Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 36: Chalindrey to Champlitte

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:

We started in a drenching rain but arrived at our destination, Champlitte, under warm sunny skies. Along our route, which largely followed quiet highways (it was Sunday morning and we can only assume the locals were at rest), we garnered the attention of curious cows and passed through winding streets of tiny villages with look-alike square towered churches. But, just like the weather, the French landscape changed as we left fields and forests and entered the urban environs of Champlitte. A massive chateau and its neighbor, a 11-12 C. church, appeared on a nearby hillside. The streets turned narrow, lined with tall stone buildings, many with ornate religious niches set in their façades. Below one of those niches, Vierge aux Orants from the 15 C., was the entrance to our apartment for the night. Our windows opened onto an attractive square animated with splashes of an ornamental fountain. And, just one ancient stone building down from our own, was La Bourgade restaurant, where we would indulge in back cod and Charolais beef stew as well as a light red Franche-Compté wine made not more than one village away.

We may just walk through that village tomorrow.

Walk Date: Oct 2, 2022

Distance: 29.8km

Elevation Gain: 399 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 35: Langres to Chalindrey

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:

You’ll notice a (perhaps welcome) paucity of photos below. This was a day defined more by adverse weather than pleasure. It rained for the full 29-kilometres walked and, although it was a relatively light mist in most cases, it was driven by heavy winds accompanied by single digit temperatures. By the end of our walk, we were wearing every warm piece of clothing we had in our light packs. Arriving at our night’s lodging at Au Pied du Cognelot bed and breakfast, our hosts were either amused or shocked by the two thoroughly soggy rats dripping water on their hardwood floor. However, after some assistance drying our clothes and a welcome warm shower, they ushered us to the nearest restaurant, about 23 walking minutes away, for a much needed dinner in cozy stone dining room. Be sure to listen to our conversation at the restaurant for a full review of our trying day and rewarding dinner.

Walk Date: Oct 1, 2022

Distance: 29.0 km

Elevation Gain: 373 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 Langres

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 Langres. It is the perfect place to be on a rest day. Perched high atop a hill, the tight medieval city offers abundant opportunities for aimlessly wandering about narrow streets lined with stone buildings yet is compact enough in scale to casually walk from end-to-end in fifteen minutes. Intact fortification walls encircle the entire city and a one-hour walk will take one all way round, assuming no stops for the splendid views over the countryside or a ride up the funicular-cum-elevator that connects to a parking lot at the base of the hill. It replaces an earlier cog-driven train. A non-operational restored version can still be visited while walking the fortifications. Let’s make that a two-hour circumnavigation of the walls!

Inside those walls, there’s plenty more to explore. Like the Saint Mammès Cathedral. Completed in the 12 C., its interior straddles the heavy stone detailing and round arches of Romanesque architecture with the up-and-coming gothic style and its lighter structure, larger windows and pointy arches. Denis Diderot, philosopher and co-creator of the French encyclopedia, grew up in Langres and, although he had a complex relationship with the city—most of his work was done in Paris—he is well-commemorated in Langres, especially at the Maison des Lumières Denis Diderot. Exploring the narrow streets revealed Renaissance houses and 16 C. mansions, small shops selling Langres cheese, nougat and Nogent cutlery, still leaving time for a leisurely lunch at the Cheval Blanc.

A day well rested.

Read on to view the day’s photos.

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Walking The Via Francigena, Stage 34: Leffonds to Langres

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 was the rainiest of the last three rainy days. Morning was particularly damp and cold, requiring gloves and our fashion conscious bright blue (and waterproof) fishing mitts. Add a grey plastic rain skirt and we were quite the eyebrow-raising pair. Which may explain that, when we came across a rare open restaurant at lunch time, we found ourselves being seated out of sight of “regular” customers in the back, back corner of the dining room. Not that we cared. We were happy just to have a warm place to sit and be served a good three-course menu. Our destination this day was Langres, a fortified hilltop city, where we will hold up for two nights, tomorrow being one of our zero days. And, far from being stuck in the corner, our lodging is the fairly luxurious bed and breakfast, Le Belvédère des Remparts. Dinner at the nearby restaurant, L’Aromatic, focused on an exotic burger, smoked under a bell jar and revealed in all its aromatic splendor at our table. After three long days of soggy walking, it is time for some pampering!

Walk Date: Sep 29, 2022

Distance: 28.0 km

Elevation Gain: 594 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 33: Châteauvillain to Leffonds

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:

You might think of today’s walk as uneventful, just moving through a series of arrow-straight forest trails to our destination at Leffonds. But we did pass through three small towns that Sigeric also visited in 990. All had their churches (locked) with the contemporary Via Francigena logo attached near their front portals. And we came across the ruined abbey at Marmot. Established in the 12 C. by the Augustines as a hospital, what remains of the complex is La Maison-Dieu, a handsome stone building desperately in need of repair, and a few ruins. Then there was the chance encounter with Geraldine, a motherless young boar that was found in the woods and raised by a local family. Finally, there was Dany and Dominique Bégny, hosts at our final destination, Chambres d’hôtes “La Cressonnière.” Late afternoon, Dany set us up in our pilgrim accommodation for the night, a cozy little caravan set in their expansive backyard. That evening we sat with them at their dining room table to share what they call a “pilgrim dinner”, but was a full four-course spread (with ample seconds), wine and an aperitif. Gail, the resident French speaker in our group of two, had a lively conversation with our hosts, lasting well into the night. We concluded with a tour of Dominique’s little museum of eclectic memorabilia: vacuum tube radios,vintage carpenters’ planes, a Canada Dry pinball machine and jars of a raw plastic dating from the early 20 C. And seeming somewhat similar to Bakelite.

Which leads me to think: there is no such thing as an uneventful walk.

Walk Date: Sep 28, 2022

Distance: 28.0 km

Elevation Gain: 521 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 32: Clairvaux to Châteauvillain

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:

We’ve been lucky so far. The days have been mild and rain-free save for one minor shower on the first day. That changed today. It had rained the night before, shortly after we completed our Clairvaux Abbey tour, and continued throughout the night. As we started our walk this morning, the rain had stopped but left our forest trails, which had been chewed up in many places by logging equipment, with deep muddy ruts. At the halfway point, the wind picked up, whipping rain sideways into our faces. All that and an unusually cold temperature made for a chilly experience.

Weather aside, there was much to see on our way as we wound our way through small villages, several visited by Sigeric in 990 on his historic pilgrimage between Canterbury and Rome. And our ultimate destination, Châteauvillain, was a delightful small town with streets and alleys lined with fine stone buildings and several interesting historic sites. There is, of course, a church at its core. L’Église Notre-Dame de L’Assomption may have roots dating back to 1350 but it is now a decidedly ‘newer’ church done in a Classical style with a rare polychromatic interior and a beautiful pipe organ hovering high above the nave. For Gail and me, the building has a special significance owing to its association with the Via Francigena. This and other churches visited today proclaim this connection to the pilgrimage route with a modern iron motif of a pilgrim located near their entrances. Beyond the church, there are ancient fortifications, remnants of the chateau that once dominated the town, as well as a wash house from the historic tannery district with its unique floating parquet floor and chestnut-framed roof structure.

Walk Date: Sep 27, 2022

Distance: 24.3 km

Elevation Gain: 507 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 31: Bar-sur-Aube to Clairvaux

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 today was the second half of our two-day “zero day”, we still needed to walk 15-plus kilometers to the day’s destination, Clairvaux. We’ve been aware over the last few days that the landscape is changing from a near-flat terrain to an increasingly rolling one. Today that change was very apparent, starting with a major climb out of Bar-sur-Aube, a rapid descent to the small community of Baroville and then up through hills lined with vineyards. It was a day that put our untested prairie legs to the test…and we survived!

We arrived at Clairvaux and our hotel lodging for the night at noontime and, following a good lunch, we headed to the nearby Clairvaux Abbey—which, intriguingly, is also a maximum security prison dating back to Napolean I—for a tour of this semi-dilapidated, semi-restored Cistercian abbey. To find out more, listen to our discussion below.

Walk Date: Sep 26, 2022

Distance: 17.3 km

Elevation Gain: 450 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 30: Dolancourt to Bar-sur-Aube

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:

We try to break our walks into five day cycles with a day off between each cycle, something we call a zero day. Of course, we hope those zero days will plant us somewhere interesting to explore on our free day. Today, is what we call a half zero day, meaning we walked a short distance in the morning from Dolancourt to Bar-sur-Aube and explored the city for the remainder of the day. Tomorrow we will repeat the process with a morning walk and an afternoon to explore our next destination. In other words, our one zero day will be split over two days.

The photos capture our morning walk, almost entirely under a heavy sky and dense fog. Our trail dropped us into Bar-sur-Aube, a pretty medieval city. But this is Sunday and, as counterpoint to the pilgrim’s consternation that nothing is open on Sundays, we found ourselves in the midst of a grand fair running the full length of the city’s mainstreet. There were the latest model of Peugeots, Renaults and other cars on display, giant tractors, amusement rides, food stalls and, our favorite, a champagne fair with very local producers sampling their wares in the handsome old market building.

Beyond the fair, Bar-sur-Aube offers an impressive city to explore with twisting narrow streets lined with half-timbered buildings. Its main church, Église Saint-Pierre is an imposing 12 C. structure but it is particularly notable due to the attached halloy. This remarkable 14 C. wood structure, which hangs on the exterior church walls, was the historic home for the city’s champagne fair. Just as religious pilgrims, such as Sigeric, would visit this church on their way to Rome, so too did traders from across Europe setting up stalls under the halloy’s shed roof to ply their wares.

Walk Date: Sep 25, 2022

Distance: 13.4 km

Elevation Gain: 361 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 29: Brienne-le-Château to Dolancourt

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 landscape and weather has changed significantly. Open farm fields have largely been replaced with forest walks. And it rained, for the first time since our first day on the trail. Not a hard rain but a continuing drizzle, just enough wetness to question a need to don Gore-Tex jackets versus living with a slightly damp shirt.

We arrived in the village of Dienville late morning. The unusual bell-shaped roof of St. Quentin church stood out as we approached the town centre. While it dates to 1784, the rest of the church reaches back to the 15 C. The interior’s Gothic framework contrasts nicely with the intricate black and gold iron screen that surrounds the choir and alter. This is not the first church we’ve encountered with piped-in background music but this was the most eclectic, moving from light classics to Greensleeves to George Gershwin’s Summertime!

Adjacent to the church and arguably more significant is the Halles de Dienville, a stone and timber market hall dating to 1866. It replaces an earlier market structure built in 1536. As pilgrims, it is noteworthy that the route from Canterbury to Rome is built upon an existing framework of trade routes. This is but one more reminder that the pilgrimage route described by Sigeric in the 900s is but one layer of history the modern pilgrim encounters, whether it’s medieval  trade routes or battlegrounds from two World Wars or Napoleonic wars…to name but a few.

Our day ended in Dolancourt and the fairly luxurious digs of Le Moulin de Landon. Oddly, within eyeshot and easily heard throughout town, is Nigloland, a vast amusement park that sits uncomfortably (or dominating) in this small picturesque town. 

We are eating well, it seems with multi-course dinners that included a local Champagne, a pavé of salmon for Gail and andouillette—a truly acquired taste— pour moi. 

Bon appétit!

Walk Date: Sep 24, 2022

Distance: 21.8 km

Elevation Gain: 334 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 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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