We were still quite tired after our long day yesterday, but today’s walk was going to be much shorter at about 13.5 kms rather than 28 kms. With that in mind we were slow to get going, taking a trip to the shops to buy filled rolls at the epicerie and returning to the hotel pack our bags.

We eventually set out at 0950, walking back down through the village and across a bridge, giving lovely views up and down the Loue, a famous trout fishing river.

Ornans is famous as the birthplace of the French realist painter Gustave Courbet, who was born here in 1819. There is a museum about Courbet’s life and work which we hope to visit on another occasion – probably in conjunction with a fishing trip. For those interested, there is an exhibition of Courbet’s work at Trouville-sur-Mer later this year.

For the first part of the day we walked up the true left bank of the river, sometimes in woodland and sometimes through small villages with very attractive, though simple, public campsites run by the local community. Useful to know for our return visit. In some places canoeing is permitted, though not close to the weirs and old mills associated with each village.

It looks as if historically there was a significant amount of industrial activity alongside the river, including milling, but little goes on now. The villages are very quiet, with few if any shops and old hotels now closed, as were the churches, of course.

In Vuillafans the old hotel still functions as a bar/restaurant and so, needing to refill water bottles, we sat in their garden in the shade with orange juices for a while. Noting the banners on our rucksacks the barman asked where we’d come from and where we were going, and wished us ‘bon courage’ as we left. It is very encouraging when complete strangers engage with us in this way, especially late in the day when we’re tired but still have a daunting distance to go. Not that that was the case today, which was pretty easy as they go.

Looking downstream at Lods

At Lods we crossed onto the true right bank of the river, pausing on the bridge for Tom to spot trout. There were several very healthy looking fish feeding close to the bridge, so we got a good look at them in the clear water.

Trout nymphing

Once on the other side of the river we climbed up past the chateau in Lods, and zigzagged on upwards past the chateau’s orchards, into pastures with cows wearing bells. We’ve noticed over the last couple of days that we’ve left behind arable farming and entered into an area of small pastures with many more cattle than further north. With the more dramatic scenery around us, tinkle of cow bells, and chalet style houses with wide overhanging roofs it’s beginning to feel like we’re in the mountains.

Out onto higher ground we began to get views of the limestone ridges that tower over the river higher up the valley. Fairly soon we dropped back down into our destination, Mouthier-Haute-Pierre, which is a very pretty village in a beautiful location perched high on the side of the valley at the lower end of the Gorge de Noailles.

As we walked by we noticed that the church was open and there was due to be a service at 6.15pm – though we didn’t get to it. It was pleasantly cool inside, and there were a couple of unusual statues dating from the 15th century – much older and simpler than we’ve seen in other churches.

On the way up the steep climb from Lods we had been fantasising about what we hoped would be on the hotel’s restaurant menu. Imagine our disappointment to arrive at a closed and locked up hotel with a handwritten message on the door inviting us to call a mobile number when we arrived. We were given instructions on how to find our rooms and told that the restaurant was closed, but there was another restaurant in the village where we could get a meal.

As the other restaurant had looked closed when we walked past we phoned to check, and yes, it was closed, so we called the hotel proprietor again to seek assistance. This time we were advised to go to the epicerie which he said would be closing in 20 minutes, at 7.30, so we dashed up the road. On entering (squeezing past an advertising board) we were informed by a rather disgruntled woman tidying up that the epicerie had closed at 7pm and we should not have entered. With some begging and expressions of sympathy for keeping her at work longer we were allowed to dash round grabbing bottles, smoked trout, salads, cheese and bread to make up supper.

The woman running the epicerie told us it was not the first time that guests at the hotel had resorted to her shop to buy their suppers. We got the impression that she was thoroughly fed up with this, despite the extra trade. We also wondered how the hotel could remain in business if this is how it treats its guests. And why they had not forewarned us that the restaurant was closed as we had told them that we’d be arriving on foot. Had we known we could have brought food from the supermarket in Ornans as it was a relatively short walk and we had extra carrying capacity with Stuart accompanying us.

As there was no suitable space in our rooms to eat we sat on the hotel terrace to enjoy the most unusual supper so far! Whilst we were there a German couple staying at a gite arrived by car hoping to get a meal in the restaurant, so we explained that it was closed (despite the advertising board still out listing the menu du jour) and why we were sitting outside with a picnic. As Stuart said, the evening was certainly memorable, if for all the wrong reasons!

On the plus side, we had a wonderful view along the valley from the small balcony outside our room.

Today’s scenery was some of the best so far, and the escarpments higher up the valley suggest even greater promise for tomorrow. But the most enjoyable part of the day was sharing our experiences with Stuart and the luxury of time to chew over many different topics, thoughts and ideas together.

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