Tuesday, 27 June 2017
Distance 21 km
Duration 4 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 10 m, descent 6 m
Map 136 of the
When we left, the only other people awake in the camping ground were our cyclist friends from last night, also preparing to leave. We shook hands with them before marching off to our appointment with breakfast.
Hastening past the illuminated speed sign, we were gratified to see that it now registered
At the boulangerie we collected a bag of pastries (two croissants, a chausson and a pain aux raisins), then stepped across the street to the Café de Paris at 7 am precisely.
It was the sort of breakfast that keeps us going for hours, and for which we are always grateful.
It was already open, and we sat outside while we fortified ourselves with two rounds of hot, milky coffee. Meanwhile the baker was loading up his van with delicious things to deliver around the district.
It turned out that this was a good day for it, because no more bars would be forthcoming until the end of the day’s walk.
Having crossed the Doubs near a little boat harbour, we went down to the banks of the Saône, where there was a grassy wheel track beside the water.
At first we were hemmed in by tall, untended hedges, but later emerged into a more orderly landscape of cornfields.
After leaving the river for a couple of kilometres while it described an extravagant loop, we joined it again at the edge of the village of Charnay-lès-Chalon. We had the choice of bypassing the village on the river path or going up to investigate, so naturally we did the latter.
It was a tiny place, made remarkable by a beautiful whitewashed church, whose steeple top was decorated with a pattern of shiny enamelled tiles in the Burgundian style.
There was nobody in sight, but a couple of stone benches stood under the trees beside the church, and we setted down there to cool off, drink water and eat some bread and cheese saved from two nights ago at Chalon – stale but surprisingly good in the circumstances.
Opposite the door of the church was a collection of ancient farm buildings, magnificently restored. The biggest of them had half-timbered walls with rows of drunkenly lurching narrow bricks, probably a relic of long-gone doorways or windows.
Back on the river path, we continued our steady progress, passing sun-bleached paddocks on one side and the great expanse of the Saône on the other, and crossed the departmental border between Saône-et-Loire and Côte-d’Or, which we would never have noticed except for the sign.
This also informed us that we were still on the Voie Bleue, and presumably had been ever since we joined the Saône four days ago.
After another hour we came to a parting of the waters, possibly man-made, where a short canal cut off a bend in the river.
We passed a lock, the first one we had seen since just after Tournus, and the track became a road as it approached the town of Seurre.
This was our destination for the day, and as it was not yet noon, we kept going along the shopping street until we found the Bar du Centre, where we had the pleasure of a coffee of arrival.
We also needed advice – there were two camping grounds marked on the map, one close to town and the other a bit further away, over the river, and we did not know which to choose.
The barman quickly put us straight, informing us that the nearer one no longer existed.
We went back via the riverbank to the big, sleek new bridge, and on the way, we passed a plaque commemorating an older bridge, which had used a small island as its central support.
We could see the stump of masonry on the other side of the water. It no doubt got washed away in some flood, the usual fate of such low-level stone bridges.
Just after this, we passed the beautiful wide-bodied fifteenth-century church with its octagonal tower, no longer open to the riverbank as it would have been originally, but squeezed behind a row of ugly modern houses. It looked like a case of petty corruption in the municipal chambers.
Having crossed the river, we took a small side road and went along agreeably under the trees for a few hundred metres until we came to the camping ground, which was stretched out along the grassy river bank.
Shady trees and beds of flowers made it an inviting scene. There was a large building on the waterfront claiming to be a restaurant, but up close it did not look salubrious, or even functioning – it was probably the sort of place that only operated in July and August.
Across the river was the entrance of a canal, with a few boats tied up alongside. We chose a piece of grass directly opposite this, and proceeded to make ourselves comfortable. There were vans and big tents here and there under the trees, but everybody had plenty of space.
After showers and clothes-washing, we stretched out on our luxurious mattresses and did nothing for the afternoon. Only as we were leaving in search of dinner did we put up the tent.
Seurre was a pleasant little place with many shops, but there was surprisingly little on offer for hungry walkers at night.
We searched the length of the street, and ended up back where we had started, at the roundabout near the bridge, where there was a pizzeria called le Grillardin.
The main building was unremarkable, but at the back there was an expansive terrace covered with awnings, where people were already eating. Although it was a hot evening, we felt cool amongst the tubs of greenery.
We began with the usual glasses of rosé, which arrived with a plate of little savoury pastries. It was a long time since we had eaten, so they were much appreciated.
Then we had a green salad while we waited for our pizzas to be cooked. The red wine came chilled in an ice bucket, in deference to the weather.
Because pizzas are so readily available, we have a rule that we do not order them unless there is nothing else to eat, which was the case here. These ones were delicious – Keith’s was loaded with ham, and mine had sun-dried tomatoes and a crown of egg.
Just as we were polishing off the last scraps, we heard thunder, whereupon light rain began to drift down. By the time we had paid the bill the rain was more serious, and it rapidly got worse.
Unfortunately, I had not thought to bring my rain cape, although Keith had. He nobly tried to share, but the result was that we were both soaked to the skin before we had even crossed the bridge.
Painfully conscious of having left the tent flaps open, we sprinted on, our sandals slipping in the liquid mud, our bodies sluiced by the torrent, for an interminable fifteen minutes. At last we arrived at the tent, which was covered in wet shredded leaves and twigs from the tree overhead.
Water had got in through the open flaps, but it was not as bad as we had feared, mainly because the rain had dropped so vertically. We dived into the relative luxury of the interior while the rain continued to hammer down.
It was hard to dry ourselves, as all our washing was saturated, including our towels, but we were happy to be home, and after a while the storm passed, leaving a great silence.