Day 5: Nolay to Beaune (then train to le Puy-en-Velay)

Walking in France: Max and Sue at 7 am
Max and Sue at 7 am

Friday, 28 May 2004
Distance 28 km
Duration 6 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 545 m, descent 645 m
Map 3025 OT in the TOP 25 series (Beaune-Chagny)

With practised efficiency we packed up, ate our muesli and were in the village buying bread before 7 am.

As we crossed the church square, Max and Sue appeared at their hotel window, scantily dressed, and posed for a photo. They did not seem at all sorry that we were leaving without them.

We followed the river Cosanne out of town, admiring the long vegetable plots stretching down from the backs of the houses to the water.

A delightful feature of many of the gardens was a row of flowers amongst the neat green of the crops. Several people were already out working at this most satisfying of summer projects.

Walking in France: Cliffs above Nolay
Cliffs above Nolay

When we left the houses we were on the GR7, and before long it climbed laboriously up through a forest to the top of the cliffs, from where we could see the enclosed valley continuing upstream.

At its end is the so-called End of the World (le Bout du Monde, where the river springs out of the rock), but we could not see that far.

Our way took us across the plateau through a pine plantation and out into open fields, where we skirted a large quarry, hidden from view by an embankment. I was driven by curiosity to clamber up, hauling on poppies and buttercups, to look into the immense void.

Walking in France: Shopless Orches
Shopless Orches

At the other edge of the plateau the track followed the brink of the cliffs and we could see the vineyards of Baubigny far beneath our feet through the trees.

Then we joined a road that swept us down to Orches, a picturesque hamlet wedged into a corner below the cliff line. In front of the houses an apron of vines, used for making rosé, stretched down towards the valley.

There were no shops of any kind in Orches but a workman pointed the way to Saint-Romain, a much bigger place which was not far away, down through the vines and then along a quiet road. We had hopes of morning coffee there.

Walking in France: Vines near Saint-Romain
Vines near Saint-Romain

Saint-Romain sat under a beetling crag adorned with a Virgin. We were pleased to see a hotel-bar as we came up the main street but as we got nearer we realised it was closed, presumably for its weekly day off, which was odd on a Friday. Undeterred, we made ourselves at home on the terrace and ate some bread, cheese and sausage.

There did not seem to be a tap or fountain anywhere in the town, although Keith walked all around the square. Eventually a small child appeared at the glass hotel door, followed by its mother, who looked none too pleased at the sight of our morning snack spread out on her terrace table, but filled up our water bottles anyway.

Walking in France: Bread, cheese and sausage on the hotel terrace, Saint-Romain
Bread, cheese and sausage on the hotel terrace, Saint-Romain

Setting off again at 10:30, we left the GR7 and struck out to the east on a wheel track that rose into a forest.

There we met an old man who was bringing his dog for his daily drink at a small quarry, whose waters were particularly rich in something that dogs need.

He had been a truck driver and had never met an Australian in his life. It’s the end of the earth! he declared, perhaps a little rudely. He even tried out a bit of Italian on us in case it was our native tongue.

We parted with handshakes all round, and continued over the top of the rise to a view of Volnay and Pommard below in their quilt of vines.

Walking in France: Over to Pommard
Over to Pommard

The GR76 took us by a small farm road straight to the Bar du Pont of happy memory. It was lunch time, although we only had coffee.

All around us snails were being prised out of their shells with silver forceps, ringed fingers were raising glasses of the region’s finest and necklaces sparkled on seventy-year-old cleavages. The sun shone and it was all delightful.

Walking in France: Walled vineyards near Beaune
Walled vineyards near Beaune

The walk into Beaune was short, on a dusty little road parallel to the main one, with the vines on the other side protected like convent girls by a high wall.

We marched into the Place Carnot in Beaune at 1:45, to the astonishment of Sue who was sitting there waiting for Max to come back with a sandwich. They had only arrived half an hour before.

And so ended our walking tour of Burgundy.

Getting to le Puy that afternoon had its tense moments. For some reason the railway office at Beaune could only offer us a connection with a three-hour wait in Lyon, arriving in le Puy just before midnight. Brother Max, a railways expert, suggested that we just go to Lyon and see what turned up and this proved to be good advice.

At Lyon we found out that there was a train to Saint-Etienne leaving in a few minutes and a tight connection from there to le Puy.

Thus, after a shambling sprint to the platform with our big packs flopping, and a repeat performance at Saint-Etienne, we arrived in le Puy about 8:30. Even with the undue haste of the connections, the journey had taken five hours and it was getting dark as we hurried down to the town.

Walking in France: The Chapel of Saint-Michel-d'Aiguilhe, le Puy
The Chapel of Saint-Michel-d’Aiguilhe, le Puy

For lack of time we went to le Palais, the same kerbside brasserie that we had visited two years ago, opposite the main square, the Place du Breuil. Here the evening meal was in full swing and the atmosphere was convivial. We had the menu of the day, which was a big salad followed by coq au vin. For dessert Keith had an apple tart and I had coffee.

Fortunately we knew where the camping ground was, past the cathedral and down the narrow streets to the river. Above us the mad chapel of Saint-Michel-d’Aiguilhe on its pinnacle of rock was outlined against the night sky.

We were surprised to see the manager of the camping ground sitting at the entrance, looking out for people like us sneaking in late. It was a change from Burgundy where it had usually been impossible to pay. 

Another surprise was the complete lack of other walkers, or even cyclists in the place. Perhaps it was too early in the season.

Previous day: Santenay to Nolay

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