The first three days of our walk took us into the mountains of the Beaujolais, a jumbled ridge that divides the waters of the Rhône basin from those heading west towards the Atlantic. The valleys on either side were the picture of pastoral prettiness, but the crest was covered with forbidding forest and devoid of habitation, which meant that we had to descend a long way for any civilised comforts – morning coffee or a meal and somewhere to sleep, for instance.
Getting to Cluny
We had spent the previous day with our Paris friends who had an apartment on the left bank. The other three went off to see the sights while I lay on a mattress in a feverish daze. I had caught a big dose of the ‘flu a few days before we left home and it was showing no sign of improvement.
We were tempted to stay longer in Paris in the hope of my recovering, but we had already booked our train tickets on the internet, so we had to go. The TGV train to Lyon left from the Gare de Lyon and, as we had plenty of time, we walked there along the pleasant river bank.
Once at the station our troubles began, as we could not find the counter where we were supposed to have our actual tickets issued. We rushed about, up and down stairs, and at last found the right place (on the same level as the platforms), but there was a long queue and we were running out of time.
Just as we were about to abandon the queue and dash onto the train without our tickets, we arrived at the counter, where the man was aghast when he saw that we only had two minutes to spare.
An ungainly sprint with our packs brought us to the train in the nick of time, and we settled down to enjoy the relief as the train glided out of the ugly morass of Paris and into the countryside.
I fell into a sickly doze but Keith woke me up as we sped past the town of Cluny, which was our destination for the day, but the train did not stop there. In fact it did not stop anywhere until we got to Lyon, where we had a sandwich on a bench in the station, then caught a local train back to Macon. From there it was a bus ride through green hills to Cluny.
We had been to Cluny before (in 2006) so we knew where the camping ground was – no distance from the town, across the main road and over a stream.
For the rest of the afternoon we lay on our sleeping mats feeling pretty poorly (Keith kept my ‘flu company with a gastric ailment), while the TGV trains whistled past at regular intervals.
The railway line was just beyond the fence of the camping ground. There was also a bicycle path there – the remains of an earlier railway line – crowded with Sunday afternoon strollers and cyclists.
In the evening we dragged ourselves into the centre and had dinner, half of which we could not eat. We even left half our wine, which just shows how sick we were. The night was long and restless .
Day 1: Cluny to Matour