A postcard from La Châtre

Dear all,

This is part nine of our French Long March, for the benefit of those readers who have only found our website in the past year.

We are in a really beautiful town today (home of George Sand, as they constantly remind us), on top of a hill with a huge stone church steeple dominating a maze of streets. There was a market in town just closing down when we stumbled in, so we we were able to buy provisions for lunch, otherwise we would have starved until the normal shops opened at 3.

We started in Cosne-sur-Loire a week ago, following one of the four classic pilgrimage routes in France, the Way of Vézelay. It was a real treat to be met off the train by a friend who lives in the area. So far we have gone about 175 km, on all sorts of tracks – canal towpaths, minor roads beside the Loire, an abandoned railway viaduct high above a valley, stony paths through vineyards and lots of grassy wheel tracks. Everything is green and abundant, but the cherries are not ripe yet, so we have not been living off the land as much as usual, but we hope we soon will be.

We have had plenty of French language practice, starting in the bus to Sydney (a French woman living in Booroowa!). We have camped most of the time, on the manicured lawns of French camping grounds, and the weather has been mild and fine, except on the three occasions when we could not camp (a hotel and two gites), when it has poured with rain each time, so we feel that St-Jacques has our interests at heart, good pilgrims that we are.

The gastronomical experience has been mixed, ranging from the elegance and hushed gentility of our Logis de France hotel in Sancoins to a tin of sausages and lentils warmed up in a gîte in the depths of the countryside near Saint-Amand-Montrond. We have eaten pizza on a balcony looking over the Loire to the great abbey at la Charité-sur-Loire, pasta on a sort of bridge over a millpond full of ducks at Cosne-sur-Loire, beautifully cooked rabbit and guinea fowl in an old riverside inn at Saint-Thibault, dinner in the kitchen of a chatty old widow in a crumbling mansion on the Canal de Berry, and last night, stodgy, indigestible pizzas (not the ones we ordered) in a shambles of a brasserie in Châteaumeillant, dominated by the television. Most of this meal ended up tossed over a hedge this morning, in case the wildlife have stronger constitutions than ours. We are hoping for a meal worthy of the French nation tonight.

We are in great health and good spirits, and if we have had the odd blister or equipment failure (shoes, mattress), we are not admitting to anything.

Finally, we love receiving your emails, but given our limited time on the net, plus the rigours of using a French keyboard, it is very difficult for us to reply. So if you don’t hear from us directly from France, we will reply when we get home.

You can contact us either via the email link on the top right hand corner of this page, or just reply to the email that originally notified you of this postcard.

With love from Keith and Jenny