Day 5: Nantua to Simandre-sur-Suran

Walking in France: Breakfast next to the tennis courts
Breakfast next to the tennis courts

Monday, 19 June 2017
Distance 30 km
Duration 7 hours 20 minutes
Ascent 493 m, descent 676 m
Map 143 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

The trouble with tourist towns is that the bars do not cater for early risers, as normal towns do. Consequently we made do with muesli for breakfast for the first time this year.

We sat at a table beside the tennis courts, under a line of young trees, and pulled out the bags of muesli, dried fruit and milk powder that we had brought from home.

The result did not compare with a breakfast of hot coffee and croissants, but it was nice enough.

Walking in France: On the cycle path beside Lac du Nantua
On the cycle path beside le Lac de Nantua

By 7 o’clock we were well advanced along the side of the lake, on a cycle path which was only separated from the roadway by a line of bollards.

On the other side of the road was a railway line and there was no room for anything else, as the scrubby cliff pressed close against the shore, and was topped with unstable looking overhanging bulges known as the Devil’s Fingers.

The cliff was braced with mighty fences, ready to catch whatever portions might come loose, but they did not look very reassuring.

Walking in France: Looking back to Nantua
Looking back to Nantua

Looking back over the milky waters of the lake, we could see the town tucked in picturesquely at the base of the mountains that we had walked over yesterday, a charming sight.

After a couple of kilometres we reached the end of the lake and strolled over wide fields as flat as pancakes.

Walking in France: Surprisingly flat farmland
Surprisingly flat farmland

We crossed the autoroute (the A404), then turned onto a little road that looped around and degenerated into a wheel track as it approached a sharp forested ridge, the Mountain of Nurieux, which barred our way.

Luckily for us, the wheel track turned and continued, perfectly level, along the foot of the mountain.

A kilometre of this shady walking brought us to the end of the ridge and out into open country again, and before long we were on the bitumen again, coming in to the village of Nurieux, where a new TGV line was being put in beside the old derelict railway track.

Walking in France: A shady track along the foot of the Mountain of Nurieux
A shady track along the foot of the Mountain of Nurieux

To our relief, the bar on the highway was open – Monday is always a doubtful day for bars – and several drinkers were taking their ease in the shady courtyard.

We sat down and asked for coffee and croissants, to which the waitress replied that they had no croissants (the Monday factor again).

Walking in France: Second breakfast of coffee and yesterday's croissants, Le Paddy's Bar Tabac, Nurieux-Volognat
Second breakfast of coffee and yesterday’s croissants

However one of the customers obligingly said that he would see what he could do and disappeared, coming back with a bag of four croissants, to our great joy.

They were yesterday’s but we were happy to have them and we only paid a euro for the lot. We thought later that he was probably the boulanger on his day off.

Walking in France: Near Mornay
Near Mornay

Suddenly restored to full energy, we set off again, climbing a small road that circled around the hamlet of Mornay, then became a wheel track, still climbing.

It was a pleasant walk, with deciduous trees and green hedges on either side.

Near the village of Napt we joined a tar road and came to a war memorial with a carved eagle on the top and a list of the village boys who had died in World War 1.

Their deaths were variously described as “from wounds”, “from sickness” and “on the field of honour” (i.e. killed on the spot).

Walking in France: Arriving in Napt
Arriving in Napt

We sat on a railing and ate some chocolate, then started downhill.

Walking in France: A snack near the Napt war memorial
A snack near the Napt war memorial
Walking in France: A steep descent
A steep descent

After a few minutes we left the road and took a fast-falling track, more of a tunnel than a path, through the dense forest, crossing the road at one of its hairpin bends and passing under a railway line (which turned out to be the same TGV line that we had seen being built at Nurieux).

The way was stony and the air was filled with small white butterflies, like a summer snowstorm under the trees.

When we got to the bottom of the arduous 300 metre descent, we joined a road that took us even further down, below the village of Bolozon, so that we had to climb up again to the church square, which seemed a bit of a waste.

Walking in France: Bolozon

Not much was happening in Bolozon, in fact we saw nobody, although it looked a pretty little place, so we pushed on along the D916 until we came to the river Ain, basking between its green banks.

It was midday by now and we started to fade slightly as we trudged along beside the river in the punishing sun.

Walking in France: The impressive stone double-storey bridge over the Ain
The impressive stone double-storey bridge over the Ain

At one bend there was a power station of some sort, presumably hydro-electric, from which high-tension powerlines marched in every direction.

A couple of kilometres further on we came to the great stone double-storey bridge over the Ain. The lower level is a road and the upper one a railway, and its construction was begun in 1872.

Towards the end of Word War II, it was decided to damage it slightly to impede the retreat of the Germans, but the shocking result was that the whole thing collapsed into the river. Somehow it was back in operation by 1950.

Once over the bridge, we rested for a moment and had some more dried fruit, then took a small rising road to the village of Cize, a tiny place with a large, majestic Mairie, fronted by immaculate lawns and flower beds. Noticing a tap in one of the gardens, we took the chance to refill our water bottles, which turned out to be a good idea on the next part of the track.

Walking in France: The back road to Cize
The back road to Cize

Beyond Cize we found ourselves on a farm road, pleasant enough at first, but then taking off up the forested flank of yet another knife-edged ridge, shadeless, steep and unstable. This was the fourth time today that we had climbed one of the obstructing fingers of the Jura massif.

We laboured on ever more slowly, slipping on the loose stones underfoot, cursing the pitiless sun and our folly in ever deciding to come here. At least we did not run out of water.

It seemed to go for ever, but at last we came to a sharp turn and soon afterwards arrived at the crest of the ridge, just at the entrance of the village of Grand Corent.

Walking in France: A long, hot climb to Grand Corent
A long, hot climb to Grand Corent

This was little more than a crossroads, making us wonder what Petit Corent must be like (we found out later that it does exist, a bit to the north), but from our point of view it was excellent, perched on the very blade of the ridge with all the country beyond falling away.

A small road took us down gently for a kilometre or so, where we branched off onto a track that had all the virtues – it was easy to follow, not very steep, soft underfoot and shaded by tall trees.

Certainly it went for a long way, but in due course we emerged from the forest and saw the green water meadows of Simandre stretched out in front of us. It really felt as if we had emerged from the endless folds of the Jura and were on our way to a period of easier walking.

However, our day’s walk was not over yet. After crossing a railway line, we walked a surprisingly long way on a road through the fields before we came to the town. At the bridge over the Suran there was a bar where we stopped for coffee and a big jug of water, feeling tired and hot.

Walking in France: The idyllic Simandre-sur-Suran camping ground
The idyllic Simandre camping ground

Just across the river we could see the camping ground, which was also a public park, with lawns, shady trees and a line of stepping stones across the stream.

This stream had been dammed to form a pleasant swimming pool, and groups of people, many of them children, were playing in the water or relaxing under the trees – an idyllic scene.

Simandre was a strange village, as it had almost no shops, but a large, thriving Logis hotel, which fortunately was just opposite the camping ground and park.

On our way we called in at the hotel to make sure that we could eat there tonight, as it was Monday and therefore doubtful. There was no problem, so we were spared from a dismal dinner of cheese and water.

Walking in France: A cleansing swim in the pool
A cleansing swim in the pool

There were no other campers in the park, and the shower block was locked, so instead of a shower, we had a cleansing swim in the pool.

After a while a young chap arrived on foot and set up his tent. We thought he was a fellow walker but he actually had a car parked up on the street.

As he had a mobile phone, he rang the manager of the camping, whose name was Mélanie, and she arrived to unlock the facilities (which was just as well, because in the middle of the night I got an attack of the runs).

While she was there, we paid our dues of €6.44 for the night’s accommodation.

At 7:30 pm, dressed in our better set of clothes, we presented ourselves at the hotel.

Walking in France: Dinner at the Logis Hôtel Tissot, Simandre-sur-Suran
Dinner at the Logis Hôtel Tissot

Despite the early hour, there were plenty of people already eating under the trees in the courtyard, and we joined them.

To begin we had a glass of rosé each – an inordinately large one, not that we complained – and then we set to work on the €14 menu.

Keith had ham and melon as an entrée, while I had paté and salad. Then we both had the dish of the day, roast beef with vegetables.

To finish, Keith had crême brûlée, continuing the fieldwork for his forthcoming PhD thesis entitled “Regional Variations in Crême Brûlée in France”.

I ordered cheese, which disappeared into my ever-ready plastic bag as future lunch food.

Walking in France: Our entrées; paté and salad, and ham and melon
Our entrées; paté and salad, and ham and melon
Walking in France: Then roast beef with vegetables for mains
Then roast beef with vegetables for mains
Walking in France: And so to bed
And so to bed

A short stroll later we were tucked up blissfully in our tent.

All the swimmers and picnickers had disappeared and we were alone with the one other camper, who appeared to be already asleep.

In a short time we were in the same happy state.

Previous day: St-Germain-de-Joux to Nantua

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