Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 25: Vitry-la-Ville to Vitry-le-François

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:

The weather was decidedly fall-like as we left Vitry-le-Ville early morning. It was a cool 4° C. Dense fog hid the landscape, revealing its secrets slowly as we made our way down farm roads. Eventually the fog gave way to clear blue skies as the temperature slowly climbed to a comfortable 19°. Most of the day was spent trekking through gently rolling farmland, often sharing our gravel paths with massive tractors, and the villages rich with half-timbered houses. As usual, dogs barked from fenced yards. We would try to greet them all but a chance encounter with a lovely whippet and her human companions spurred a lengthy conversation. Our largely rural meanderings ended suddenly at Vitry-le-Françoise, a fairly gritty city at first glance but blessed with a substantial neo-classical church, La Collégiale Notre Dame de l’Assomption, which opens onto the equally impressive city plaza, Place d’Armes.

Oddly for a city this size, nearly every restaurant was closed this Monday evening. However, we were able to cobble together a reasonable take out meal from a kebab restaurant and an odd coupling of ice cream and a bottle of Mumm’s champagne from a frozen food store.

Walk Date: Sep 19, 2022

Distance: 30.9 km

Elevation Gain: 463 m

Read on to view today’s photos captured along the route and an interactive map.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 24: Châlons-en-Champagne to Vitry-la-Ville

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:

As in previous days, this walk was taken at a languid pace. We passed through open fields, a few woods but primarily followed canals and the river Marne. However, the trail was bookended by two impressive finds.

At the start, we wound through Chalon’s Petit Jar, Grand Jar and, finally, the English Jar. Jar is nothing more than the diminutive of jardin, or garden, but this 27-hectare park is anything but diminutive. Along the way, we pass an array of exotic trees and an elegant band stand. We cross canals on small iron bridges and take in scenic views back towards the city.

At the other end of our walk, we visited Église de la Nativité-de-Notre-Dame in the small town of Pogny. Remarkably, the church was unlocked—rare for small town churches in this part of France— and we were able to take a look inside. This may not be a cathedral with a significant architectural pedigree but there is much to be said for having an empty church all to ourselves and the time to piece together its history. Behind the basilica-style main façade was a Romanesque nave with meaty stone columns supporting round arches. Beyond that was the altar, clearly a later addition (or perhaps a replacement) done in a Gothic style with sharply pointed arches and a lighter stone that made this portion of the church brighter. Here the carved stone decorations were flamboyant compared to the stern geometric carvings in the nave. But it all seemed to fit together well, the two parts easily distinguishable yet visually cohesive as a whole.
Though we knew nothing of the actual history of the church, the stone columns and walls and carvings told their own compelling story.

Walk Date: Sep 18, 2022

Distance: 23.0 km

Elevation Gain: 289 m

Read on to view today’s photos and an interactive map.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 23: Juvigny to Châlons-en-Champagne

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:

Souris à la vie. Smile at life, indeed.

A very short walk from Juvigny deposited us at our Châlons-en-Champagne hotel shortly after noontime. While Châlons certainly has all the historical sites that we have come to expect in a moderately-sized French city (you’ll find the photos below), it is also Saturday and that includes a busy Saturday morning market as well as a plethora of weddings taking place at the Hôtel de Ville. One-by-one, wedding parties would parade into the town hall for a civil wedding ceremony. The receptions as the newlyweds left the building were truly exciting. Drums would bang, coronets would blow, smoke bombs would fill the air with blue and red clouds and the wedding party would clap, cheer and whoop. All within the confines of Place Maréchal Foch fronting the Hôtel de Ville.

Be sure to check out the Saturday market and wedding soundscapes that follow!

Walk Date: Sep 17, 2022

Distance: 12.3 km

Elevation Gain: 117 m

Read on to view today’s photos, a soundscape captured along the route and an interactive map.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 22: Trépail to Juvigny

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:

Our path today was long but leisurely with a good part of the time spent following canals. Perhaps the most interesting events revolved around food. First came lunch, served to us, not on a silver platter but out of the belly of a vending machine. We’re talking a custom order hot pizza. You can follow our pizza machine exploits in the first soundscape, below. Second came as dinner, served at our destination, Chateau de Juvigny. This magnificent early 18 C. mansion is surrounded by moats and set in expansive landscaped grounds supposedly designed by Le Nôtre, who is famous for his Versailles garden designs. Being walkers and stranded in the chateau for the night, our host graciously prepared a “picnic” dinner, served to us in the period salon. I won’t ruin the surprise, you’ll need to listen to the second soundscape, found below.

Walk Date: Sep 16, 2022

Distance: 29.3 km

Elevation Gain: 315 m

Read on to view today’s photos, a soundscape captured along the route and an interactive map.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 21: Reims to Trépail

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:

Although the walk was long, there was plenty of variety in the landscapes we passed through. Leaving Reims, we followed the same Canal de Aisne à la Marne that drew us into the city two days ago. Today’s 8-kilometre stretch to Sillery passed more heavy industries, each with its own massive constructions and piles of debris. Our side of the canal was much more idyllic.

Beyond Sillery, we entered champagne country, taking a series of paths through the vineyards. As we approached Verzenay, our path was lined with the Grand Cru vines of the big champagne houses, such as Roederer, Bollinger and Mumms. Verzenay surprised us with excellent pizzas at La Grappe à Pizza. The t last kilometres took us to our destination for the day, Pré en Bulles in Trépail. There’s no restaurant in this small village other than an intriguing pizza vending machine, so our hosts kindly offered to prepare a very nice three course dinner. Of course, it was all washed own with a great local champagne, the highlight of our audio chat which you’ll find below.

Walk Date: Sep 15, 2022

Distance: 29.8 km

Elevation Gain: 529 m

Read on to view today’s photos, a soundscape captured along the route and an interactive map.

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Walking The Via Francigena: A Day in Reims

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.

Today is a non-walking day, what through-hikers would call a zero day, a day to relax and wash clothes. For Gail and me, a zero day is an opportunity to explore an interesting place.

Today, that place is Reims. It’s late and I need to pack for tomorrow’s trek, but here’s an idea of the what Reims has to offer.

Read on to view the day’s photos and soundscape.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 20: Hermonville to Reims

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:

Trails take us through deep woods winding past ruined buildings, open onto bare fields and vineyards in mid-harvest, through small well-kept villages and their champagne houses. Then onto something completely different. Reims is a major champagne production hub and, at its core, home to one of France’s magnificent cathedrals. But, as with most large cities, there is an outer ring where the less romantic yet essential work takes place. This is the place of heavy industry, where steel is pounded into sheets and engines get built. About one hour short of our destination, we exited the woods and turned right to follow the Canal de Aisne à la Marne. Along its edge is a recently developed multi-use trail, a pleasant, well-used path to be sure—we will follow it to the centre of Reims—but this is a working canal, complete with barges laden with raw materials and lined with megalithic industrial complexes that occasionally offer glimpses of this day’s destination, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims.

Walk Date: Sep 13, 2022

Distance: 18.4 km

Elevation Gain: 315 m

Read on to view today’s photos, a soundscape captured along the route and an interactive map.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 19: Corbeny to Hermonville

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:

Despite being a 27 km walk day, the time passed pleasantly and quickly, leaving us at our bed and breakfast destination in the late afternoon and time enough to shower and head out to Hermonville’s finest restaurant, Mets Envies, for our evening meal. I encourage you to listen our mid-meal conversation in the soundscape below. We talk food, champagne, vineyards and the Monument aux Chars d’Assault, commemorating the contribution of the French tank artillery corp during World War One and, in particular, during the 1915 Chemin des Dames offensive that occurred in the area.

Walk Date: Sep 12, 2022

Distance: 27.0 km

Elevation Gain: 425 m

Read on to view today’s photos, a soundscape captured along the route and an interactive map.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 18: Laon to Corbeny

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.

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Walking The Via Francigena: A Day in Laon

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.

Even though yesterday’s 40 km walk was a harsh start to our Via Francigena pilgrimage, it seems odd to be taking a day off so early in our trip. But Laon is not to be missed. Set atop a hill, surrounded by stone ramparts and crowned by a cathedral that, at a distance, is an odd composition of unusual towers, it is a city that demands at least a day’s exploration.

Up close, Notre Dame de Laon cathedral is nothing short of amazing. Its lacey stone towers are intricately decorated, inviting the eye to wander over each small detail. Deeply recessed entrance porticos and rose windows add depth to the west transept. Inside gives way to tall naves flooded with light from high clerestory leaded glass windows.

Laon itself is a small, tight medieval village, barely changed by time. Of course, it has changed being at the forefront of revolutionary ire, Napoleon’s need to conquest and two World Wars. But to walk its narrow streets is to walk back in time.

Read on to view the day’s photos and soundscape.

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