pretty vile. Laurie elected to try a wrap: the galette he was anticipating was more like Ryvita and the contents of the wrap were raw carrots, linseed oil, alfalfa and so forth. How we laughed. At least I did, having elected not to eat: though I still had to wade through my coffee. After the meal Laurie went to the loo – not normally an event to make it into the blog – which was a dry toilet affair with sawdust instead of a flush.

Not long after this, the rain started and we had to get waterproofs on as it teemed down. We stopped in Pradelles as I said I fancied drying out a little and could do with a decent coffee. Laurie suggested we both have a beer instead. By the time we had downed our beer the rain had stopped and the last 5k to Langogne passed quickly.

Tonight we’re staying in the ModestInn, a bilingual pun based on the name of RLS’s donkey. It’s a fascinating place run by a woman called Magali, an ex pupil of the school where Laurie worked 20 years ago, when he had an exchange with Odile, though they didn’t overlap. we ate en famille with Magali, her son, and two young female students she houses during termtime. We started with a nice salad of lettuce, croutons, lardons and tomatoes, followed by locally-made sausages and gratin of potatoes. Dessert was bread and butter pudding, something I was sure I wouldn’t like, but which was very tasty. The house is quaintly old and has an ancient enamel plaque outside advertising Odile’s family’s business as wine wholesalers. Apparently the house used to be staff quarters for the business.

Before the meal, Laurie and I both dozed and he suggested going out for a Bertie later. However, he withdrew the suggestion as he reckoned my reference to his advocating a beer in Pradelles put him in a bad, though accurate, light. The problem was resolved when I proposed a Bertie as he agreed with alacrity.

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