Day 24: Chauvigny to Bonneuil-Matours

Walking in France: A lane below the cité médiévale
A lane below the cité médiévale

Saturday, 12 July 2014
Distance 19 km
Duration 3 hours 50 minutes
Ascent 168 m, descent 174 m
Map 139 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

As I walked past the office on my way to the ablutions block at 6:30 am, I saw the bell on the closed door (which had been invisible when the door was open) and I was tempted to ring it loud and long, then scurry away, just to annoy the witch who had been so rude to us, but I forced myself to behave like a grown-up.

We did not bother with muesli for breakfast, as we knew we could eat in town.

Leaving by the lower gate, we wended our way through the public gardens with their flower beds, tree-shaded lawns and ponds spanned by little bridges, a picture of serenity at this early hour.

Walking in France: Happy inside the bakery/coffee shop
Happy inside the bakery/coffee shop

Once in the streets we lost no time getting to the bakery, where there were already lots of people having breakfast.

A market was setting up in the square outside as we lingered over our delicious coffee, croissant and pain aux raisins. It was not as cold as usual and I wore shorts all day for the first time in a while.

Walking in France: Breakfast
Walking in France: Chauvigny's market
Street market, Chauvigny

We set off through the rows of market stalls loaded with vegetables, meats, cheeses and breads, and crossed the river on a lichen-encrusted old stone bridge.

Then we turned off the highway and walked for an hour or so through incredibly flat land, some newly ploughed and some planted with wheat. The road verges were as green as moss.

Walking in France: On the way to Bonnes
On the way to Bonnes
Walking in France: Inside les Tilleuls, Bonnes
Inside les Tilleuls

We approached the village of Bonnes through a row of newly-built doll’s houses surrounded by mud, and the first thing we saw in the old part of town was a bar – les Tilleuls – so we went in to build up our strength, even though we still had plenty.

The church was next door and we admired the strange conglomeration of styles in its steeple, part Norman keep and part minaret (perhaps a returning crusader had paid for it).

Walking in France: Bonnes church
Bonnes church

Leaving the village, we took the small road towards the Château de Touffou, not realising that the way through the grounds was not open to the public.

A long black car glided up beside us and stopped. The driver enquired in broken English whether we wanted to visit the château, and when we said no, we were walking to Châtellerault, he wished us bonne route and purred off.

Walking in France: The view of Château de Touffou through locked gates
The view of Château de Touffou through locked gates

Only when we rounded the next bend did we see that the tall black iron gates were in the process of closing behind the car.

It was slightly annoying that he had not warned us it was a dead end, but we put it down to his lack of English.

Walking in France: Skirting a wheatfield
Skirting a wheatfield

We turned back and took another road, which climbed around the back of the château and continued across the wheatfields.

When we came to a wood, we turned off on a track that plunged down through the trees, crossed a dark ravine and emerged into pastures where creamy cows stood up to their knees in grass.

Walking in France: Emerging from the ravine
Emerging from the ravine

We came to a road (the D86), went downhill to the right and almost immediately found the red and yellow markings of a GRP striking off into another wood. This was the GRP of the Three Battles of Poitiers.

On the other side of the wood there was a series of little roads that led to the D1 on the outskirts of Bonneuil-Matours, the village where we hoped to spend the night.

Walking in France: An idyllic rural scene
An idyllic rural scene

With trepidation born of many past disappointments, we marched along looking for a sign to the camping ground, and after quite a long walk, were pleasantly surprised to see one, pointing down a lane towards the river.

By then we were less than a kilometre from the centre of the village and we wondered whether to go there first, to check the eating possibilities for the evening, but then Keith noticed a knife and fork symbol on the sign, so we went directly to the camping ground.

It turned out that there was a full bar and restaurant on the premises, at which news Keith was so pleased that he kissed the astonished woman’s hand. We paid our €11.30 and went off to put up our tent on the spacious lawns which ran down to the riverbank, but we did not have showers straight away.

Walking in France: Omelettes and a small jug of wine for lunch at the Bonneuil-Matours camping ground
Omelettes for lunch at the Bonneuil-Matours camping ground

Instead we hurried back to the restaurant for lunch. It was a luxury for us to sit up and be waited on at lunchtime, but we felt we had earned it after the horrors of the walk yeaterday.

The restaurant had an interior room but everyone was eating on the terrace, although the plastic curtains were down to keep off the cold breeze.

As we intended to eat here again in the evening, we restricted ourselves to omelettes and a small jug of wine.

I had mushroom and onion in my omelette while Keith had ham and cheese, and they both came with salad and the inevitable chips.

Walking in France: A beautiful campsite beside the Vienne, Bonneuil-Matours
Camping beside the Vienne

The rest of the afternoon passed peacefully with showers, washing, reading and dozing.

Late in the afternoon we treated ourselves to another drink at the bar, then wandered along the bank of the Vienne towards the village proper.

There was public parkland all the way to the bridge, where we found the façade of the erstwhile Château de Crémault, whose grounds had once taken in all the riverside land now enjoyed by the general population, including the camping ground.

Walking in France: The façade of the Château de Crémault, Bonneuil-Matours
The façade of the Château de Crémault

The village looked a fine little place with a square containing several shops, bars and eateries, but we had decided to dine at the camping ground again, so we strolled back along meandering gravel paths edged with trees.

Walking in France: Returning to the camping ground
Returning to the camping ground

Some brave people were swimming in the river adjacent to the camping ground, and there were a couple of life guards shivering on the bank. We felt no need to join them.

At eight o’clock we reported to the restaurant, where the same woman who had served us at lunch time, and whose hand Keith had kissed, was still taking orders.

Walking in France: Protected from the cold and ready for dinner
Protected from the cold and ready for dinner

She was a tough-looking, broad-hipped woman with gold in her teeth and the order pad hanging out of the back pocket of her trousers.

We began with a shared plate of tomato and mozzarella salad, the mozzarella so young and soft that we wondered whether it had been made on the premises. Madame kindly brought two plates so we could divide it.

Walking in France: To start, a shared plate of tomato and mozzarella salad
Tomato and mozzarella salad
Walking in France: Followed by steaks
Followed by steaks

To follow we had steak with the vague description of “pièce du boucher”, with a creamy sauce. I made the mistake of asking for something other that chips as an accompaniment, and had to make do with pasta.

All the same it was a very enjoyable meal and we followed it up with a lovely sleep on the soft grass of the riverbank.

Previous day: Lussac-les-Châteaux to Chauvigny

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