Tuesday, 23 May 2023
Distance 12 km
Duration 3 hours 25 minutes
Ascent 116 m, descent 16 m
Having packed up our few possessions, we descended to the breakfast room about 8 am, to find several other parties loading their plates from the buffet. It was a pleasant change from yesterday morning’s tomb-like dining room.
Not wanting to appear greedy, we took modest platefuls of croissants, baguette slices, butter, cheese, jam, fruit and yoghurt, but went back and refilled our plates several times.
I had four lovely hot coffees and Keith had three. Naturally I squirrelled away a few buttered slices of baguette and some cheese for later.
We emerged onto the big road that Valérie had so swiftly driven us along yesterday, and walked back towards the town, past the roundabouts and under the railway line.
When we came to the pharmacy we went in to thank them again. Valérie was not there, but M. Hamon was, and the assistant Isabelle, who were both very pleased to hear of our comfortable evening at the Ibis.
Pressing on up the street, which did not half as bad this morning as it had in the drizzle yesterday, we reached the top of the rise, which had a few cafés and seemed to be the centre of town, unprepossessing as it was.
Perhaps we missed the beating heart of the place, but I do not think so.
Down the other side, we were soon beyond the houses, going past a large cemetery, and then onto the dreaded D973, the same highway that we had hurried along yesterday, pursued by a storm, in search of shelter at la Bastidonne.
However, this time we were only on it for a few hundred metres before turning away onto a small farm road with not a white line nor a guard rail in sight.
Abundant green grasses crowded the edge of the road and beyond them were orderly rows of vines stretching back towards a line of low blue hills.
We were amazed to see men working among the vines – it was a rare sight – and they were no doubt equally amazed to see us trudging along with our packs on our backs. We waved to each other in shared amazement.
We went over a wooded rise and there we rested on a large stone and had a drink, then continued through endless acres of vines, to a five-way intersection with the D13.
The way we had chosen turned out to be blocked by a gate with an unfriendly “No Entry” sign, so we retreated and took the next road to the right, which turned out to be the D37, and conveyed us very pleasantly through more vines and patches of forest to the end of the road.
Here, among tall trees, was a group of large buildings called la Bonde, which controlled the outflow of the Étang de la Bonde.
This little lake, like most lakes in France, was artificial, but it was unusual in that it did not have an actual dam (un barrage) holding the water back, only an “outlet” (une bonde).
Turning left along the edge of the étang, and passing a patch of startlingly bright wild poppies in the pasture, we came to the entrance to the camping ground.
A short time later we saw the beautiful sparkling expanse of the lake, and the little café on its shores.
Tables adorned with red umbrellas were set out under the trees, and people were enjoying their lunch.
Our spirits rose and, not for the first time, we felt that the rest of the walk would be the usual enjoyable ramble, and that we had seen the last of the setbacks and miseries that we had suffered so far this year.
Without even delaying long enough to book in for the night, or have showers, tired and sweaty as we were, we found an empty table and joined the other diners. The scene was utterly delightful.
We ordered two salads, one a chèvre chaud and the other adorned with little crumbed fish fritters. They were both enormous but we were equal to the challenge. It was a pleasure to be among other happy chattering diners, with the sun shining and the water quietly lapping nearby.
After we had eaten every scrap, we went back to look at the campsites.
The camping area extended along the edge of the lake behind the café, but most of the choice sites were occupied by cabins – an ominous sign for the future, if our experience at Pertuis was any guide. However the future had not arrived here, to our great relief, and we had no difficulty booking ourselves in for the night.
After strolling about looking at the available sites, we chose one with a relatively good cover of grass (most sites were rather bare and stony) and a shady tree, not far from the sanitaires.
We put up our tent, which had not had much use at all so far this year, then had showers and washed our walking clothes.
Next to us there was a Dutch couple, who were in a small tent like ours, but twice the size, and they had the added luxury of a car. Naturally, they were completely fluent in English, and very active, although somewhat elderly.
They said that they had been for a swim in the lake that morning, and had walked right around it the day before. It was a circuit of only a kilometre or two, but that was more than we were interested in doing that day.
The afternoon passed in an agreeable haze (mostly unconsciousness) and in the evening we went back to the café, which had the same sociable atmosphere as before and was, if possible, even more beautiful in the mild, fading light.
Having started with an apéritif of dawn-pale rosé, we ordered a single entrecôte, having observed the gigantic size of a fellow diner’s plateful.
With the usual basket of bread and a carafe of wine, it proved to be a delicious and satisfying meal for the two of us, and afterwards we dropped into bed very happily, with a feeling of optimism for the rest of the walk.