Monday, 19 June 2006
Distance 19 km
Duration 4 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 491 m, descent 447 m
Map 36 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Eating our muesli at a picnic table in the grounds, we were approached by our hostess carrying a tray with coffee pot and cups, a gesture that we found very touching.
She lives in Moux-en-Morvan, our destination for today, and assured us there was a restaurant there. We were on our way by the time the 8 o’clock bells rang, climbing back through the deserted town and up to Montcimet again.
From here we took the GRP track into a dense deciduous forest whose writhing trunks and moss-covered boulders gave it a pre-human air. Certainly there were no other humans in sight.
Eventually the path came out at a hamlet (Croix de Chèvre) and followed a tiny road till it joined another one.
At the junction we lost the GRP signs so we had to hoof it on the road for the steep descent into Ménessaire, past vertiginous meadows worthy of the Pyrenées, full of blonde cows.
The village, with its fine church and château, has the distinction of being in a different département to its neighbours – it is in the detached enclave of Côte-d’Or, surrounded by Saône-et-Loire and Nièvre.
We found the GRP markings again and almost immediately lost them as we rose out of the village.
After a kilometre we realised we were on a farm track to nowhere and had to turn back and try again. When we did at last find the way, it was beautiful.
A gentle, shady path took us down to the river and up the other side to the village of Chaumien, avoiding a long piece of road.
But from there we decided the road would serve nicely for the remaining 3 km into Moux. The town sat in a green nest of water meadows, part of which was now the football field.
We arrived just as the noon bells were ringing and had time to get lunch supplies at the shop before sinking into chairs at the Café de la Poste, which looked out onto the square. The interior of this café was a veritable museum of stuffed heads – boars, stags, birds, weasels and fish. There may have been the odd great-uncle somewhere among them all.
We were drinking coffee under the claret-coloured awning and reading the paper when a flock of elderly French cyclists swooped in and occupied all the other tables. They had ridden from la Grande Verrière and were going back there after lunch.
The owner kept shouting “Basil! Basil!” towards the back of the cafe and we expected John Cleese to come slinking out, but Basil turned out to be a small terrier.
The camping ground was hard to find because it was right under our nose and completely unoccupied. It consisted of the grassy verge around the football field, adjoining the village square, and the ablutions block was the one used by the players.
The two rooms were labelled “Visiteurs” and “MC Foux” (changed from FC Moux by some wag). What the showers lacked in refinement they made up for with their strength and hotness.
Exploring the town after lunch, we found that there was internet access provided by the Syndicat, but only on Tuesday and Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, so no use to us.
The large church dominated the square, as did an objectionable-looking house, perhaps that of the mayor. The square is named Place 11 Fevrier 1944, in memory of the day when the retreating Germans massacred a group of townsfolk.
We had to go to the Mairie to pay for our camping. In the musty office, the woman looked amazed when we explained why we were there – it is evidently not a common occurrence. She was not good at arithmetic and charged us only €3.45.
We had a rest on the daisy-strewn grass beside our tent and enjoyed the pantomime of a fat man with a walrus moustache pushing his battered 2CV car across the square until it erupted into life, whereupon he squeezed himself behind the wheel like a contortionist and clanked away.
Our evening meal proved that you can never tell from appearances. As the village restaurant (le Châtenier, recommended by our hostess at Anost) was closed on Mondays, we had to make do at the unprepossessing Hôtel de la Poste, next door to the café.
It seemed to be deserted and we had resigned ourselves to dining alone on the terrace, but the waitress suggested that we eat inside, something that we seldom do in France.
The dining room was a comfortable low-ceilinged, wood-panelled place with a stone floor and a its casement windows thrown open to the evening air. A small fire glowed in the grate, not for warmth but for cooking, as we later discovered.
We had underestimated the age of the hotel, because of its recent clumsy facelift. There was a cheery babble from a group of walkers who were staying at the hotel overnight (they were doing an escorted 8-day circuit of the Morvan). It is always more enjoyable to eat in company than on our own.
We ordered a côte de boeuf, which was cooked on the open fire next to us. While we waited, we had a plate of specialities of the Morvan – ham, terrine and pickles.
The beef arrived beautifully cooked, with long potatoes in cream, salad and a bowl of aïoli. It was one of the best meals we had ever had in France. Even our large appetites were unequal to it, so we took the leftovers away for tomorrow’s lunch.