Saturday, 21 July 2018
Distance 22 km
Duration 4 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 32 m, descent 49 m
We had no intention of clambering all the way up to the town for breakfast, and the café at the camping ground was as slumbrous as all the other campers, so we set off in the hope of sustenance at Brienon-sur-Armançon, about ten kilometres away.
As we walked we munched on the last of the chicken from two nights ago and some bread from yesterday. It was not very sustaining but better than nothing.
We skirted the boat harbour, which had plenty of pleasure craft, and also plenty of campervans lined up along the bank, presumably avoiding the fees at the camping ground.
Then we crossed a short pont-canal and left the town behind.
It was a mild, pleasant morning for walking and there was a light mist clinging to the canal. We disturbed a pair of herons who rose on their great fluted wings and glided away.
The walk was easy and uneventful, the only things that marked our progress being a couple of locks and a railway bridge, over which a TGV train hurtled like a missile.
It was a visitation from another world.
We arrived at Brienon after two hours, although it seemed quicker than that, and from a distance it looked delightful, with its tall red-roofed houses mirrored in the canal.
At the bridge we turned into the main street, a canyon of shops leading up to the church.
We had no trouble finding a boulangerie and a bar, and proceeded to do justice to the array of pastries and the two rounds of coffee laid out in front of us.
Once again we had the local speciality, a gougère, as well as two croissants and a pain aux raisins.
As we did not have a long way to go, we spent the best part of an hour in this modest but charming bar, observing the habits of the locals, which to us always have the shine of exoticism about them.
Eventually we set off again, passing the boat harbour and continuing on the ruler-straight towpath.
There was a railway line a few metres away through the bushes, and a highway just across the water, but we felt remote from the world. That was until we got close to Migennes, with its multiplicity of railway shunting yards, sidings and lines.
In the outskirts of town we crossed over at the first bridge and passed the back of the station.
Then the canal widened and we arrived at the final lock before the canal melted into the river Yonne, its job done.
It had joined the rivers flowing into the Mediterranean with those flowing into the Atlantic, and we had now walked every inch of it.
The lock-keeper here was interested in what we were doing, but he had trouble believing that we had walked the length of the Canal de Bourgogne. I assured him that we had not done it in one continuous walk, but that did not seem to lessen his amazement.
As we made our way through the streets we kept looking for suitable restaurants (for this evening) and bars (for the morning).
There were plenty of both, but the restaurants were not very appealing and the bars did not open early enough for us.
Also they were in the wrong direction, as the camping ground was several hundred metres beyond the town and we did not feel like walking back in the morning.
On our way to the camping ground we went past an area of gigantic metal buildings, apparently devoted to refrigeration and animal slaughter, not necessarily in that order.
They towered over the remnants of a grassy meadow that had not yet been swallowed up by progress.
The camping ground was beyond the meadow, squeezed in among sports fields, and it was an attractive place, with many mature trees and flower beds, and a high cypress hedge all around.
Most of the visitors were families staying in cabins, and making good use of the playground and the swimming pool.
There was also a little café near the reception and we were pleased to discover that we could order a simple evening meal, prepared by our young host and hostess in their house nearby.
After glorious showers and a little rest, we walked a short distance back along the road and crossed the Yonne, as we knew there was a bar of some sort there.
We found it just past the bridge, predictably called le Café du Pont, and it looked lovely, but the barman said that they did not open until 9 am on Sundays, so that was the end of that idea.
During the afternoon we had coffee at the camping bar, feeling very relaxed at the thought of only one more day of walking ahead of us. At 7:30 pm we returned for dinner. Some other people were already dining there, and some were cooking on a barbecue.
After preliminary drinks in the form of a quarter-litre of Chablis, our dishes arrived, two grandes salades containing a vast selection of vegetables and meats.
We rounded these out out with a carafe of red wine and a basket of bread, which was refilled twice by our attentive host. I also smuggled six slices of baguette and some of my salad for marching food tomorrow.
While we were eating, several vans full of Slovakians arrived and occupied one of the cabins near our tent. It seemed to be some special occasion, and they celebrated loudly and happily for hours after we went to bed. To us it was no more than a lullaby as we sank into contented slumber, having finally reached the end of the canal.