July 12—Day 25: Plan de la Lai
The storm carried on through the night, with lightning and thunder and heavy rain coming and going into the early morning. When I and the others rolled out of our tents about 7:00, the sky was still grey and brooding. The group of three French hikers packed up and walked off, headed for the Crête des Gittes as I had done the day before. I set off myself, but didn’t make it far.
Just a few kilometers on I stopped at a shelter to check the weather. It had started to rain just a bit, and looked like it might get worse. A woman from the shelter motioned me to come inside, so I went in and figured I’d have a coffee while waiting. I ended up staying the rest of the day and spending the night there, the Refuge de Plan Mya. It’s a small gîte just after Refuge du Plan de la Lai, run by a family and on a farm. It was an absolutely fantastic gîte.
While the weather outside turned worse, rain and fog and storm, I stayed warm and dry indoors with four other French hikers. I’d arrived in the morning, so I was able to watch the family go about their responsibilities to manage the gîte: preparing the food, taking reservations, tidying up. It seemed to me a very nice life: working with family on a small farm, cooking traditional meals and desserts from scratch, and providing refuge for motley bands of travelers from all over, with stories and experiences to share. Likely it’s hard work, but utterly fulfilling, I think.
Lunch was served just after noon, a torte Beaufort followed by a peach crumble for me and a tarte myrtille for the others. I heard later that the woman was the director of the local organization for Beaufort cheese, and I’m telling you, it was so, so good.
The bad weather kept on most of the day, clearing up just a bit in the afternoon. I spent the time resting, making passing conversation with the others, and just lounging about. When the sun came out, which was only for an hour or so, everyone went outside to enjoy the warmth. Nice to have a day off after so many days of hiking.
Some more people arrived in the evening, other hikers and a few mountain bikers. Normally at a gîte you arrive for dinner and stay for breakfast the next day; like a bed and breakfast, but with dinner and a dormitory style sleeping area.
Dinner was a bean soup, polenta bolognese, bread and cheese, and flan. It’s all served in big portions for the table, family style, and you sit all together as a group. I was next to a group of older women hikers and their guide, all hiking the Tour du Beaufortaine. They were very friendly and we had great conversation, talking long after dinner was finished. Never mind that my French is so poor, good people can enjoy one another in any language. What got lost in translation only made us laugh.
When it came time to turn in, I and another couple went out to sleep in our tents. We hadn’t made a reservation and the place was full; the woman who managed the gîte was nice enough to let us sleep in the tents for free.
Another storm rolled in overnight, but I slept fine, full from great food and an enjoyable recovery day spent with fellow randonneurs.