Wednesday, 19 July 2006
Distance 20 km
Duration 3 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 36 m, descent 38 m
Map 26 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
It was now generally agreed that France was in the grip of a canicule (heatwave), bringing back fearful memories of the one in 2003 that had killed so many people.
Consequently we had the motive to get up at six, not long after the sun had struggled through the haze. A couple of sight-seeing balloons rose over the river as we packed up.
Our muesli was unappetising without fruit, but we had not seen a shop for days.
The citizens of Chaumont must shop at the supermarket over the bridge, at Onzain.
Although we normally avoided road walking, we decided to make a dash for Amboise along the road, as the GR was longer and steeper, climbing to the escarpment and back several times. At that hour there was no traffic and we swung along easily.
The drawback was that it was still too early, when we reached Rilly-sur-Loire, for the bar to be open, but further on at Mosnes we had more luck, with coffee and croissants under the trees.
After that the road was busier, but there was a generous verge to walk on, and we cruised comfortably along the river into Amboise. The great château was high above on our left.
At a bar near the bridge we sat down for a second round of coffee, well satisfied with ourselves. There was a little supermarket nearby so we replenished our supplies (sardines, lettuce, fruit). We also found a Presse and bought the next TOP 100 map (number 25).
As we had been to Amboise the year before, we knew that the camping ground was on an island in the Loire, just over the bridge.
At the office, the receptionist took Keith’s particulars and said that we must pay as we left tomorrow.
Keith held out the money and I said that we were walkers and might leave before the office opened at 7 am, but the woman stated that it was not possible to leave before then. Presumably, she thought that the boom gate would keep us inside. In the face of such bureaucratic idiocy we decided to demonstrate that it was indeed possible.
The camping cars were huddled under the trees like a herd of white buffaloes. We chose a shady little corner near the shower block, which had a splendid flower garden in front of it. The showers were strong and could be modulated from warmish to coolish in a pleasant way.
After a fortifying picnic of fish, cheese, salad and bread, we lay on our bed rolls for a sleep, thankful that we were not still walking, as it was now terrifically hot.
Then a bank of cloud blotted out the sun and small rain began to fall, so we had to put our tent up in a hurry. We can do it in about a minute, but he rain did not persist.
I had a stumbling conversation in Italian with an old couple in a nearby camping car, discovering that these days I was more fluent in French, the opposite of the state of affairs when we first started walking in France.
Later we sauntered over to the bar behind the office for afternoon tea. Le Tour was on the TV inside and we were gratified to see that our Aussie heroes were fifth and seventh in the general classification.
At 6:30 we wandered back over the bridge to a strip of cafés at the foot of the château, and sat down for a small jug of rosé, over which we lingered until the sun declined behind the rooftops and the waiter started furling the big dark-red umbrellas.
Exploring the options for dinner, we ended up at the same Italian restaurant (le Cadran) where we had eaten last year.
It had seemed the best choice then and it still did. The courtyard, with walls painted in trompe-l’oeuil, could be seen through the dim interior. It was packed with chattering diners, but we found a table.
For old times’ sake, Keith had the same ham-laden pasta as before, while I had dish of chicken.
Strolling back over the bridge in the still-stifling evening air, there was thunder and lightning, which became quite a rain shower after we were safely tucked up in our tent.