Day 17: La Côte-Saint-André to Beaurepaire

Friday, 8 July 2016
Distance 21 km
Duration 4 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 14 m, descent 125 m
Map 150 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

Walking in France: Breakfast, La Côte-Saint-André
Breakfast in the street

Our plan was to leave early and walk for an hour, then have coffee and croissants at the village of Sardieu.

We left the hotel at 7 am (past the dining room, which was crowded with workers having breakfast), but when we got to the six-routes corner we saw that the bar there was in full swing, so we changed our mind. Bitter experience has taught us to take our chances when we can, when it comes to eating.

Hurrying to the boulangerie across the road, we burst into the workroom by mistake and made the baker laugh. The actual shop was across the alley. Soon we were doing what we do best, and the waiter kindly took a photo of us.

Walking in France: A cooling forest
A cool forest

It was 7:30 when we finally left town, going downhill a surprisingly long way before reaching the valley floor. We walked beside an enormously tall, enigmatic cypress hedge for a kilometre or more, never discovering what lurked behind it.

It was already hot when we got to Sardieu, where we found that the promised bar (marked on the map) was completely defunct, so we felt quite vindicated in our decision to have breakfast before setting off.

A little way past the village we turned off through the fields on a wheel track, passed a quarry and came to a fenced military zone, but we were able to keep walking beside the fence until we entered a wood.

Walking in France: The endless swamp
The endless swamp

It was much cooler under the trees and we looked forward to a short respite before we had to go out into the sun again.

It turned out to be a long respite. A little way into the wood, the track disappeared into a slimy swamp which stretched ahead of us as far as we could see. It looked like the sort of swamp that a dinosaur might favour, or a crocodile.

The only thing we could think of was to follow the side track, which was still above water, and hope to find a way around.

Walking in France: The track reappears
The track reappears

We started doing this, then realised that the water in the swamp, although black, was not actually very deep, and that the bottom was gravelly rather than slimy, so we decided to cross it.

Picking our way across, we rejoined the track briefly before it sank again under the surface, but we soon made it to the far side and scrambled up a bank into the sunshine, much relieved.

Walking in France: Nearly at the other side
Nearly at the other side

The little town of Pajay was in sight across fields of corn, and a farm track full of puddles took us straight there.

It was a pretty little place with a lake, a park and a handsome church. In the main street was a small épicerie-boulangerie which also styled itself the Pause Café.

Walking in France: Pajay

Since it was nearly three hours since our street breakfast in la Côte St-Andre, we were ready for a pause.

Walking in France: Pajay's church
The church at Pajay

The man at the counter said he had coffee but no milk. We took it anyway, and sat at a little table in a corner among shelves of groceries.

Walking in France: Pause Café, Pajay
Pause Café, Pajay

I burrowed in my pack and found the powdered milk, so in the end we were all happy.

From Pajay we wended our way on a small road down to the D519, stopping for a moment to take a few handfuls of cherries from a conveniently placed tree.

Walking in France: Roadside sustenance
Roadside sustenance

Once out on the highway, we began to feel unpleasantly hot and it seemed to take an age to get not very far.

A long kilometre of trudging brought us to St-Barthélemy, where we turned off past some playing fields, then took an interminable dusty track behind a stretch of waste ground.

I amused myself with the latest in my French revolution podcast, the invention of the guillotine, which was considered at the time a much nicer way to be executed, and indeed a humanitarian gift to the condemned.

Walking in France: Getting hot
Getting hot

Eventually we came to some sort of school, more playing fields and then a gated park, open to the public in daylight hours. We took a pleasant shaded walk across this park and ended up right at the entrance of the camping ground.

At the reception, a child stared at us and ran off, coming back with a little rat-toothed man who seemed vaguely hostile.

Walking in France: Near Beaurepaire
Near Beaurepaire

He said we could stay only one night, as the place was booked out after that, and directed us to a patch of grass beside the boules court which was part of the public games area, not a place for a tent at all.

We had showers and lay on our mats for a while, under the stares of the occupants of the circle of cabins around us, then decided to go into town. Not knowing the short-cut via the footbridge, we took a much longer route than we needed to, and went through some grimy outskirts.

At the Office of Tourism we asked about restaurants in the town, to which the two women airily replied that were plenty in the main square, and also in the two hotels.

They marked them on the town map but it turned out that every one of them was either defunct or not open in the evening, or having a day off.

Walking in France: Our much better second camping pitch
Our much better second camping pitch

We also asked about the accommodation at Clonas (our next day’s destination), about which they knew nothing, so they rang up the office in Roussillon and spoke to someone who also knew nothing.

It was all very dispiriting. We wandered back to the camping ground (having discovered the footbridge by this time) and now there was a woman on the desk who was pleasant and helpful.

She showed us to a lovely shady, grassy enclave full of caravans and tents, and said we were welcome to stay another night if we liked.

There remained the problem of dinner. We had not seen so much as a shop so far, at least not a food shop. In the very pretty main square there were bars but no restaurants.

Walking in France: Apéritifs, but nowhere to go
Apéritifs, but nowhere to go

We sat down at one of them for a drink and asked the waitress if she knew a place to eat. She did – the San Marino – and marked it on our map from the Office of Tourism.

It was actually off the edge of the map, which was a bit of a worry, but not by much, and with no other options, we set off to walk there.

Plodding along the D519 was hot work. We went past the hospital and came to a big Casino supermarket set back from the road, and then a pâtisserie and a restaurant, both closed, which was deeply depressing.

Then we noticed people sitting in a tree-shaded enclosure just beyond, on the main road – it was the place we were looking for and our prayers had been answered. With great glee we rushed over and managed to find a free table.

Walking in France: Waiting patiently for dinner at the San Marino, Beaurepaire
Waiting patiently for dinner at the San Marino

Everyone was enjoying the balmy evening air after such a hot day. We got a carafe of wine, which kept us going while we waited to put in our order.

This took a long time, as there was only one man serving and he was run off his feet. After a while another young chap and two women arrived, put on their aprons and we had action.

We started with a salade italienne, full of lovely crisp vegetables such as capsicum and cucumber, and followed that with ravioli au gratin.

This was also delicious, but I had eaten too much bread with the salad and could only fit in a few mouthfuls.

Walking in France: Our mains; ravioli au gratin
Our mains; ravioli au gratin

This time I did not try to smuggle the remains into my bag. I was still trying to get the grease stains out of my pants from the disaster at Charavines.

On our way back to the camping ground, we decided to have a rest day at Beaurepaire, now that we had finally found somewhere to eat.

We strolled through the public park in the near-dark, feeling much happier than when we had come this way in the morning.

Previous day: Charavines to la Côte-St-André

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