This “Walking The Via Francigena” series of posts follow us, David and Gail, as we continue our walk along the Via Francigena pilgrimage route between Canterbury and Rome. In the fall of 2019, we completed the first leg from London to Canterbury, known as the Chaucer Way, and onward to the small town of Tergnier, France on the Via Francigena. A pandemic got in the way but now, in 2022, our trek is underway once again, this time taking us from Tergnier to Besançon over 23 walking days and 580 or so kilometres.
We arrive early and step out of the Gare du Nord in a city already bustling with traffic. It smells big city smells. Brasseries and bistros fill the air with aromas of strong coffee and omelettes. Paris in the morning. We cross the street for breakfast at Brasserie Terminus Nord. We shop Aldi for a small kitchen knife and La belle-iloise for a few tins of artisan sardines, essential staples for trailside lunches to come. We wander aimlessly around the 9th Arrondissement, discover small market streets and mount Sacré-Coeur before returning late afternoon to the Hôtel Whistler. We tidy ourselves as best we can for two backpacking gypsies and head for the Gare de Lyon and its famous Le Train Bleu restaurant. It’s our anniversary and we crave some Belle-Epoque splendour.
Paris next morning. It is a day for wandering. No museums. Just drifting about for the day. We walk through the market stalls at Les Halles and around the ruined Notre Dame. We drop by bistros for coffees. There’s La Rotunde and Le Dôme Café in Montparnasse, favourite haunts of photographers André Kertész and Brassai and author Henry Miller, all dirt poor but soaking up the creative energy of 1920s Paris.
And we return that evening to Gare du Nord where we board our train to Laon. Tomorrow The Walk begins in earnest.
Read on to view photos and a soundscape.
Click the images below to view a full-screen slideshow.