Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 28: Montmorency-Beaufort to Brienne-le-Château

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 first twenty kilometers flashed by. We were in the zone; our strides came naturally as we climbed steep slopes to farmscapes animated with monumentally-scaled tractors moving to and fro across their fields. We lunched under a lone tree along the roadside before attacking the last ten kilometres. Brienne-le-Château appeared suddenly and gloriously with the appearance of the substantially-proportioned Château, which dominates the city’s landscape no matter where you stand. We arrived mid-afternoon, which left enough time to take in the Napoleon Museum, located in the former military school where its namesake world leader-in-the-making got his early education. All that was left was a solid evening meal before retiring to our down-to-earth hotel for a good night’s sleep before attempting tomorrow’s equally long walk.

Walk Date: Sep 23, 2022

Distance: 30.3 km

Elevation Gain: 471 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 27: Au Milieu de Nulle Part to Montmorency-Beaufort

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:

This should have been a straight-forward walk through farmland and accomplished in a matter of four or so hours. Instead, it took the good part of a day owing to the unexpected encounter with three spectacular half-timber churches in three separate villages. The first was located in Outines, just a short distance south of our morning start. Built near the end of the 16 C., the Saint-Nicolas Church suffered structural problems right from the get-go. It took a major restoration project in 1979-1986 to finally solve the problem. Next came the Church of the Exaltation de la Ste-Croix in Bailly Le Franc. Be sure to listen to our tour of the church, below. The third church was the Église Saint-Jacques et Saint-Philippe in Lentilles. Arguably the finest of the three churches, its association with Saint-Jacques (Saint James in English) holds special affection for pilgrims on the Via Francigena or Compostela routes.

Walk Date: Sep 22, 2022

Distance: 23.1 km

Elevation Gain:275 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 26: Vitry-le-François to Au Milieu de Nulle Part

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:

Au Milieu de Nulle Part. In the Middle of Nowhere.

That’s the name of our destination today. Yet, those who look closely, who walk the gravel paths, will find themselves in the middle of everything. Take today’s walk. We left Vitry-le-Françoise expecting a quiet, long walk through rolling farmland, all fallow or bare earth or planted with sugar beets. We got that, of course, but we also discovered war memorials. One, situated in the middle of a farmer’s field, far from any reasonable access point, commemorated a World War Two RAF Halifax bomber that crashed here on August 5, 1944. Later on, high up on a quiet gravel road, was the Mont Môret memorial. It is here, on September 6 to 11, 1914 that a crucial World War One battle was fought. It’s estimated that 3,200 French soldiers died on these rolling hills and a further 10,000 we’re injured during that five day siege.

In a moment of complete serendipity, we came across a group of Italians from the European Association of Via Francigena Ways, walking in the opposite direction on the route in order to complete a public relations film. Expect to see Gail and me in Via Francigena television ad!

Though our day ended in a place called Au Milieu de Nulle Part, it is anything but. Our lodging for the night is a cozy wood caravan set in the woods. We’ve enjoyed a massive meal prepared by our host. It’s near midnight and time to crawl into our bed alcove. Not bad for the middle of nowhere.

Walk Date: Sep 21, 2022

Distance: 32.8 km

Elevation Gain: 495 m

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

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Walking The Via Francigena: A Day in Bar-le-Duc

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 Bar-le-Duc.

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

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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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