Glorious morning because we are sleeping in and not packing up to be gone by 7. The tents will dry eventually though there is a soft mist overhanging everything. That was to be expected because we are camping on an island in the middle of the Loire. It is cool enough to pull out my puffy jacket as we eat breakfast of croissants and pastries but not coffee yet.
We decide to have coffee at a bar near the church and then explore the town. I feel a real sense of pleasure being here. It has energy and I probably am not tired! I am captivated by the dog in the boulangerie and the dog in the window of the hairdresser. It was so well behaved, just sitting watching, no barking. Alfie needs a bit of French good manners! There are always hairdressers open!
Next the church which I find really beautiful and moving. The flagstones are so uneven they tell of the centuries of worship yet it has very contemporary stained glass windows in some parts and beautiful messages around the church. It is a church that is used still.
The Church was taken over by the French Revolutionaries and the entrance was destroyed and housing was built. Since the 1990s the town has been restoring the buildings which are extensive. The monks were called Cluniacs and were very influential through the ages. It has also been recognised as a stop on a route to Santiago Compostella. Today I walked the mandatory 84 stairs for pilgrims.
The city has quite a few festivals, one of which is a festival of words and on many of the shops and buildings are quotes from literature. I find that really charming. This is the street we had our coffee. Eventually we returned to pack up the tents and catch the bus to Nevers. While I was doing that Amex rang to say my card had been used in New York! Anyway no transaction occurred due to their diligence but they have stopped that card. It isn’t a problem as I only bring it for emergencies but it took ages to sort out and I thought we would miss our bus. What a world. I am talking to a guy in America( Mumbai probably) while plugged into a caravan power site in France talking fraud then holding while they put me onto customer service in Actual America to send a replacement card! Anyway all is good. We arrived in Nevers as scheduled and are resting and enjoying a lovely Airbnb in a charming building. The washing machine finally worked when I realised you have to close the inner drum. I remembered from Croatia. Washed everything and now smell nice!
This morning as we folded the tents it crossed my mind, that I am nuts. The tents were wet with condensation and we needed to get off early because another hot day was predicted. We wanted to get as far as possible before the heat started to affect Karen. It is unusually warm! I keep thinking about what I can ditch but apart from the shoulders I am actually travelling okay. That was until today. When you follow a river it meanders and that added extra kilometres. We had not intended any long days for a week or so to give us all time to get our walking fitness honed. Hmph! Best plans and all that. It turns out there were different markers to our information and it turned into a long days walk. We all feel tired.
The walking was beautiful though with lots of bird life. Everyday we are surrounded by sweet bird song, trills and tweets, honks and cries. Then there are the frogs. I haven’t heard a cacophony of frogs for ages. They are prolific. We saw a flock of cormorants surge up from underwater right in front of us. It was like watching submarines emerging from the water. Later a flock of white swans flapped and flapped in order to get airborne.
Eventually we arrived in Chateauneuf for second breakfast. Our first had been left over pizza and a banana. Some of these little towns seem very quiet and not a lot is open for dinner. We had to have pizza last night. I had a delicious cafe au lait, my first coffee in three days. Fortified we set off enthusiastically.
We saw a flat bottomed boat chugging up stream with sightseers, the first of the season perhaps. Then the next place was St Benoit. A beautiful and unusual church monastery. It was deliciously cool inside.
From now we start to struggle. It is unseasonably hot. Karen is wilting so the going is slow. Eventually we arrive at Sully and the camp ground is delightful but we are all worn out and it is late.. The town has few shops for provisioning for breakfast but Andy goes while we organise dinner. Not much choice, looks like chocolate brownies for breakfast! There is a charming chateau here. Quite a Repunzal
let down your hair type.
We enjoy a really delicious dinner and return to our tents and crash. Another hot day tomorrow means an early start again.
This walk was really pretty, going past beautiful homes and chateaux finally arriving in Briare which is a canal town famous for its mosaics and earthen ware. It is quite a pretty place with lots of boats and a large canal that actually goes across and above the Loire River. We arrived feeling a bit stretched and finally found a place that sold gourmet icecreams and chocolates. While eating our treats a boat cruised past on the canal. Very weird to see a boat at footpath level.
Despite the boating activity, it is pre-season and many places are not open. We walked the town and only found one little restaurant. There may be others but without a car the options are limited.
The next day was Sunday and we discovered very little open again but the Tabacs (tattslotto, newsagents, coffees, some have the TAB horse racing) were the only things open and the real centre of village sunday life. In fact many of the little towns we have walked through have no bars, shops or bakeries. They are often closed up like the houses have been abandoned or they are holiday homes. It has meant we are struggling to get a breakfast or even a coffee on the way which has surprised us.
it has meant long days walking which has tired us all. Still that is part of the adventure to discover how the country works close up.
The camping grounds are interesting. Sometimes no loo paper, never toilet seats, unisex, and water rationed to 30 second bursts. There is a lot of emphasis on careful use of water, a precious asset. A bit ironic when we are walking beside a fast flowing river but I like the philosophy. Should be more of it at home. The water is hot so I have this technique now, of getting wet, soaping up and then rinsing off. You can press the tap as many times as you like but it always stops automatically.
It was a bit of a scramble this morning and when I put on my pack I thought it felt pretty heavy. My mind went to what could I post home?! I can’t quite get my head around the direction but we are walking east so into the sun we stepped. Our trail goes along the Loire River and it wasn’t too long before we left the larger town behind and started passing through small villages, then farm lands. Essentially we are following the levy bank and along the way we passed many signs from the 1840s when the river flooded to extraordinary heights. The river was also used for transporting goods and many places were identified as Ports. It was a tranquil walk, mostly flat but the weather got warmer and warmer and Karen started to overheat and feel unwell. Even though we stopped quite regularly the last four kms were really hard for her.
I was feeling better about the pack as the day wore on though I felt stiff around the shoulders towards the end of the day. We arrived in Jargeau and headed for a cafe to refresh before finding our campsite. It wasn’t too long before we were set up and heading for a shower and washing of clothes. The shower was interesting because it was very hot but only runs for 30 seconds at a time. I luxuriated in the stop and start but when I went to dry myself I had left the towel back at the tent! I dries off with my dirty clothes and then washed them and hung them up behind the tent. We got in later than expected so I hope everything dries by tomorrow.
A port house.
I strapped on my pack and left the hotel with good wishes from the receptionist for a good trip to Compostella! It made me smile, but the joke was on me because Orleans is on a Camino path! I was anxious about the train with all the strikes so I went early. I could see on the monitor the train I was to catch but no platform number. Each person I asked said you just need to be there 20 minutes before but nobody told me which platform. I walked around filling in time and decided to wait until there was a rush to the platform. With time to kill I needed the loo and of course you have to pay here. It is important to have some small change even for the train tickets. More awkward was the fancy loo that didn’t give me enough time to take my pack off and settle before the door unlocked! Some poor woman got a shock when she opened my door. Still uncertain about the train I just had to wait for the last twenty minutes and follow any group heading for a train and then find someone to tell me if it was the correct train. Fortunately there were no other trains departing so I was pretty sure it was the correct train. I did eventually find a staff member who waved me onto the train. I checked with one of the passengers too. The microphone was so muffled I found it hard to understand. I longed for the Japanese system which is spoken in both Japanese and English with very clear instructions. Anyway all was okay until I arrived at my destination Aubrais. Karen and Andy had said stay on the train till it goes to Gare Orleans but when I asked someone they said it wasn’t stopping there. I needed to get off and catch a tram. I leaped off just before the train pulled out and then had to squeeze through the crowd with my backpack to get to a ticket machine. Seriously I could have got on with out a ticket as nobody checked. Anyway the tram took me to the station but my alarm grew as we wizzed past finally stopping at the back of the station instead of the front. I located Andy and Karen who have not changed at all. It was a lovely reunion.
We walked back to our Airbnb which was convenient to the start of the walk near the river. Then they took me back to explore Orleans. The cathedral has the most beautiful intricate stained glass windows and the little streets around the centre were quite medieval and quaint. The Loire River is very wide and fast flowing. But very tranquil looking. There is a canal that runs alongside the river too on which several fisherman were seated. This is a rather lovely town. We found a restaurant for dinner where we were served delicious but huge toasted sandwiches with salad. They were too big to eat. When we returned home I crashed and slept so very soundly.
Today I was determined to see the Waterlilies in the Orangerie and visit the Pompidou Centre. I was going to use the rail pass that I bought but haven’t really utilised. I just find walking more interesting even if it is tiring.
Once again I bought tickets online and avoided the queues. Oh my, what glorious paintings! You just seem to melt into them. I was fascinated by his abstraction of the subject. It is far more obvious in person. They are set up so you can literally sit and absorb the calm. They are huge.
This video doesn’t exist
I have learned a lot about brush strokes from observing these paintings.
Next the Pompidou and I used the metro this time. Changing lines felt like I was walking halfway there but it really was quick and brought me right out at the gallery. While I was trying to find the entrance ( this is the only gallery with less clear directions!) I ended up in this massive line and my heart sank. Another woman also joined me and we started chatting and she turned out to be another Aussie from Melbourne. The line in fact was for the library! Very impressive! A young woman who was behind us directed us to the correct entrance. After that we both decided to go for lunch first. Judith, who has just completed her Doctorate on Cystic Fibrosis lives in Essendon and works at the Royal Children’s Hospital. We clicked and she told me she had been recommended to eat at the roof top restaurant for the views and the food. We had a very leisurely lunch and glass of wine but decided that by three o’clock we should really start viewing the art! There was an exhibition of Chagall, Kandinsky and other Russian artists. After wandering around till nearly 7 looking at all sorts of modern art especially some of Picasso and Matisse, we decided enough modern art and headed for home. I decided to miss the metro because it was actually quicker to walk back to my place. Next time I will wait before I buy a rail pass until I am here. I hadn’t thought that through properly. I was going to go to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre but after meeting Judith and enjoying the company I shelved that idea. So I barely needed the pass. I will use it to go to Gare Austerlitz with my pack though.
Tomorrow I leave for Orleans and the real business of this holiday. The last photo is of my hotel. Very lovely and great position. Note the stone blocks and wooden platforms. They are for students to sit/ lie or sleep on because I am in the heart of the University district! Judith was staying at and AirBnB nearer Notre Dame because she is here for more time and then going to Villiers for the Anzac commemoration. I would check that out next time.
At last Paris! After a movie marathon on the plane (7) where I caught up on the latest and was fortunate to be seated next to very pleasant people. They were happy to act in a team capacity when we all needed the toilet as it was so very squashed and I was in a window seat. When one got up we all got up! I haven’t had that experience before with strangers but it made for a most agreeable flight.
I arrived in Paris and my booked shuttle was nowhere to be seen. It turns out they came on the 13 th instead of the 14 th but were quick to reorganise. After finally getting to the hotel I jumped in the shower to refresh, and took what was supposed to be a very quick rest. I woke with a start and realised I wouldn’t be walking to the tour after all! I grabbed a cab ( which came in five minutes- a far more positive experience than my 1 hour wait for a cab to take me to the airport in Melbourne!) to get me to a Jump the queue tour of the Louvre. I was pretty tired because I only slept a couple of hours on the plane and an hour in the hotel but I was glad of the booked tour. If I had had to queue I would have bailed. It was all your worst ideas about travelling in Europe. Crowds everywhere. I almost got the giggles over the crowd around the Venus de milo and the Mona Lisa. I wasn’t too concerned because the tour guide was very informative about those and other paintings and sculptures we saw and rooms we visited which I previously had never seen.
Flagging by now I stopped at a little bistro to have a Croque Monsieur and glass of wine and a delicious Tart Tatin ( essentially a toasted sandwich and fancy apple pie)before walking back to the hotel which is very nice and opposite the Pantheon. It is well situated and it was good to walk the streets.
Paris was overcast and cool but still people were sitting around in the Tuileries gardens relaxing and playing Pétanque. The gardens are just starting to have spring blooms but they look a little miserable yet. Away from the tourist attractions Parisienne life seemed quite pleasant and less frenetic. There seem to be homeless people on the streets that I hadn’t seen when I visited before. Paris still retains its little boutiques and odd shops that we are losing, though the expensive shops like at Melbourne Central are at the tourist places, like the Louvre, where they have added shopping malls . I felt somewhat relieved I would be here only a few days and heading into the country to be free of the crowds. Having said that I did meet some friendly Americans and enjoyed their company while having dinner .
On my return to the hotel I crashed for a satisfying 8 hours sleep. Day one done and dusted. Is this real? This trip has been in my head for so long it feels like I am in a dream.
I have just had a wonderful massage from my friend Jan which has released all my pent up tension. Feel like I am walking on air. Jan and her husband Ron gave me a small file of ‘ health elixir’ to ward off infections and viruses. Ron is a chemist and expert on aroma therapy and this little mixture will work with me to keep me well. They swear by its properties. It has a robust but pleasant aroma. I was so touched. They have become good friends and their loving care of me is most appreciated.
After a busy day with Ziggy, followed by a stimulating book club discussion and then a quick edit of Hazel’s short story, I tumbled into bed around 12.30am last night. When I awoke this morning at 6.30 I decided to take Alfie for a walk and then go to gym, my usual routine, despite feeling a little weary. I was shocked to discover that not one but two of our favourite trainers are leaving. Michelle the Pilates teacher has resigned because she can no longer combine teaching with her physiotherapist studies and Sam wants to spend more time with his upcoming baby. I admire his commitment to his wife and child but I am so disappointed for us. Sam is an excellent trainer who always pushes us to go harder or faster but never bullies . It is his efforts that have got me and kept me really fit and ready for this walk. I will miss his smiling face and good natured cajoling.
So now only three more sleeps to take off!