Monday, 12 June 2006
Distance 24 km
Duration 5 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 455 m, descent 428 m
Map 37 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
The message had got through – we rose at 6:15 and were away before 7, our ribs well padded with muesli.
The Voie Verte was empty at that hour, save for a woman practising precariously on her roller-blades.
Later we encountered crowds of school kids walking to the high school in Buxy, and cruised into the town with them just before 9 am.
That was the end of the Voie Verte for us – we had had enough of it anyway. With a bag of croissants and a baguette, we climbed the steep, thriving main street to a café for our second breakfast.
Second breakfast is always a better meal than first breakfast – it has tables and chairs, it has coffee, it has passers-by, it has delicious pastries. We usually linger over it.
The town has some interesting ruins, including a couple of round towers from the encircling wall, but lacks the aesthetic coherence of Saint-Gengoux.
Having finished our refreshments, we continued up the street and out into high fields, picking up a GR that descended towards Moroges. Our only map was a photocopied scrap from a road atlas, but we were very confident, perhaps too confident, that we could make our own way without clinging to the GRs.
We estimated that a village so close to the mighty N80 was bound to have a café. This was how we ended up leaving the GR to go into the village (where we never did find a café) and having to walk an extra kilometre along the N80 to get back onto it at an underpass. The road was closed, as it was being upgraded to an autoroute, so it was a convenient short cut.
It was lunchtime by now and we were short of water, having forgotten to ask for some in Buxy. A plump old man was dozing on a bench outside his house in the next village, and was delighted to give us some water from his tap.
As we rose out of the village, there was a seat with an airy view, under cherry trees at a bend in the road, and here we ate a partial lunch of bread and cheese, rounded off with stolen cherries from the overhanging tree – very nice too.
Then the GR left the road and took us high on the slopes, which were rough with hawthorn and gorse, poor relations of the cherished vineyards lower down.
We dropped sharply into Jambles and rested in the square of this charming but cafe-free village, then climbed over the rise into the valley of Vaux.
After two days on the Voie Verte we were feeling the strain of all these ups and downs. We felt like ants making our way across an unmade bed, the prettiness of the coverlet not much of a compensation.
An element of terseness was creeping into my voice by the time we got down to the village of Saint-Denis-de-Vaux, and had become outright complaint as we searched in vain for a café there. All they have is wine cellars, as it is a famous wine area. It was a long time since the comforts of Buxy.
Our minuscule map was no help whatsoever in guiding us towards the next village, and we described an untidy zigzag on molten tar to get there. St-Jean-de-Vaux at last appeared, after nearly six hours of walking.
The square has a café, a baker and a flower shop. We had a round of coffees at the former and found out that the Camping was just around the corner.
The good thing about a walking holiday is that all tiredness and grumpiness vanish completely when you arrive at your destination and find it has all the necessities – camping, a cafe and a restaurant.
In this case, there was a makeshift bar and restaurant in the camping area itself, with tables and chairs set out under the trees. We paid €6.90 for the privilege of a night here.
The lanky proprietor was rigging up a sort of tent-theatre so that his guests could watch the French team play their World Cup match the following afternoon. The tent and screen were in place; he was going to drape black plastic over it all to keep out the sunlight.
When he found out we were Australians he obligingly turned on the Australia-Japan match for us, although we were the only people interested.
All we could see were pale shapes flickering about, but it was enough. The yellowish blobs were the Socceroos’ jumpers, the whitish ones the shorts of the Japanese.
We followed it perfectly, the French commentary notwithstanding, and our heroes came from behind to win. A few French layabouts amused themselves by roaring “Allez les Japonais!” as they walked past.
The rest of the day was given over to delicious things – showers, sleeps and dinner under the trees, not in the restaurant but at the camping ground, which is obviously the social centre of the village in the evening.
I asked not to have chips with our steaks and got a mountain of green beans instead. With wine, bread and salad, the bill was €21.50.