Friday, 17 June 2005
Distance 19 km
Duration 3 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 118 m, descent 161 m
Map 40 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Having told our hostess that we would be leaving early, we slept in. The grass must have been softer than usual.
The advantage of that was that she brought a silver tray of coffee out to the table under the tree where we were having our muesli. Like her, it was a picture of old-fashioned refinement and we felt positively elegant as we sipped it, despite our boots and shorts.
We had a straightforward walk on a small road ahead of us, but after a few kilometres we saw a sign to the “protected village” of Tusson, which sounded interesting enough to warrant a slight detour. We got there about 11 am.
The classification is similar to National Trust listing and it was a charming village. Naturally we headed for the hotel, where tables and umbrellas stood on the terrace, some already occupied by a party of English tourists waiting to be fed.
The cooks were busy, with the window flung open to the street, and the dining room inside was scrupulously set with linen and crystal. Another English couple arrived in walking boots, purple with exertion. They were renting a house in Fouqueure and had walked over for lunch. We just had coffee.
It was really hot by then, so I slipped into the toilet and emerged like a butterfly in a cool, many-coloured shirt instad of the clingy T-shirt I had before.
We admired the abbey church and some old farm buildings, then hurried off towards Aigre. The road went through a forest but it was not as shady as it sounded, as there was a wide clearing on both sides.
At the last pool of shade we sat down and had lunch, within sight of Aigre in the wide bowl below.
As usual it took longer than we thought to get through the outskirts and we were pouring with sweat when we made it into the centre.
The square had new paving and was presided over by a scrubbed-up Hôtel de Ville. A group of dark red umbrellas promised refreshment, and we demonstrated our caffeine addiction by ordering hot coffee, although we swallowed a quantity of cold water beforehand.
At the next table, two old sisters from Yorkshire were sitting with their husbands, and they were all amazed at our intrepid behaviour. There seems to be nobody else but the English in the cafés of this region.
At the office of Tourism we were told that there was no camping at Aigre, only an Aire Naturelle for camping cars.
This contradicted the information we had been given at Brioux. I suggested that we might camp there anyway, but the woman behind the desk became frosty and said it was forbidden – there was a hotel we could go to.
After that it seemed a duty to go and have a look at the Aire. It was a series of grassy corridors divided by hedges, with a pleasant park extending behind it.
There was a funny little blue Citroën van parked there, the occupants being a Dutch couple, with whom we spoke in English. While their English was not good, it was a great lot better than our Dutch.
They had been everywhere in their little van, even to Moscow. Just now they were on their way to Loubressac in the Dordogne, to visit friends, and invited us pressingly to join them. The next day we were vey sorry that we had declined.
Having decided to spend the night there, largely to thumb our noses at the Office of Tourism, we nevertheless maintained the decencies by not putting up our tent until dark. We lay resting on the grass in the park, where the local petanque team was practising. They smiled encouragingly at us and showed us where to get fresh water.
Our Dutch friends had a key to the amenities block, so we gleefully had showers, then left our packs with them while we went to town for dinner. At the back of the Hotel du Square there was an outdoor restaurant, which was rather busy but we managed to get a table.
On one side we discovered the walking couple from Tusson, on the other the four Yorkshiremen from the bar in the square! So we had the luxury of conversaton throughout the evening.
Although we only had a single course each, it was a beautiful meal. I had steak and Keith had veal in cream, both of them accompanied by a picturesque array of vegetables – a zucchini frittata, a roasted tomato, tiny carrots and beans. Each plate was a sort of gallery of miniature works of art. With this we had a huge salad in a separate bowl, a lot of bread and water and a carafe of wine.
It took only a minute to pitch the tent once we got back to the Aire. The night was hot and close and I slept badly, although I was tired enough. The feeling of being illegal bothered me more at night than it had during the day.
Previous day: Chef-Boutonne to Villefagnan
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