Day 16: Brioux-sur-Boutonne to Chef-Boutonne

Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Distance 17 km
Duration 3 hours 5 minutes
Ascent 67 m, descent 55 m
Map 40 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)

Walking in France: Château of Javarsay
Château of Javarsay

Before we had finished our muesli, our English neighbours came over and invited us for a cup of tea, which we greatly enjoyed for the company.

Then we stocked up on bread and croissants and entered the village café for another round of hot drinks. The owner took an interest in us once he found that we were Australian, and said that his son, who was a cook, wanted to go to Australia but did not know what visa he needed.

We said we would send some information if he had an email address, whereupon he rushed off and produced his fresh-faced son, with beaming handshakes all round. Contrary to the father’s fond assertion, the kid had no grip on English, so we spoke wholly in French.

He gave us the email address of his girlfriend but must have got it wrong, because we were never able to send him a message, unfortunately.

The walk was on a miniscule road on the south bank of the Boutonne. It was almost as good as a GR until it petered out at Saint-Martin-d’Entriagues, obliging us to cross to the busier road to the north.

Walking in France: Can you see our little tent amonst the behemoths?
Can you see our little tent amonst the behemoths?

A bit further on we saw the camping ground, 3 km outside the town, an unwelcome sight.

It seemed that we would be staying in a hotel, but as we drew into the town, past the handsome château of Javarsay, there was an “aire naturelle de camping”, a grassy field beside a stream, already occupied by several large white vehicles.

It looked promising but we pushed on and soon came into the main square.

We ate our lunch under the halle, as it was raining slightly, then retired the café opposite. The saturnine owner told us we could eat there in the evening, always a good thing to establish early. The startlingly blonde barmaid, married to the owner, turned out to be a born-and-bred Cockney.

Walking in France: The source of the river Boutonne
The source of the river Boutonne

Back at the aire naturelle, we put up our tent like a tiny blue mouse amongst the white mammoths, most of which seemed to be occupied by elderly couples. Why they were not out seeing the sights in the middle of the afternoon, I do not know. There were no showers but we had a wash in the toilet block, which was adequate since the day was cool.

When evening came we made the short journey back to the square. On our way towards town we detoured to admire the source of the river Boutonne, which gushes fully formed from the ground at the foot of a small fortified hill, hence the name of the place, which means “head of the Boutonne”.

We had a drink in the PMU café, a lowly sort of place with sport on the TV. Then we stepped into the adjoining eatery for dinner. We felt sure we would be dining alone, as we had the night before, but we were wrong. The dining room was packed and we were shown into a second room, also well occupied. Nearly everyone seemed to be speaking English, for some reason that we never worked out.

The meal was a more polished version of last night’s – four courses and wine for €10.50. Everything was fresh and delicious, the crudités, the salad, the rare steaks. The cheese board had a Brie, a goat’s cheese and a glorious Bleu d’Auvergne that we completely demolished. To finish there was caramel tarte. We slept well in the grassy field.

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