Walking without a donkey: France 4

Regnéville to Saint Martin 4.5.17 19kms 6hrs. Part of the GR223 Sentiers des Dounaniers (see La Manche tourist website).

I relished the good political talk with Sophie last night by the fire, admired the pretty beams and attention to detail in her interior, and loved the simplicity of unrolling the futon for Shiatsu on the sitting room floor – it is such a great way to communicate with kind others. I slept in another comfy bed, with a great shower, and we drank wine together.

Outside the cottage window there is a blackbird’s nest, and we spied on them in the morning before I left to walk to Saint Martin. Regnéville is a very pretty village and I traversed it twice because I left my baton behind the first time!


It is 8.25 and all is soft and verdant in the morning, misty light. The places which were rubbed yesterday (mostly my shoulders where the rucksack straps are) feel tired.  There are lots of fleeting pains as I begin. Ah yes, I remember that happens as I begin day 2.


Cuttlefish are daubed amongst the detritus from the sea; birds are collecting bits and pieces for their homes; stationery, white cows are initially silent.

It is really calm: there are so many distinctive bird voices, one or two cars, and now the cows are lowing, but no people. Instead I am having conversations with loved ones in my head. It is when there is external quiet that I can hear their voices answering my questions.

A cuckoo calls, a blue tit balances sideways on a reed. Birds of prey instead of airplanes, hovver with their magnificent eyesight. There is the ‘chack chack’ of the chaffinch, and then I remember the prediction of the Tarot before I left: a person about to walk on sand – of course, a beach, not a desert, although then it comes to me that I will visit a ‘desert’ in a few days time.

Around the corner is the beach and a dog rolls happily. School kids draw circles and collect seaweed, stones and shells to decorate them with. I realise that 99% of the joint pain I had when I left Scotland has gone.

There is the yummy odour of hot coffee and bread as I pass through Briqueville sur Mer, and a sweet, sweet smell as I then enter an avenues of trees.

Fields of potatoes are on one side, and banks of wild flowers, not unlike those I am familiar with in Kent, on the other.

I enjoy the long, sandy drives, the oniony leeks growing, and the ripples of white fleece lifted by the breeze protecting a crop I cannot see.

 

Fields of perfect lettuces

I make quite a big mistake then, walking on without seeing any way-signs. I went back to ask a man working his plot, and he confirmed I was right, but at the next junction I was pretty sure I was not, so back I went again. Bless him, he came after me, thinking I had misunderstood his French, but in fact he had told me where the road was and not the ‘chemin’. I stopped then for lunch,  disappointed and frustrated, but the spot was so beautiful, and as I restocked, I knew that that attitude is useless: when I walk I get there when I do. That is just that.

In the caravan place I pass I glimpse a couple through the window. He reads the paper and she writes postcards. There are questions from others as I go on my way: ‘toute seule?’ ‘Without your husband?’ I think I must be quite unusual walking like this on my own in these out-of-the-way places.

A beach stretches into the distance, and there are more children, this time pushing each other in go-karts. A horse rider trots past, speaking on his mobile phone. I spot a white heron, or at least I think that is what it is, and later there is a sign, ‘heronerie’.

Horse rider in the distance
Go-karts lined up

I really struggled to find somewhere to sleep that night. It is surprising that the La Manche tourist board recommends stages / études which have no hostels, only hotels and expensive (though lovely looking) bed and breakfasts. Reader, it is, sadly, twice as expensive to walk in France as it is in Spain. I considered bringing a tent, but was assured camping was forbidden and was not confident enough to chance it.

So I found a very expensive bed (€30) at a campsite that had no cafe, shop, kitchen, or laundry facilities. I was not impressed. I walked quite a way into the village, on the advice of the kind receptionist, but there was no food to be had anywhere in the evening, so I contented myself with lunch left-overs. The wind howled all night, and tried very hard to lift the tent off the ground.

My bed in the tent.
And the tent itself.

La Manche website http://www.manche-tourism.com/gr223-coastal-path

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