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.
Notes from today’s walk:
Everyday offers something new on the Via Francigena. The day starts with a walk out of Laon, leaving its clear-sky heights and descending into a pool of dense fog that took most of the morning to burn off. At points of our voyage across flat, harvested fields it seemed as if the world has disappeared.
Sundays can be a puzzle in Northern France. Most businesses and—critical to our mission—most restaurants, most patisseries, most boulangeries and, particularly worrisome, many lodgings are closed on Sundays. On the other hand, the locals are making the best of the day.
Our first encounter with a French Sunday event was the brocante in tiny Vorges. Streets are closed and, along the shoulders, town folk are busy hawking used goods to their neighbors. Down the street, a community group is selling beer and glasses of champagne. Champagne! How could I pass on a €3 glass of the local stuff, in this case Champagne Boulard Bauquaire from nearby Cormicy? All of which leads to two Canadians becoming the centre of attention and, we think, the subjects of an upcoming news item in the local paper.
Late in the afternoon, we found ourselves, once more, enmeshed in a local festival. As we made our way down a narrow, winding and steep road into Bouconville, tractors headed up the slope with small vehicles in tow. Innocent as we were, admonishments flew our way. Get off the road! Get up on the slopes! Watch out! One by one, these small soap box derby-style roadsters, piloted by very young drivers, hurtled past us in their attempt to beat some land speed record. At the bottom, youngsters were screaming on an amusement ride and consuming sticky pink candy floss. Adults took to picnic tables to chat over a beer, a rosé or a champagne.
A glass of beer fortified the final hour of walking to our hotel in Corbeny. Of course, it’s Sunday and we were lucky to reserve a room for the night. Even so, this is the one day each week that the restaurant is closed, as is the case with all other restaurants and businesses in Corbeny. However, the hotel kindly agreed to prepare a picnic dinner, which we found awaiting our arrival complete with a name tag attached. Another Sunday treat!
Walk Date: Sep 11, 2022
Distance: 29.1 km
Elevation Gain: 503 m
Read on to view today’s photos, a soundscape captured along the route and an interactive map.
Click the images below to view a full-screen slideshow.
Overview map of the route from Tergnier to Besançon.