Monday, 17 July 2006
Distance 36 km
Duration 6 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 131 m, descent 119 m
Map 26 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
The camping ground was pretty quiet at 7 am when we left through the back gate to rejoin the GR.
After a little distance in the silent back streets of Muides, close to the river, the track took us up to the highway, where there was a new cycle path beside the road, no doubt preferable to the path along the river that was shown on the map.
The village of Saint-Dyé was having its streets dug up and refurbished, so it was not looking its best, although still quite charming. It was too early to have hopes of coffee.
The GR3 parted company decisively with us at this point, going off away from the river to the château of Chambord.
We continued on a small road towards Montlivault, rising through fields of ripe grain. We had almost walked out the other side of the village when to our great joy, we came to a hotel and bar on the corner, with its doors flung wide.
We were probably their first customers for the day and we also got bread and pastries at the nearby shop. We had our second breakfast in a low-walled courtyard.
It occurred to us that we spent almost every moment out of doors, only going inside to pay the bill at bars and restaurants, and to visit showers and toilets of course.
Strengthened and rejuvenated, we swung along towards the strange little village of Saint-Claude-de-Diray, which by French standards was new, only founded in the sixteenth century, further up the slope, after a huge flood washed away the old village.
The houses all had enormously long back gardens stretching down to the lower road where we were walking, presumably getting the benefit of the alluvial soil for their vegetables.
A bit further on we saw a sign pointing to Camping on the right, and we could see it, far across the flat fields, at la Chausée-Saint-Victor, on the river. This was the place we had thought we might stay at, but we had not realised how far out of Blois it was.
It would be a long walk to get dinner and we would have to do it again in the morning to continue down the river. As it was still early in the day, we decided to go on to Chailles.
When we got to the roundabout of the Blois bypass, we took a riverside footpath as far as the old bridge. This was a point of contact with our former seven-week walk from Blois to Revel (2005), and as such a cause for celebration.
We had a second coffee break under the mature trees of a bar next to the river, and saw a pair of cyclists go past that we recognised from the camping ground at Muides. They were on a tandem bike with a baby trailer behind, in which their dog rode.
There was a little flurry of consternation when Keith’s chair leg slipped into a gap in the decking, causing him to pitch over, an occurrence that must be repeated regularly, given the thinness of the chair legs.
From Blois to Chailles we retraced our steps of the previous year on the cycle path parallel to the road.
It was a charming rural scene but the track was shadeless, and the sweat poured off us.
The springtime poppies were no longer in bloom, but as we drew near to the village, there was a little meadow of flowers, admittedly looking slightly thirsty, part of the Jachère Fleurie project (flowering fallow land) that we had seen before in the south.
Chailles was new to us, as on our previous walk we had turned off just below the village without knowing that there was a camping ground there. It was steep little place backed up against the wooded hillside, and the camping ground looked very pleasant.
The only problem was that the only restaurant in the village was closed on Mondays. We had enough food for lunch and no more, so the camping manager kindly refilled our water bottles and we set off again.
We only went as far as the local park at the bridge before stopping for lunch, as we felt we needed to build ourselves up for the unwanted extra walk ahead.
There were picnic tables on the green grass and we ate all our supplies – a tin of fish, salad, cheese and fresh bread. An English couple at another table offered to give us a lift to Loches but we declined, albeit with a pang of regret.
The GR3 had conveniently reappeared at Chailles, so we we started off along it, at first through a stand of trees but then out in the merciless sun.
We trudged on to Madon, where we stopped in the shade of the château wall and drank the rest of our water. We had drunk four litres and had two rounds of coffee during the day, most of which had re-emerged as sweat.
For the last few kilometres into Candé-sur-Beuvron, we took the shortest possible way, i.e. on the road, and fell into the dark little bar opposite the bridge at our last gasp. The barwoman brought two jugs of water, which we drained before even ordering our coffee. “This is no holiday!”, she said, and I agreed with her.
Eventually we stopped sweating and moved on to the hotel to look at the menu (hideously expensive), then over the footbridge to the camping ground that we had stayed at last year, la Grande Tortue.
It was crowded with families in huge tents or cabins, and kids rushed about everywhere. Our site was small, bare, but shady.
After almost stone-cold showers, we collapsed onto our bed rolls and slept until 7 pm, when we put up the tent and went over to the bar for a glass of chilled rosé.
Later we had lasagne and salad and a carafe of red. Despite all our water consumption during the day, we were still parched and drank two jugs of water with dinner and more afterwards.