Day 14: Seurre to Saint-Jean-de-Losne

Walking in France: A soggy morning in Seurre
A soggy morning in Seurre

Wednesday, 28 June 2017
Distance 22 km
Duration 4 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 21 m, descent 15 m
Map 136 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

Apart from the sogginess of the ground and a carpet of torn leaves and twigs, no sign remained of the storm.

Having checked yesterday, we knew that the bar in the village opened at 6:30 am, so we packed up quickly and hurried over the bridge, pausing at the boulangerie for a bag of light, puffy croissants before settling down in the bar opposite.

To be on the safe side, we had two rounds of coffee, as it did not seem likely that we would get any refreshments along the way.

Walking in France: Breakfast

We walked out of the village along the left bank of the Saône, and soon came to the entrance of the canal that we had seen from our camping place. Beyond the little boat harbour was a lock, where we crossed to the other side, onto the so-called Voie Verte.

Presumably it was still also the Voie Bleue, but neither colour seemed at all descriptive of the scene that unfolded ahead of us. There was hardly a tree in sight, just bleached wheatfields under a sky of grey, and an occasional road bridge or passing boat.

We were on a “canal de derivation”, slicing through the flat land with the ruthless efficiency of a Roman road, cutting off the wandering bends of the river, and greatly shortening the boat journey from Seurre to St-Jean-de-Losne.

Walking in France: On the Canal de Derivation
On the Canal de Derivation
Walking in France: In the small supermarket of Pagny-le-Château for a standing second breakfast
In the small supermarket of Pagny-le-Château for a standing second breakfast

After about an hour and a half, we came to the turn-off to Pagny-le-Château, where we had hopes of a bar, so we left the canal and walked a kilometre into the tiny, quiet village.

It did have a bar, but it was now a dead shell. However, across the street was a small supermarket that claimed to serve coffee. Only black coffee in paper cups, and only from a tall metal table with no chairs.

Walking in France: Breakfast

We did not mind, as we had powdered milk to stir into the coffee and we even got a couple of croissants to go with it.

Walking in France: Back on the canal
Back on the canal

On the way back to the canal we admired a little chapel half-hidden amongst bushes, before resuming our march along the bare, featureless canal.

Not long after that, we rejoined the Saône and the scenery became a bit more varied, with curves and undulations in the path, patches of trees, and green pastures.

At the same time, the clouds started to clear and everything became more colourful.

Walking in France: Beside the Saône
Beside the Saône

Another small oxbow had been formed by what looked like a man-made breach across a loop of the river.

We took the short way, then went under a railway bridge and soon arrived at the first street of St-Jean-de-Losne, which looked out across the river to the very end of the Canal de Bourgogne, where it emptied into the Saône.

This was interesting to us, because tomorrow we would be starting our walk up the canal from that point.

Walking in France: The very end of the Canal de Bourgogne, empting into the Saône
The very end of the Canal de Bourgogne, empting into the Saône
Walking in France: Crossing the Saône for the last time
Crossing the Saône for the last time

From a bench outside one of the houses a square, a whiskery old fellow greeted us, curious to know where we were going.

He said he was 82 years old and had been a riverboat captain all his working life, on all sorts of boats, everywhere from Strasbourg to Amsterdam. Our travels were much more limited than that, but he conceded that they were good enough.

Pressing on, we found the main part of the town was over the bridge. For reasons unknown, this bridge was decorated with flags of various countries, looking very cheery.

Walking in France: A shady bar by the river
A shady bar by the river

Our first imperative was to find a bar and have a proper coffee in a sitting position, and the place for this seemed to be along the riverbank, rather than straight ahead.

We soon found a bar and sank down at a shady table overlooking the enormous width of the river, which was lined on both sides with moored boats.

Walking in France: Coffees of arrival
Coffees of arrival
Walking in France: Installed in the Saint-Jean-de-Losne camping ground
Installed in the Saint-Jean-de-Losne camping ground

Having recovered our energy, we wandered on along the foreshore road for a few hundred metres, beyond the houses, past a derelict factory and a rowing club, and arrived finally at the camping ground.

The manageress invited us to choose our own place, and after some calculations of the angle of the sun, we settled on a patch of grass with enough trees to keep us in the shade for the day. The actual riverbank was crowded with caravans, but it was too sunny for us there.

Hours later, washed and rested, we went back to town, but not by the same route.

Walking in France: Admiring some of the boats moored at St-Jean-de Losne
Admiring the boats moored at St-Jean-de Losne

On our way to the camping ground we had noticed a little path threading its way between the old factory and the river, and we thought we could return to the restaurant area that way, but we found ourselves on the wrong side of a high fence inside the factory yard, and had to retreat and take the road after all.

St-Jean-de Losne did not have much to offer the evening diner. The main street was moribund, as was the riverbank beyond the bridge, so we decided to walk back and eat at the camping ground, which had a restaurant of its own.

But first we had an apéritif in the bar that we had visited in the morning, indoors this time, as the weather had turned cool. Madame brought the rosé bottle to show what a superior drop we were getting, which presumably justified her charging €7 for two small glasses.

Walking in France: Surprisingly, a gas heater turned on to warm the camping ground restaurant
Surprisingly, a gas heater to warm the camping ground restaurant

Back at the camping ground, the slightly ramshackle restaurant was full of customers.

The plastic sheeting had been lowered and a heater was sending out waves of delicious warmth over the tables. It was hard to remember how hot we had been during the day.

We began by filling our plates from a magnificent buffet on the sidewall, with tomato salad, rice salad, cucumber salad, potato salad, coleslaw, ratatouille, terrine, ham, paté, salami, hard-boiled eggs and other things.

I put some of this away discreetly in my plastic bag for future lunches.

Walking in France: Overloaded plates from the buffet
Overloaded plates from the buffet

For the main course Keith did not waver from his favourite (steak) and I had a chicken brochette. Both dishes came with chips, salad and a little pot of cooked vegetables, plus bread and red wine of course.

Walking in France: Overloaded plates from the buffet
Followed by main courses

One of madame’s two pretty daughters waited on the tables, and the other, a child of about nine, who was wearing headphones, sang lustily while reading the words on a computer screen. Our hostess tried in vain to quieten her, but the other diners did not seem to mind, and we certainly didn’t.

Previous day: Verdun-sur-le-Doubs to Seurre

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