Day 1: St-Julien-en-Genevois to Neydens

Monday, 27 June 2016
Distance 7 km
Duration 1 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 144 m, descent 46 m
Map 143 of the TOP 100 lime-green series

Walking in France: On the back-road to Feigères
On the back-road to Feigères

This hardly qualified as a day’s walk, because it was preceded by some touristic pottering around Nevers and then a train trip lasting several hours, which took us from there to the border of Switzerland at St-Julien-en-Genevois. This was not a place that we had planned to visit, but it was the closest railway station to Neydens, where we had intended to join the Way of Geneva after walking across the Jura.

Our plans had changed when Keith was struck down with a leg problem in Burgundy, and when he recovered we were still not sure that he would survive another three weeks of walking, so with the aid of the train we had jumped ahead about a week on our itinerary, to give ourselves time to slow down if necessary and still make it to le Puy. All we had to do today was to find our way to Neydens without a map.

We got out of the train in hot sunshine at 5:30 pm. We knew there was a GR from here to Neydens but we had no idea where it was, so we looked at an information board and saw a road that would connect us to our home-made map of the Neydens district, and from there we could surely find the way.

Walking in France: Neydens camping ground
Neydens camping ground

This turned out to be a terribly inefficient route. We started off trudging along the edge of a large highway thick with commuter traffic, past a huge roundabout and a bridge over the railway line.

Just beyond that we were pleased to be able to turn off on a much smaller road which led us over an autoroute and into pleasant rural countryside.

The only trouble was that our little road was on the wrong side of a marshy stream, and although we could see Neydens on the other side, it was impossible to cross, and we had to keep going as far as Feigères before we could find a bridge and double back, finally arriving at Neydens from the opposite direction.

Walking in France: A foreigner in McDonald’s, Neydens
A foreigner in McDonald’s, Neydens

The camping ground was enormous, bigger than the whole of the rest of the village, and had all sorts of buildings at the front – a reception area, a restaurant, storage sheds and various cabins.

The manager was a substantial Dutch blonde, who informed us that the restaurant was closed tonight (Monday) but that we could join in a special raclette dinner if we liked. It would be entirely cheese, she said, which sounded rather too claggy, so we decided to try our luck at the local shops.

We were transported to our allotted site by motorised buggy, as it was such a distance from the reception. It had good grass and shady trees, and the showers were up to Dutch standards. Once we were in our clean clothes we set off in pursuit of dinner.

There was a raw new shopping centre on the edge of the village, teeming with shoppers even at this late hour. We walked the length of it and found two restaurants – one a highly refined establishment with starched white tablecloths and reverential waiters in uniform, and the other a McDonald’s.

Walking in France: Our tasty Italian “salads”
Our tasty Italian “salads”

We searched in vain for something between these extremes, but in the end, with great reluctance, we went to McDonald’s, for the first and possibly the last time in our lives.

We sat outside at a bolted-down metal table, hemmed in by enormous containers of plants, and had Italian “salads”, which turned out to be cold pasta with a few leaves and herbs, plus a dressing, which was surprisingly tasty.

Back at the camping ground, the raclette feast was over but people had settled down to watch the Eurocup match between England and Iceland. We joined them and stayed until Iceland won, against all predictions, and to the satisfaction of almost all the viewers.

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