Day 17: Avallon to Arcy-sur-Cure

Walking in France: Church at Pontaubert
Church at Pontaubert

Monday, 26 June 2006
Distance 28 km
Duration 5 hours 50 minutes
Ascent 309 m, descent 386 m
Map 28 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)

The morning was mercifully fresher than yesterday. We left just after 7 am, ten minutes behind the lone walker. We were already on the river road, so we stayed on it for the first hour down to Pontaubert, rather than following the GR.

It was a pleasant stroll with hardly a car, only birdsong. Crossing the bridge, we ascended to the village on the main road. There were two or three hotels, no shops and one bar. We were on the terrace of the bar, halfway through our second breakfast of large milky coffees, when the lone walker came trudging past on the other side of the road. He must have gone by the GR, a more tortuous way.

I am always amazed at how European walkers, and lone pilgrims in particular, are immune to the attractions of cafés as they pass through villages. To the Australian bushwalker’s mind, it would be a crime to spurn such miracles as coffee and croissants in the middle of a walk.

Walking in France: A grandiose château with a moat, now a hotel, beside the Cousin river
A grandiose château with a moat, now a hotel, beside the river Cousin

Descending on a tiny road in the valley of the Cousin, we had plenty to interest us.

First a grandiose chateau with a moat, now a hotel (something to look forward to when we can no longer walk).

Then at Vault-de-Lugny a sprawling ancient church whose interior carried original frescoes of the Passion, still clear enough to see.

Walking in France: Church of Vault-de-Lugny
Church of Vault-de-Lugny
Walking in France: The interior of the church at Vault-de-Lugny with original frescoes of the Passion
The interior of the church at Vault-de-Lugny with original frescoes of the Passion

At Vermoiron, the nearby hamlet, we were led astray by the map and ended up high on the hillside, although not quite lost. The valley was laid out like a map below us.

We soon found the GR13 and sauntered along it as far as Givry, which looked like a good chance for a coffee, but wasn’t.

A woman assured us there was a bar at Sermizelles, however, and that was only a short walk further on beside the railway line.

It was a tiny town on a big road (the N6) with no shops other than the bar, and a pocket-sized terrace shaded by trees. The smiling barwoman said there was another little café in Saint-Moré, although the Office of Tourism in Avallon had told us there was not.

Walking in France: Bridge across the Cure leading to Voutenay-sur-Cure
Bridge across the Cure leading to Voutenay-sur-Cure

Much fortified by our second caffeine shot of the morning, we continued along the river on a cart track.

Our little river Cousin had now coalesced and become the Cure. At Voutenay-sur-Cure we contented ourselves with admiring the fine spire across the bridge.

The GR went on down the left bank in a flourishing forest, past another chateau, and into the microscopic village of Saint-Moré, where, as promised, a little restaurant stood, opposite the church.

Lunch visitors were arriving and the menu stated that four courses and wine could be had for €12.50.

It was 12:45 pm and we found out that the place was closing for the day at 1:30. On an impulse, we decided to have a big lunch instead of dinner.

Walking in France: A wonderful lunch in Saint-Moré
A wonderful lunch in Saint-Moré

There was only a 5 km walk after lunch to get to Arcy-sur-Cure where we wanted to spend the night. There were two rooms crowded with diners, but we got a table next to the open window and jammed our packs in beside us.

First we had tartare de saumon and a richly colourful salade italienne, then lamb in garlic cream and pork steaks with herbed potatoes, then a tiramasu and an excellent clafoutis and finally a huge platter of cheeses.

I quietly pocketed a bit of the crusty bread and a slice or two of cheese in case of need in the evening.

Setting off in great spirits in the hottest part of the day, past the Saint-Moré camping ground which we were now going to ignore, we found ourselves unexpectedly called upon to climb high above the road.

This was because of a great spur of limestone that harbours the famous grottoes of Arcy-sur-Cure. The river circles round it to the west, but we clambered up a rough track to the east of the road tunnel, then down the other side, propelled by the vinous lunch we had just enjoyed.

Walking in France: Fourth course of lunch, the cheese plateau
Fourth course of lunch, the cheese plateau

At Arcy-sur-Cure there was a hotel on the highway and a camping ground on the riverbank, a big, well-patronised place.

The manager, dressed entirely in red, screwed up several sheets before managing to fill out the municipal paperwork involved in our €5.90 transaction, and ended up having to bring the receipt to us later, by bike.

The early evening was spent at the hotel, watching Australia get robbed of victory in the eighth-final of the World Cup against Italy (this defeat later gave us a bond with the French nation when the same thing happened to them in the final).

Later we walked over the bridge and looked at the church. We never got hungry enough for dinner.

Previous day: Vézelay to Avallon

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