Day 29: Tonnerre to St-Florentin

Walking in France: A very early start in the Tonnerre camping ground
A very early start in the Tonnerre camping ground

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distance 28 km
Duration 5 hours 35 minutes
Ascent 46 m, descent 82 m

It was threatening to be very hot today and we had quite a walk in front of us, so we left the camping ground at 6:20 am.

Instead of turning up to the town, we crossed the canal and went to the highway, where we had seen a bar and a boulangerie as we trundled past in the bus yesterday.

Walking in France: The open bar near the canal
The bar near the canal

They were both open, although a sign in the boulangerie warned that it would be closed for congé – summer holidays – from next Monday, so we felt very lucky.

We only got one pastry each, as our researches from the bus window had revealed another bar and boulangerie at Flogny-la-Chapelle, about thirteen kilometres along the canal.

Walking in France: Breakfast

After this excellent preparation, we walked a few steps along the highway, then a few more over a canal bridge, and set off in earnest on the towpath.

Walking in France: Early morning on the beautiful Canal of Burgundy
Early morning on the beautiful Canal of Burgundy
Walking in France: Approaching the Écluse de Charrey
Approaching the Écluse de Charrey

In the shade cast by the trees on the opposite bank, we swung along easily, enjoying the novelty of being back on a canal.

The air was cool, the water was glassy and stripes of yellow sunlight lay across the path.

Walking in France: Too sour for some
Too sour for some

We soon came to a bank of blackberries, only partially ripe, and I could not resist collecting as many as I could reach, but they were too sour for sweet-toothed Keith.

By the time we came to the little road that would take us over the canal and up to a second breakfast at Flogny, the sun was higher in the sky and the tow path was not as shady.

Walking in France: A mixed second breakfast in Flogny
A mixed second breakfast in Flogny

We laboured up a slight slope to the highway and walked along confidently to the bar, which was in a modern little shopping centre.

It all looked good, except that the boulangerie was closed for congé (we had not noticed that detail as we sped past in the bus).

In the Vival supermarket there was nothing breakfast-like and we came out with only a couple of peaches, but luckily we still had some duck leg and bread from last night. The coffee was reviving and it was a pleasant moment of repose.

On the way back to the canal I liberated two half-ripe apples from an overhanging tree, so as we walked along Keith had the peaches and I had the apples.

Walking in France: Back on the canal
Back on the canal
Lock-keeper’s cottage at the Écluse d’Egrevin

We had only seen two locks so far, but after Flogny they became a bit closer together. The canal was descending very gradually towards its end.

As we approached St-Florentin, factories and warehouses appeared on the other side of the canal and soon we were confronted by a large road bridge. This marked the end of our canal walk for the the day.

Scrambling up to the road (the N77), we walked a little way along it, away from the town, until we crossed the broad Armançon and saw the flags of the camping ground below us.

Sign on the Lock-keeper's cottage at the Écluse d'Egrevin
Sign on the lock-keeper’s cottage, Écluse d’Egrevin

A massively tall railway viaduct sliced through the middle of the place, and we found out later that this was a disused branch line that used to go right to the foot of the town. The present railway line was a good kilometre further away from the canal and the town.

Walking in France: St-Florentin's camping ground, with the disused railway viaduct in the background
St-Florentin camping ground, with the disused railway viaduct in the background

We walked down and discovered that the reception building was also a bar-restaurant, and people were lunching in the shade of a wide, new-looking roof. It was very tempting, but we decided to wait until evening to sample the menu.

The actual campsites were through an archway of the viaduct and we were surprised at how many vans and tents were there, as from the road we had seen none of them.

After showers and clothes-washing, we ate the last of the bread and duck, stepped over to the bar for coffee (because we could), then lay down in the shade of an overhanging tree to sleep.

Walking in France: The camping ground's outdoor restaurant
The camping ground’s outdoor restaurant

Not far away there was a swimming beach on the river, full of children, whose happy shrieks accompanied our siesta most pleasantly.

At about 7 pm we went back through the archway to the outdoor restaurant, where dinner was in full swing.

We sat down on the shady side of the terrace, out of reach of the lowering sun, and ordered a small carafe of white wine as an apéritif.

Our dinners, the inevitable entrecôte for Keith
Our dinners, the inevitable entrecôte for Keith

The waiter was young, freckled and gingery – he looked English but wasn’t. However he was on a mission to become an English speaker as soon as possible, and did not let a single French word emerge from his mouth.

I felt quite a bond with him, but in reverse – no word of English escaped from mine, at least not in his presence.

To enjoy our apéros in peace, we told the waiter that we would not order dinner until 7:20 pm. When he hurried over at 7:22, he apologised for his lateness, and we all laughed.

The meal consisted of a single dish each. Naturally Keith chose an entrecôte, while I ordered the half chicken. The waiter warned me that it was very big, but I said that I would take away whatever was left over, so he stopped worrying.

And a half chicken for me
And a half chicken for me

There were a lot of annoying wasps circling around and I wanted to inflict a collective punishment on them for biting me on the lip in La Charité-sur-Loire.

Using a few pages of our maps, I started slapping them down. They were pretty stupid and easy to kill.

My antics attracted the attention of the other diners and the waiters, to the degree that they kept count of my victims. In the end there were thirteen dead wasps on the ground around me and I was celebrated as a sort of elderly female Crocodile Dundee. We all have our five minutes of fame.

Previous day: Travel day from Avallon to Tonnerre

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