Day 11: Pont Astier to Puy-Guillaume

Walking in France: Almost ready to leave Pont Astier
Almost ready to leave Pont Astier

Saturday, 30 June 2018
Distance 15 km
Duration 3 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 109 m, descent 120 m

For the first time this year, the night had been warm – summer was on its way at last. We packed up and left about 7:45 am, at which time the barrier gate was still locked, but we climbed over it without much difficulty.

We had not gone far when we saw a sign for a boulangerie pointing off to the left, and, hoping that it might also have a coffee machine, as many bakeries do these days, we followed it.

The boulangerie appeared, but the coffee machine did not, and we had to content ourselves with a couple of croissants, which we ate while walking.

Walking in France: We decided not to visit the château of les Robins
Not welcome at the château of les Robins

Our plan was to leave the road at the entrance to the château of les Robins, but when we got to the turn-off, it was barred by a gate, so we felt it would be rude to go beyond it, although it would have been easy enough to climb.

We were not interested in visiting the château, but in getting to the village of Dorat, which this road led to.

Fortunately, a short distance further along the main road was another track, un-gated, that joined the first turn-off, and we soon arrived at a tiny tar road, crossed the river Dore, on whose banks we had slept last night, and climbed into Dorat.

Walking in France: A much warmer welcome in Doral
A much warmer welcome in Dorat

There, to our surprise and delight, was a bar, with the door wide open and people sitting outside. We hurried to join them and indulge in our first coffee of the day.

We had saved a bit of meat and bread from dinner, and that made a good little accompaniment.

Two cyclists arrived and ordered a full breakfast. With the camaraderie of the road (which includes both walkers and cyclists), we went over to them and asked where they were going today.

Walking in France: Breakfast in Dorat
Breakfast in Dorat

The reply was a blank stare. It turned out that they were German and spoke no French, but they were very proficient in English, so we had a pleasant conversation in the end. They were going south, in the opposite direction to us.

Walking in France: Leaving Dorat
Leaving Dorat

We left Dorat on a zig-zagging succession of small roads and tracks, traversing patches of forest as well as farmland. The Dore river was not far away on our left, running parallel to the Allier and gradually approaching it.

As we strolled along, we came to a new-looking, enormously long farm shed, entirely roofed in solar panels. It was impressive, but we are no longer quite as amazed as we used to be at sights like this in France.

In our own backward-looking country, such a sight would be unthinkable.

Walking in France: Enormous solar barn
Enormous solar barn
Walking in France: Near Puy-Guillaume
Near Puy-Guillaume

Just before midday we cruised into Puy-Guillaume, a large, prosperous town perched above the Dore. We were now closer to the Allier than we had been for several days.

We stopped for a celebratory coffee of arrival at a busy bar on the main square, where five roads met at a public garden.

The camping ground was a few hundred metres down the road, but before going there we felt the need to stock up for lunch (a meal that we often forget to indulge in).

So we went into a boulangerie on the way and bought a large ham-and-cheese feuilleté to eat when we arrived.

Walking in France: One hundred pitches, excellent sanitaires, beautiful grounds, and us, in the Puy-Guillaume camping ground
One hundred pitches, excellent sanitaires, beautiful grounds, and us

As we turned into the camping ground, the air was full of shouts and squeals of laughter, but they were not from fellow campers (there were none). They were from the swimming pool next door.

A friendly groundsman said that the office would open at 3 pm. Meanwhile we had showers and put up our tent, which looked very lonely in the great empty expanse of the place, although everything was immaculate, newly mown and shaded by fresh young trees.

The feuilleté was evidently meant to be eaten hot, and was unpleasantly stodgy when cold. We got around this problem by laying it out in the hot sun while we did our washing, after which it was considerably nicer.

When the responsable arrived we paid our dues (€13.60), and she invited us into the games room, where a large TV was broadcasting a World Cup match. This passed the time very nicely, while outside she cleaned the windows with a thunderous high-pressure hose

Walking in France: Waiting for dinner at Puy-Guillaume's kebab restaurant
Waiting for dinner at Puy-Guillaume’s kebab restaurant

After a while the swimming pool closed, the happy chatter ceased and it was time for dinner. We had noticed on the internet that there was a restaurant nearby, on the banks of the Dore, called le Beau Rivage, so we crossed the bridge and found it , but it did not look at all lively – in fact it was defunct.

This was a disappointment, but not a major one, and we marched back up the road to town, to see what we could see.

We were disappointed to see that, apart from a couple of bars and a take-away pizza shop, there was precious little on offer, and we ended up, with some reluctance, at a kebab restaurant (the reluctance was not because of the food, but because of the prohibition on wine to go with it). However, in the end it was a very pleasant meal.

Walking in France: We started with a shared a bowl of smoked salmon salad
Smoked salmon salad

We began by sharing a bowl of smoked salmon salad, which was fresh and flavoursome.

Then we both had “assiettes”, Keith’s kofta and mine chicken.

Walking in France: And two delicious assiettes for mains
Two delicious assiettes for the main course

As we walked back to the camping ground, I was hoping that some other campers would have arrived, but it turned out that we were still the only ones.

Ever since the episode of the creepy man lurking in the deserted camping ground at Chabanais, I have been frightened of camping alone, whereas before that I did not mind at all.

Consequently, I hardly slept, especially as the lights in the camping ground went out after a while, and some atavistic fear of the dark compounded my misery.

Previous day: Billom to Pont Astier

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