2017 E5 walk, day 50: Saint-Maurice-lès-Charencey to Verneuil-sur-Avre
In the morning, as I was packing up my tent, a man came up to me who I hadn’t seen on my rounds of the campsite the previous evening. He was a car camper; he said that he’d arrived late that night, started to back into my space, and stopped right before backing over my tent when he finally realized I was there. He had come over to scold me for not having reflective tape on my tent.
That conversation behind me, I walked up the village’s road to get croissants at le Relais Saint-Michel. I then returned to the trail, which headed roughly northwest through farmland, until it turned and headed northeast, along the route that I had originally expected it to follow.
This was another hot day, much of it without much shade. I ate lunch by a stream at the village of Chennebrun, then continued on across more fields. There was finally some peaceful shade in the Bois de Saint-Christophe; soon, the trail crossed into the nearby Bois Francs. This one was weird; looking on the map, it appeared to have scores of vacation homes tastefully arranged around artificial lakes. The trail became wide and paved, suitable for bicycles, and there were quite a few apparent vacationers on beachcombers. The sky threatened rain at this point, though never managed more than a drop or two.
Eventually, the trail left the vacation woods, and I slogged across more fields, hammered by the sun, until I finally arrived in the town of Verneuil-sur-Avre.
My plan had been to stay in a hotel in town, it being a day of personal significance; plus, the weather was hot and I was tired. I stopped at the cheap hotel nearest the trail … and they were full (!). So I called another hotel … full. Another: full. By this point, I had reached the town center; it was packed full of people, and the entire plaza in front of the church was full of parked cars.
Confounded and slightly worried, I finally went to the town’s tourism office. There, I was informed that this weekend was their annual medieval festival. The young woman in the tourism office very kindly made a few calls, and then let me know that the church had a room for pilgrims that I could stay in for the night. For those keeping track, this would be two of the last three nights that I would stay in church facilities.
The person in charge of the room (I believe he was a lay member of the church) was incredibly kind, waved me off when I made clear that I was not on a pilgrimage, or religious for that matter, and showed me the room. It was incredibly spartan, with no running water (he showed me to the public bathroom down the block), but it was four walls and a roof, and I was grateful.
That settled, I decided that since I didn’t have my planned night in a decent hotel, I would take another zero-day (my third, for those keeping track), and stay in Verneuil for one more night. I went back to the Hôtel du Saumon (on the central plaza, where I had previously checked for a room) and made a reservation for the following night. (I would be one of few people staying in the hotel — everybody was clearing out of town the next day — and they wanted to be sure I understood there wouldn’t be anybody at the front desk, which was fine with me.)
I ate an Indian (or perhaps Pakistani) dinner at Mian Punjab and then wandered the town, killing time until I was ready for bed.