Sunday, 29 May 2005
Distance 19 km
Duration 3 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 101 m, descent 126 m
Map 26 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
After being pampered by our friends who live in Paris, we left on the train from Austerlitz. There was a momentary panic when we tried to use the automatic ticket machine (billetterie) and had our credit card swallowed.
A courteous Frenchman holding a bunch of flowers helped us to get it back by explaining our predicament to the staff. He was keen to speak English, and said that he would be voting yes in the referendum for the European constitution, as he did not want France ruled by fear. Both he and we missed our trains but there were others.
The urban fringe, blighted and graffiti-smeared, nevertheless showed the promise of spring – every inch of waste ground was cloaked in nodding flowers.
Further out, people were working in their allotments beside the railway line, or eating Sunday lunch at plastic tables behind their houses. The greenery of the fields and woods was shockingly rich to Australian eyes, and small villages floated like islands in a green sea.
We changed at Orléans and got out at Blois, where we stood like lost lambs, finally seeing a town map which directed us to the centre.
Behind the château was an elevated square dedicated to tourism, with ticket booths, horse-drawn cabs, a motorised monster that appeared at the windows of a palace, and acres of café tables, one of which we occupied.
Thus fortified, we went to the Office of Tourism and were horrified to discover that the nearest camping was 9kms away in the wrong direction.
The nearest in the downstream direction was at Candé-sur-Beuvron, only about 10kms away we were told, but it turned out more like 20. It was already 4:30 pm.
Crossing the Loire, we picked up some GR marks but abandoned them when they set off up the slope. We decided to take the cycle path beside the river, as a quicker way.
It was a fine flat walk, past young wheat, barley and maize, lined with red poppies. It took us away from the river to Chailles, where we reconnected with the GR and continued through the fields until we came to a bend in the road and a château.
This was Madon, still several kilometres short of our goal, and we were feeling the strain. I had to take off my boots and apply sticking plaster to my toes, which were threatening to blister.
It was late and sprinkling with rain when we descended into Candé-sur-Beuvron and the village was a beautiful sight with its church tower and the welcoming lights of the hotel and the bar.
I asked about the camping ground and was pointed over the stone footbridge in the direction of the forest. Fortunately we did not have far to go before we found it, fully functioning and well-populated, with a restaurant in the grounds for good measure.
After getting the tent up and having showers, we spent the rest of the evening in this cosy place. Our fellow diners were all foreigners of one sort or another. We had lasagne with salad, bread and a carafe of wine, very satisfying.
During the night the rain sounded loud and we could only hope that the wind would not come up, as we had not got the pegs very far into the gravelly ground.