On the last sunny Sunday in October I found myself on a quiet country road, two kilometres from Maintenon, which is 90 km but less than an hour from Paris by train, clutching an out of date map. My research companion, who is great on sampling restaurants but not so keen on walks, had just informed me that he could go no further, and preferred to walk back to the station, via the château. The 4,000 year old dolmens I had lured him with were nowhere in sight and the road seemed endless.
I was keen not only to revisit the dolmens but also to try out a cross country walk shown on the map, so that readers of the next Hour From Paris would have a better alternative than the road to return to the station. Reluctantly, I said goodbye and we agreed that we would probably meet at the station for the next train, which was in an hour.
Five minutes later I realised that what had looked like a farm building in front of us was actually the dolmens. When I first saw them several years ago they were just lying by the roadside, mysterious survivors of the Iron Age, but when I got to the barn-like building I saw that it consisted of a new roof protecting them, surrounded by a fence. Although the dolmens were clearly visible and the new notices fixed to the fence, one in several languages, saved me hours of research into their origin, I ungratefully felt that some of the magic had leached out of them.
So, more determined than ever to find a good reason for the detour, I followed the map, past the dolmens to the village of Changé and down a little street aptly named Rue des Ponts. The GR sign indicating that this was the public footpath shown on the map was nowhere in sight, but a minute later I was rewarded by a lovely unexpected view of the River Eure on both sides of a little footbridge.
Two minutes later, while hesitating at the left turn indicated on the map, I saw my first GR sign and heaved a sigh of relief. It seemed the map was not out of date after all. I followed the twists and turns of the path for another two kilometres, feeling like a child on a treasure hunt and exulting every time I saw another faded but reassuring GR sign (they are red and white and rather discreet).
I did not meet a soul on this pretty walk, nor know until I had completed it that it would not end in a closed gate, which added a certain spice to the adventure. I reached the station 20 minutes after the train had left and settled down to wait 40 minutes for the next one. I didn’t mind at all. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.