Day 20: Auxerre to Toucy

Walking in France: Breakfast at Paul Bert's, Auxerre
Breakfast at Paul Bert’s

Monday, 29 June 2015
Distance 28 km
Duration 5 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 320 m, descent 276 m
Map 128 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

We ate our muesli standing up in the room, resting our bowls on the marble mantleshelf, as Paul Bert himself may have rested his book, or his wine glass, or a pensive elbow.

Walking in France: Looking up to our room at the Maison des Randonneurs
Looking up to our room at the Maison des Randonneurs

Nothing was stirring as we crept out of the house at 6:30 am. The street was not much livelier and we soon gave up hope of finding a bar for coffee.

Walking in France: Bert reading about Paul Bert
Bert reading about Paul Bert

Having crossed the tree-lined ring road, we walked through suburbs for a kilometre or so, until we went under a railway bridge (part of the same abandoned line that we had met yesterday) and emerged onto a long road with prosperous houses on the upper side and a green meadow below.

Beyond the meadow we could see the highway (the N151) and our little road eventually joined it, at which point we had to walk back along its grassy edge for a short distance to connect with a farm track that wound up the slope amongst fields of wheat.

We were glad of our detailed maps because there were frequent turnings and branchings on the way, most of them dead ends.

Walking in France: The walker's way to Chevannes
The walker’s way to Chevannes

Just before a line of high-tension wires we turned right and descended to a road, which took us into the village of Chevannes.

As it was Monday, we had no expectations of an open bar here, but to our delight there was one, in front of the church, looking over the tidy lawns and flower beds of the square.

There was also a boulangerie but it was suffering from the normal Mondayitis. However, we had the buns and ham from last night’s dinner and these made an excellent second breakfast, all the better for the unexpected coffees that went with them.

Walking in France: The delightful bar at Chevannes
The delightful bar at Chevannes

We brought Bert out to share the moment. He had already had the excitement of meeting his namesake (or his namesake’s portrait) outside the Maison Paul Bert.

It was just before 9 am and there was quite a bustle in the square as people delivered their children to the local school – surely for the last week before the long holidays.

Walking in France: Bert about to have some nourishment at Chevannes
Bert about to have some nourishment at Chevannes

We waited until the bustle was over and then walked off down the road for a few hundred metres until the road forked, at which point we went to the right on the smaller road, the D159.

Walking in France: A short cut to Diges
On the short cut to Diges

This patched little strip of tar wandered along past fields, vegetable gardens and small hamlets, and we stayed on it, apart from one minor short cut, all the way to the bigger village of Diges.

Walking in France: Arriving in Diges
Arriving in Diges

The handsome church, flanked by its conical towers and a war memorial, dominated the high ground of the village, and around the corner was a pleasant surprise – another open bar!

Naturally we we were not so rude as to walk past it, but this time we sat inside, as the terrace had no umbrellas.

Walking in France: A coffee in Diges
A coffee in Diges

It was just as well that we had that refreshment, as the road became rather monotonous for the next few kilometres.

Walking in France: Some welcome shade on the way to Toucy
Welcome shade on the way to Toucy

It wound through undulating farmland and scattered houses, picturesque but predictable, and the day was becoming hot.

At last we reached the main road into Toucy (the D950), lined with warehouses and small factories.

Only a hundred metres along this road we came to a large garden centre and beside it a footpath disappearing into a forest – an abandoned railway line.

Walking in France: The start of the abandoned railway track into Toucy
The start of the abandoned railway line into Toucy

Walking along this was much pleasanter than on the road, as the ground was soft with leaves and the tall trees linked arms overhead.

We crossed a couple of rusty railway bridges and came out at a picnic area beside a lake. The camping ground was only a few hundred metres further on and we were very relieved to see the gates open and plenty of campers in residence. Unfortunately most of the trees had been given a merciless haircut recently, so there was not much shade.

An old woman with wild locks and a billowing bosom came out of a caravan and took us to the office, where we paid our €8.50 and were invited to choose anywhere we liked for our tent. We decided on a grassy nook near the fence, shaded by some trees that had escaped the lopper’s axe.

Walking in France: Almost at the Toucy camping ground
Almost at the Toucy camping ground

We were not far from the ablutions block, so people stopped on their way to and fro to ask us our business. As usual we must have looked odd amongst all the big rigs, with our tiny tent and no visible means of transport, not even bikes.

A French woman, finding that we were Australian, asked about the Red Centre, to which I replied that it was hot, flat and dry. As she walked off we heard her misquoting me to her husband – Australia was a terrible place to live.

Walking in France: Statue of Toucy's favourite son, Pierre Larousse
Statue of Toucy’s favourite son, Pierre Larousse

In a caravan nearby was an elderly English couple who invited us to join them for a cup of tea. We sat in throne-like folding armchairs under an awning, while they told us that they had been coming to this same camping ground every summer for over forty years. However they still despised the French.

They had eaten a restaurant meal once, many years ago, and had not liked it – there were too many courses, the food was rubbish, and they were charged extra to eat on the terrace! They had not made the same mistake again. And the coffee was so bad – “You ask for Nescafé and they don’t know what you mean!”. We were politely non-committal.

When we were clean and rested, we set off to investigate the town, getting a bit lost in the park on the way, but finally arriving at the centre.

It was a good-looking place with an ivy-covered chateau and a cobbled square around a statue of Pierre Larousse, born here in 1817 and responsible for the great encyclopaedic dictionary.

Walking in France: Searching in vain for dinner near Toucy's ivy-covered chateau
Searching in vain for dinner in Toucy

There were several restaurants but as it was Monday, the first few that we saw were closed.

We persevered, imagining that a town of three thousand people would have at least one restaurant open on a Monday, but we were wrong. The only places we could find were a couple of bars, and unfortunately we were too late for the Office of Tourism.

In desperation we went into a boulangerie that was about to close, bought two cold mini-pizzas and asked the girl behind the counter if she knew of anywhere to eat in the town.

Walking in France: Toucy's finest eating establishment on a Monday night
Toucy’s finest eating establishment on a Monday night

She was not from Toucy, but a couple of other customers were, and they said there was nothing open, but we could get food at the big ATAC supermarket which was not far away. They told us to turn at the corner of the highway and keep going straight ahead.

Following these instructions, or so we thought, we turned right at the corner. We found out later that the supermarket was to the left.

On and on we hurried, hot and flustered, past all the small industrial premises that we had passed when we arrived, and much further.

It was almost 7 pm when we finally saw a Lidel sign, which we hoped signified a supermarket but we were not sure. As it turned out, we were in luck.

Walking in France: An excellent picnic
An excellent picnic

We rushed inside and grabbed a collection of things – ham, lettuce, capsicum, tabouleh, a vegetable mixture, two bread rolls, some peaches and a bottle of wine.

The walk back was a lot more relaxed than the outward journey and when we got back to the camping ground, the ancient English couple advised us to borrow the plastic table from the adjoining caravan site, as the owner had gone to see his family for a few days.

With the addition of two red plastic chairs from the office, we had a very pleasant set-up for our feast. The evening was warm, with a little breeze, and our picnic was delicious after all the difficulty of getting it.

Previous day: Chablis to Auxerre

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