Six days of walking and 104 miles under our belts – more than half way to our destination, Poitiers! We set off together this morning with the plan that Rosie could catch a bus the last part of the way if she wanted to but she made it fine, despite her blisters still being very painful. I was aiming for a 16 or 17 mile walk by cutting off a few judicious corners and that’s more or less what it turned out to be. Our route out of Amboise took us west along the river past a busy Boulangerie where we picked up breakfast pain au chocolate, a coffee for me and some emergency fig bread. The patisserie, especially mini tarte tatins, looked so good but not transportable in the top of a rucksack. Not so sure about the rather lurid green pistachio Paris brests though!
We shortened the loop out of Amboise and were at Lussault-sur-Loire in time to sit down and eat our breakfast pastries. We then made good time to Montlouis, where there were plenty of good Boulangeries but none selling sandwiches, so we stopped for drinks and pressed on to Vouvray in the hope of finding something there. Having commented on the lack of vines for a wine growing region earlier in the week we were walking through them much of today. The path crosses to the north side of the river after Montlouis, sharing the bridge with trains, rather disconcertingly. Apparently the original bridge was destroyed by the RAF in 1944 – there are many concrete bridges of the same era up and down the Loire.
Today was a much cooler day and we even had a heavy rain shower. Fortunately we’d just arrived in Vouvray and there was a convenient tree to shelter under, whilst debating the wisdom of a glass of Vouvray wine with lunch with five or so miles still to walk. That turned out not to be much of a problem as there were no cafés open so lunch was a picnic – no hardship when we could buy olive bread from the bakery and perfectly-ripe Brie de Meux from the deli. I’d promised Rosie the walk on the North bank of the river would be straight along the shore but this turned out not to be quite the case… There was one more pull up past Chateau Moncontour, past yet more grape vines to the ancient village of Rochecorbon. We scrumped some tasty grapes from a naturalised vine which gave me a nasty surprise and demonstrated the efficacy of earwig defence strategies. Whatever they squirt out when they end up in your mouth tastes nasty enough to ensure a reflex spitting out. The earwig walked off quite unharmed and I don’t seem to have suffered any ill effects either!
We dropped down through Rochecorbon and I finally recognised something from my cycling holiday in this area as an 18 year old. The limestone cliffs above the river are full of cave houses, some long deserted but others, like those in Amboise, with modern UPVC windows! Perched on the top of the cliff is a tower which acted as a beacon for boatmen traversing the river and, alongside this, the ‘Magnanery’; a 14th century dovecote transformed into a silkworm farm during the reign of Louis XI.
The last stretch into Tours really was along the river bank, past lots of people out for the afternoon walking and on bikes and a busy family activity park, which might be what the Portuguese place in Cande is like at the weekend.
This sign made sure we didn’t feel too cocky about the distance we’ve walked, though to be fair we covered around 265 of these km on our previous Camino!
Tonight’s Airbnb is on the north side of Tours, a city bisected both by the Loire and by its tributary, the Cher. After time to shower and relax we walked across the footbridge into the central part in search of dinner – a cosmopolitan city like Tours seemed like it might be a good place for a change of cuisine and we ended up in one of two Ethiopian restaurants on Rue Colbert for a very tasty vegetarian meal complete with Ethiopian beer imported from Las Vegas, of all places! We could equally easily have chosen Syrian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Indian, Argentinian or Mexican food. The whole street bustles with small, independent restaurants and has a lovely atmosphere, with people sitting outside enjoying their meals.
We wandered back to our accommodation across the big road and tram bridge, Wilson Bridge, trying to work out a sensible strategy for tomorrow. A bus out through a much of the suburbs seems the best way of avoiding an unfeasibly long day but the number of buses is rather limited on a Sunday. We think we have a plan!