Day 4: La Charité-sur-Loire to Châteauneuf-Val-de-Bargis

Walking in France: Packing up

Packing up

Friday, 13 July 2018
Distance 26 km
Duration 5 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 357 m, descent 234 m

We had checked the bars and boulangeries of the town yesterday while waiting for the Office of Tourism to make contact with the gîte.

All the bars near the river, the really touristy ones, did not open until 8:30 or later – one of them said 11 am – but further up the street we had found one that opened at 7 am.

The boulangerie near the bridge was also good, opening at 6:30.

Accordingly we left at about 6:45, taking the footpath from the camping ground up to the bridge.

Walking in France: Leaving our island home, with last night's (now closed) pizzeria next to the bridge on the right

Leaving our island home, with last night’s pizzeria (now closed) next to the bridge on the right

This side of the river was as quiet as the tomb, except for two elderly fishermen pushing their boat off into the current, a scene that would not have looked out of place centuries before.

On the mainland (so to speak) we collected a bag of warm pastries and were at the bar at 5 past 7, but we were not at all the first customers.

Walking in France: La Charité's early opening bar

The early opening bar in La Charité

The place was half full of relaxed looking locals with tiny black coffees in front of them.

We, on the other hand, covered the whole table top with our pastries, our maps and our large milky coffees. However we only had one cup each, as we had hopes of refreshments along the way.


Walking in France: Breakfast

Breakfast


At the top of the town, the road swerved off, but we continued straight ahead and ducked under the railway line via a pedestrian tunnel.

Rejoining the road, we passed beneath the mighty N7 and immediately turned left, following the red and white marks of the GR654.

Walking in France: Passing through beautiful countryside on the GR654

Passing through beautiful countryside on the GR654

Walking in France: More beautiful walking!

More beautiful countryside

We were in a great expanse of newly-cut wheat, with hedges separating the blonde, combed fields.

Soon after that the landscape turned green, and the track was shaded by ancient oaks.

Walking in France: Approaching the village of Raveau

Approaching the village of Raveau


We passed a graveyard and came to the village of Raveau.

Just as we were about to turn in the direction of the GR, we saw someone coming from the other direction carrying a baguette, so we went to investigate.

Walking in France: On the tiny terrace of the épicerie/bar in Raveau

On the tiny terrace of the épicerie/bar in Raveau


There was indeed a boulangerie nearby, and better still, a little épicerie/bar with a tiny terrace.

The grave, silent barwoman brought our coffee in paper cups and Keith dashed next door for one more croissant (I still had one from breakfast).

We were starting to wonder whether there was a medical condition caused by an overdose of croissants.

Walking in France: Second breakfast in Raveau

Second breakfast in Raveau


Keith went in to pay and was amazed to receive a dazzling smile from the woman.

Walking in France: In the vast forest of the Bertranges

In the vast forest of the Bertranges

Then we continued on our way, or rather, we took another way, parallel to the GR and slightly shorter, through the vast deciduous forest of the Bertranges.

At first the track was overgrown, but soon it became the usual straight forestry road, rising through the featureless ocean of trees.

We counted off the side alleys as we passed them, in an effort to keep track of where we were.

It was a relief to reach a bitumen road at the top and reconnect with the GR.

About an hour later, most of it on tracks, we came out of the forest and climbed a hillside full of wheat before dropping into the hamlet of Chasnay, a pretty little place on a stream.


Walking in France: Near Chasnay, and disappointment

On the way to Chasnay, and disappointment

Walking in France: Leaving Chasnay

Leaving Chasnay

This was where we had hoped to find a bar, but it was either dead or resting, so we kept going along the GR.

At the top of the houses, a sandy wheel track curved into the valley, and on the opposite slope there were squares of vines like corduroy carpets among the pasture, green on green.

The floor of the valley was a great sweep of mown wheat, and behind us the forest loomed.

Walking in France: Back in the forest

Back in the forest


We entered this forest at the head of the valley and were very grateful for the GR marks, as the path was sometimes obliterated by fallen branches.

At one such blockage we met a man struggling downhill over a mass of vegetation, with his bike held aloft.

He was not a pilgrim, just a cyclist out for the day, and he lived at Pouilly-sur-Loire, having escaped, as he put it, from his life in Paris.

Walking in France: Final climb of the day

Final climb of the day


Despite the occasional impediment, most of the track was good, and an hour after entering the forest we came to the end of it, just as a straggling troop of uniformed teenagers of both sexes was coming the other way, bound for the gîte at Arbousse, they said.

We emerged at the top of a great pale swathe of wheat stubble, glaringly hot after the forest. It was 1:30 pm and we were getting tired, but luckily we only had a couple of kilometres to go.

Walking in France: Just a few more kilometres to Châteauneuf-Val-de-Bargis

Just a few more kilometres to Châteauneuf-Val-de-Bargis


We arrived in Châteauneuf-Val-de-Bargis on the highway (the N151), and found the bar where we were to pick up the key for the gîte, just opposite the Mairie.

It was called la Halte de Campagne and was overflowing with people having lunch under umbrellas. It was not the right moment to approach the patron for the gîte key, but we did.

He distractedly told us to get a key from the boulangerie down the street. but when we got there the place was shut.

Walking in France: La Halte de Campagne, Châteauneuf-Val-de-Bargis

La Halte de Campagne, Châteauneuf-Val-de-Bargis

Walking in France: Our bedroom in the gîte

Our bedroom in the gîte

Back at the bar, the harassed patron finally handed over the key and said to come back later to do the paperwork.

The only trouble was that we did not know where the gîte was, except that it was somewhere across the road.

There was much activity in the courtyard of the Mairie as workmen assembled canopies and trestle tables for the great loyal feast of Bastille Day tomorrow.

We looked in vain for signs of the gîte, and the workmen did not know, so we eventually had to shout up to someone at a high window of the Mairie, who pointed us down a lane.

Walking in France: Aperitifs at la Halte de Campagne

Aperitifs at la Halte de Campagne


At last we saw a low doorway with the familiar gîte sign, and it opened without the key. The locked door was at the back, in a small enclosed garden.

Inside, the place was a riot of colour, every room different, with three bunk rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. It was completely empty except for us, and remained so for the duration.

After showers, we went back to the bar to hand over our €20.

We also tried to give back the key, saying that we did not need to lock ourselves in at night, but the patron was so scandalised that we did not insist.

Walking in France: Relaxing in the gîte's garden

Relaxing in the gîte’s garden

He said that it was lucky we had not arrived the previous night, when there had been 14 scouts in residence – presumably the ones we had passed on the track.

After aperitifs, we walked to the Petit Casino and got enough picnic food for two nights – this one and the next.

We bought salad ingredients, a baguette, two bottles of wine, a tin of ratatouille, a jar of terrine and a shallot, which was so small that the shopkeeper smilingly gave it to us as a present.

Walking in France: The ingredients of our dinner on the gîte's kitchen table, Châteauneuf-Val-de-Bargis

The ingredients of our dinner on the gîte’s kitchen table


Back at the gîte, we relaxed in the garden, which was weedy but charming, and then had dinner in the kitchen.

The gas stove did not work but there was a microwave in which we heated up the gratinée from last night to add to the table.

In the fridge we found a bottle of Orangina only sightly consumed, so we helped ourselves to that also.

After this fine little feast, we slept together quite comfortably in one lower bunk.