Day 16: Dijon to Sainte-Marie-sur-Ouche

Walking in France: An odd sight near Lac Kir, Dijon
A strange sight near Lac Kir

Friday, 30 June 2017
Distance 22 km
Duration 4 hours 40 minutes
Ascent 55 m, descent 5 m
Map 136 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

In the morning the Dijon camping ground was rather dank and wet – it is right on the river bank and must surely be inundated regularly. As usual we were the first to stir, and to leave.

Just past the gates of the camping ground we came to a barrage forming a large artificial lake, Lac Kir, on what was, until the 1960s, a marshy wetland on the river Ouche.

Lawns and gardens adorned the banks and there were a few early morning runners, plus the enigmatic sight of a hooded man driving two yoked oxen through the park.

Walking in France: On the way to breakfast in Plombières-lès-Dijon
On the way to breakfast in Plombières-lès-Dijon

At the end of the lake was the last remnant of the wetland, now an expanse of vegetable and flower gardens.

After the yoked oxen, we expected to see peasants in smocks tilling the soil with hoes, but there was nobody, and in due course we came to a bitumen road and the satellite village of Plombières-lès-Dijon, strung out along the highway.

Just around the corner, on a road going down to the river, were a boulangerie and a bar face to face, just what we had been hoping for.

Walking in France: An excellent breakfast
An excellent breakfast

Spreading the pastries out on the bar table, we ordered breakfast coffee and luxuriated in our good fortune. We had only walked for an hour, but that was enough on an empty stomach.

Walking in France: The canal port of Plombières-lès-Dijon, Canal de Bourgogne
The canal port of Plombières-lès-Dijon

Setting off again, we went down to the river, crossed the bridge, and came to a canal port, where the boats appeared to be hanging between the dark, wooded hills and their reflection.

The towpath beyond here was a business-like swathe of bitumen, no doubt intended for cyclists, although there were no other users of any sort at the time.

Walking in France: Near Velars-sur-Ouche, Canal de Bourgogne
Near Velars-sur-Ouche
Walking in France: Coffees in Velars-sur-Ouche
Coffee in Velars-sur-Ouche

After an hour we arrived at Velars-sur-Ouche, a substantial village with a supermarket as well as a bar. Before going to the latter, we visited the former and collected supplies for the evening meal, as there would probably be nowhere to eat at St-Marie-sur-Ouche.

The bar was in the old, pre-canal part of town, across the river and up a steep rise. We sat indoors amongst a cheerful crowd of locals, and had a second round of coffee before resuming our peaceful progress.

Just over the canal was an enormous autoroute, the A38, but most of the time we neither saw it nor heard it as we strolled along the towpath under the trees. An hour passed peacefully, and then it began to rain, although not hard at first. Our trusty white capes, not quite dry from their service yesterday, reappeared.

Walking in France: Near Ste-Marie-sur-Ouche, and still raining on the Canal de Bourgogne
More rain

At the village of Fleury-sur-Ouche there was a bar on the other side of the canal, but we did not need it.

We were more interested in a hotel that was supposed to exist a few kilometres further on, as we thought we might be able to have lunch there to make up for the lack of a restaurant meal in the evening.

Walking in France: Near Ste-Marie-sur-Ouche, and still raining on the Canal de Bourgogne
Near Ste-Marie-sur-Ouche, and still raining

The canal crossed under the autoroute and began to twist about as the land became more hilly. At the first bend we saw the hotel (Le Pont de Pany), a handsome old house painted white.

The garden was surrounded by a fence and the entry gate was locked, which was not a good sign. Nevertheless, we pressed the bell several times, then gave up and turned to go, just as an ancient couple opened the house door.

After peering exasperatedly at us, the old gentleman shouted “Fermé!” and slammed the door shut.

We got the message, although his one-word reply left us wondering whether it was closed just for that day, or forever.

Walking in France: Our tent near the shower block, Ste-Marie-sur-Ouche camping ground
Our tent near the shower block

It continued to rain for the next three winding kilometres along the canal, until we came to a beautiful park with a children’s playground (completely empty of course), beyond which was the equally pretty camping ground of St-Marie-sur-Ouche. The village itself was on the other side of the canal.

The little wooden office was deserted but there were plenty of tents and caravans about. Choosing a spot near the shower block, we quickly put up our tent and crawled inside to wait for a break in the weather.

It was lunchtime and for once we had supplies of food, a veritable feast with three sorts of cold meat, fresh bread, cheese, cucumber, tomato and an array of sachets that we had collected here and there.

Walking in France: Lunch in our tent
Lunch in our tent

After lunch we had showers, read, slept and did a crossword. There was no chance to look around outside, as the weather did not relent.

In the evening we had another meal, oddly similar to the first one, but this time beautifully arranged on an old towel draped over my legs, and washed down with health-giving water.

Walking in France: And our beautifully arranged dinner
And our beautifully arranged dinner

It was cosy and pleasant in our little capsule, and the murmur of other campers nearby gave us a sense of community, although we had hardly exchanged a word with any of our neighbours.

We had a lovely sleep with the soothing patter of the rain for a lullaby. Needless to say, it was a free night’s camping.

Previous day: St-Jean-de-Losne to Dijon

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