Well today’s walk was supposed to be around 10 miles as a bit of a lighter day than our first two but somehow it didn’t quite work out like that! The distances didn’t quite add up when I looked at the map more closely….
All went well to start with – despite our host, Vivienne’s, horrified look she did prepare a simple breakfast for us at 7.30 and we headed down from Mer to the bridge over the Loire in the morning cool. Much of the morning was spent alongside the river in lovely shade. For the first time we saw boats on the river, though they are clearly now just used for tourist trips.
In the first village we came to on the south bank, St-Dye-sur-Loire, impressive fortified town walls and one or two moored house boats are the only evidence that this was a bustling port 500 years ago.
After a brief comfort break here we headed west again to Montlivault, alongside fields full of courgettes being manually harvested in the blistering, late-morning sun. Confusingly, given where we were earlier in the year, the workers were wearing Chinese-style conical hats for protection. I imagine that, as in Britain, this kind of back-breaking work is often done by recent immigrants and others at the bottom of the employment heap – not much fun. We wanted to stock up on blister plasters and hoped to buy at least a picnic lunch in Montlivault and succeeded in the first goal. The boulangerie turned out to be closed on Wednesdays, though, and the lady in the epicerie explained that all their remaining baguettes were reserved, as a result. Never mind – we enjoyed cold alcohol-free beers and pressed on.
We’d no sooner noted the absence on vines in an area famous for its wines than we came across our first vines. We look forward to some wine tasting on a day when we’re not too dehydrated!
As the day was turning out to be longer than expected, after St-Claude-de-Diray we decided to bypass the ins and outs of the path again and headed straight down what looked like a minor road to the motorway bridge at Blois. It turned out not to be much fun – the road was a bit of a rat run. However we did bump into our first other long distance walkers of the trip! We saw Blois from a long way off – a bigger city than I’d expected – but it seemed to take a long time to arrive in the afternoon heat!
We picked up a picnic for lunch and ate it in the shade near the Pont Jacques Gabriel before heading off to our Airbnb for the night, a couple of km east of the centre of Blois. That felt like a long walk! We enjoyed showers and time relaxing in our comfy room before heading back into Blois by bus for dinner but that wasn’t as easy as you might think! The family had gone out leaving us a key but we managed to get that stuck in the front door. We then headed to the wrong bus stop and missed the half hourly bus to town… We got there in the end, though, and had dinner in the shadow of the Chateau – French onion soup and chips for Rosie and a hot goat’s cheese and artichoke salad for me.
We just about had energy and feet for a short walk round the old town before heading for the station to pick up a taxi back to our B & B. It feels much busier than anywhere we’ve been since Orleans but we were a bit too weary to capitalise on this and very relieved not to have to walk back to out accommodation after another 20 mile day!