Day 7: St-Étienne-du-Bois to Montrevel-en-Bresse

Walking in France: An early start in St-Étienne-du-Bois camping ground

An early start in St-Étienne-du-Bois

Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Distance 19 km
Duration 3 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 32 m, descent 63 m
Map 143 of the TOP 100 lime-green series or
Map 142 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

An early start was called for because of the heat, so we swallowed some muesli, said goodbye to the cows across the hedge, and marched off over the hump-backed bridge at 6:30 am.

Walking in France: Leaving the St-Étienne-du-Bois camping ground

Leaving the camping ground


Having crossed the highway, we took a small road under the railway line and followed our noses towards the west, at first through farmland, then beside a pinewood, and finally on a wheel track in a deciduous forest, which was deliciously cool as long as it lasted.

We crossed a bridge over the howling A39, known as the Autoroute Verte (although it looked anything but green to us) and came out of the trees near the village of the Grands-Cours, its few houses strung out along the D996.

Walking in France: In a beautifully cool forest

In a beautifully cool forest


After crossing the highway we pressed on, picking our way through a maze of country lanes until we came to an intersection.

Straight ahead was the direct way to Montrevel, our destination, but to our right there was a village, Étrez, with a possible bar. It would mean two extra kilometres of walking but we decided to risk it.

Walking in France: Enjoying the delights of Étrez

Enjoying the delights of Étrez


Half an hour later we arrived at Étrez and it looked bad.

The boulangerie was closed on Wednesdays (i.e. today), and the bar also, but then, to our great relief, we saw another bar further along the main road, and that was functioning.

There was no outdoor area, as it was so close to the road, but we were happy to sit inside away from the heat with our coffee. It was a pity about the lack of croissants, though.

Somewhat revived, we pushed on once again, zig-zagging on tracks and tiny roads to avoid the D28.

Walking in France: Contented cows near Étrez

Contented cows near Étrez


Although it was only 9:30 am, it was already baking hot, but the walking was easy enough.

We passed fields of piebald cows, and some fine half-timbered barns with the characteristic thin bricks of old rural France.

Walking in France: Passing an old farm buildng

Passing an old farm buildng


A few kilometres of this meandering brought us to the banks of the Reyssouze, the river that skirts the town of Montrevel and whose waters form the large artificial lake on which the camping ground sits.

The path then followed every twist and turn of the river, rather annoyingly, as it was twice as far as it should have been, but we were hemmed in by sports fields and had no choice.

Walking in France: The suburbia of la Plaine Tonique camping ground, Montrevel-en-Bresse

The suburbia of la Plaine Tonique


Eventually we came to the D28, and a few metres away was the imposing entrance of the camping (la Plaine Tonique) with its forest of flags, its clipped lawns and hedges and its multi-lane entry road.

It was like a gated suburb. Beyond the barriers and the guard-house was the magnificent reception building, where a bevy of smartly dressed women attended to the arrivals.

We were allocated a place on one of named streets, several hundred metres into the depths of the place. Most of the allotments were occupied by permanent tents or cottages, and the rest by monstrous white vans.

The spot we had been given was an ill-favoured, shadeless tract of dry grass, so we hunted about until we found another empty site – jammed in between two vans but well shaded by trees – and went back to the reception to change our allocation. They were very big on paperwork here.

Walking in France: The luxury of a proper lunch, la Plaine Tonique, Montrevel-en-Bresse

The luxury of a proper lunch

By the time we had set up our tent, finished our showers and spread out our washed clothes to dry, it was after midday.

We knew there was a brasserie on the shore of the lake, so we set off to find it, going past a bathing beach, a hamburger stall, a fun park, an icecream kiosk and a boat hire place on the way.

The restaurant was on a sort of promontory and was enormous. It was packed with diners and scuttling waiters, but it was not too long before we were given a table. It was a beautiful room looking out on a great sweep of water, but not very well ventilated on such a hot day. However we were not complaining.

Walking in France: Lunch started with croquettes on a salad

Lunch started with croquettes and salad

We set to work on the lunch menu, which began with light, crisp croquettes on a salad. Breakfast had been only a mouthful of muesli, so it was indescribably delicious, the more so with fresh bread and a glass of wine.

The second course was a mushroom risotto, equally good, and we finished with coffee.

Walking in France: Followed by mushroom risotto

Followed by mushroom risotto


Then we retired to our tent and spent the afternoon lying on the grass, trying not to move in the oven-like heat.

Later we did go for a stroll, to find out whether we could take a short-cut in the morning, over a footbridge to the village (we couldn’t – there was a locked gate in the way).

Walking in France: Then a delicious dinner; salade paysanne with ham, and tagliatelle carbonara

Then a delicious dinner: salade paysanne and tagliatelle carbonara


At 8 pm we went back to the restaurant, which was once again full of people and very under-ventilated, with the plastic curtains not properly raised. It was so hot that for once in our lives we had rosé rather than red wine with dinner. Nevertheless we had another excellent meal.

This time Keith had tagliatelle carbonara (or tag carb as it is known in France), while I had a salade paysanne loaded with ham.

Walking back to the tent, we were worried about the day ahead, which threatened to be a nightmare – no end to the awful heat and 27 km to walk, with only one possible bar on the way.