Day 1: Auxerre to Vincelles

Friday, 30 June 2006
Distance 16 km
Duration 3 hours 10 minutes
Ascent 27 m, descent 15 m
Map 28 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)

The Yonne

For some reason we slept in this morning and the camp was buzzing with activity before we left. Usually we creep away from a silent scene, but this morning we engaged in several conversations in English, a rare treat.

The first part of the walk was just a continuation of the built-up road southwards out of town that we had taken yesterday to reach the camping. After a few blocks we noticed something that would have been handy yesterday – a shady path beside the river – and there was a lane leading down to it.

From then on we stayed close to the river. The Yonne is flanked, all the way upstream from Auxerre, by the Canal du Nivernais. In places they merge, in other places the canal cuts out sections of the meandering river.

Walking in France: Across the Yonne to Vaux and the inn where we had our first coffee

Across the Yonne to Vaux and the inn where we had our first coffee

Apart from the occasional fisherman dreaming beside the glassy water we saw no-one until, passing a couple of locks, we arrived at Vaux, which had the first bridge since Auxerre and a mooring place for boats.

A glassed-in bar attached to the old stone inn advertised its comforts to passing pleasure boats, and to us. Our enjoyment of the first coffee of the day was the more intense for the exertion that preceded it, not that we had gone very far, but it was hot.

Over the bridge and sharp right at the opposite bank, we proceeded in a veritable tunnel of foliage between the long gardens of the houses and the river. Without much ado we arrived at the next village, Champs-sur-Yonne.

Walking in France: Another coffee, this time at Champs-sur-Yonne

Another coffee, this time at Champs-sur-Yonne

This is the beauty of following rivers – the opportunity to refill the coffee cup frequently. This time we had pastries as well. We shared the flowery terrace with people coming out of a funeral in the church opposite. It must have been an very old person who died, as nobody looked sad or upset.

Walking in France: Back on the towpath

Back on the towpath

Crossing back to the right bank on a substantial road bridge, we toiled along the towpath, with a few cyclists sailing past, pleasure cruisers churning the water and a village strung out along the opposite bank.

The heat was starting to wear us down when we suddenly arrived at the camping ground of Vincelles, right on the towpath. The village itself was further on. It was lunchtime and we had had a comfortable morning stroll. It was to time to bunker down for the afternoon.

Walking in France: Approaching Vincelles

Approaching Vincelles

It was a new camping ground, with only small trees, but we got a spot next to a tall hedge which cast ever-increasing shade on our motionless forms as we lay, showered and fed, on our mats.

At 5 pm we went back to the reception area, where a TV was showing the World Cup match between Germany and Argentina.

A group of beer-drinking English boors was supporting Germany, as they thought it would make England’s progress to the finals easier. The rest of us were for Argentina, but Germany won. Our moment was to come the following evening.

It was still torrid as we walked the short distance into the one-street village of Vincelles and settled ourselves in the garden of the Hotel de la Poste. There were no other diners, but a convivial murmur from the drinkers at the adjacent bar made us feel we were not alone.

Walking in France: Starters, unlimited charcuterie and crudités at the Hotel de la Poste

Starters, unlimited charcuterie and crudités at the Hotel de la Poste

The set menu was €11.50 and was a typical hearty hotel meal, starting with unlimited charcuterie and crudités from the buffet (a certain amount of which ended up in a plastic bag for tomorrow), then roast beef and chips, a platter of cheeses and finally an excellent home-made clafoutis. My portion disappeared into the plastic bag, as I could eat no more at the time. With wine the bill was €26.

Whilst paying at the bar, I had an enjoyable conversation with the hotel-keeper and the other drinkers. I was complimented on my French and told I had hardly any accent – more polite than true, but I felt gratified all the same.