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Friday, 5 December 2014

THE SEINE APPROACH TO PARIS

Another long stretch without a café and so without wifi. From leaving Troyes on Wednesday evening till midday today, Friday,  walking through - counts on map - ten villages not one bar or café in over 50 kms walking.
Then in the small village of Fontaine-Fourches a boulangerie with - genius - a café/bar attached.
No wifi, but that was actually in it's favour. Locals dropped in for a baguette and stayed for a glass of wine, or came by for a calvados against the cold and decided to buy a few croissants. Brilliant.
I was creating some filmic scenario in my mind about the owner - there were photos of jazz musicians and classic b&w pictures on the walls. It was like a film set. And Margaret could have been played by a Bardot type. Except she's not French but Polish from the Carpathians, and we ended up talking about how the mountain town of Zakopane has changed since I first went skiing there in the '80s, and about horses and Gorale mountain culture. And if I'd got onto the slippery slope of just a small calvados I'd be there still. But Paris is so close.
Which is just as well - the weather is changing. I may have woken after a night swinging above a genuine mud and water bog in my hammock to sun but the temperatures are falling, grey clouds veiled the sun, perhaps for the rest of the walk, and snow is forecast for the weekend, so in the coming days.
And one foot has turned bolshie - the front tendons have had enough and are swollen and painful. I can still trot along happily on flat ground but rough going is...er...unpleasant. Unfortunately when I reached the Seine at Bray-sur-Seine, the river's 'bassee' - a wide stretch of river, channels, canals and marsh - the only bridge and road was effectively an eight mile causeway with speeding traffic and only a narrow verge to stumble along blinded by headlights. Most of my curses were muttered, or lost in defiant and uplifting song, as my dodgy ankle turned and rolled on tussocks and ruts and holes. But when I hit the odd bottle thrown into the rank grass and my foot twisted right over my swearing could have been heard in Paris.
Yet, of course, the road came to an end and now I'm in Donnemarie-Dontilly (I've taken to calling it Osmond-ville). And the first bar I found is the Au Bon Coin, run by the ebullient Carlos da Costa from the north of Portugal. He's set me up with wifi and a very nice Alentejo wine, and I'm enjoying the ambience of a happy southern bar - laughter, joking, fabulous aromas from the kitchen. The place is busy. Polish. Portuguese. No conclusions but just saying.
A blast of freezing air comes in every time the door opens. From here there's twenty kms of forest, then twenty kms of busy countryside and then I'm on the very outskirts of Paris and only a long walk from Notre Dame my randomly picked ending.
I'll walk for another hour into the forest and then make camp.
I keep jiggling and testing my annoying ankle and it doesn't seem any worse than it was twenty kms ago. I reckon it'll do. And on the bright side, usually by this time it's my back that's aching from my minimal but not minimal enough pack. The ankle has driven the back into second place.
Oh, and tonight's packet soup isn't a soup at all but a veloute of cress and potato. There seems to be no such thing as a simple packet 'soup' in France - they're always the more exact potage, consomme (pointless from my point of view), bouillon, etc. You got to love France.

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About Me

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I'm an independent writer on wilderness activities, slow adventures, traditional horsemanship and odd stuff. I'm the author of Paddle; A long way around Ireland (Sort Of Books), and i was the story consultant on the IMAX documentary on cowboy cultures across the globe, Ride Around The Word. The Slow Adventure sends reports back from the front-line of a slow and simple life; horses, kayaks, guitars, long walks, travel, books, simplicity, trains, travel, wildlife and the occasional thrill.