Paul wins the prize for spotting the first pilgrims to Rome. We were on the outskirts of Reims early this morning, just negotiating the Veuve Clicquot interchange, when he spotted them: a young Portuguese couple, Diego and Sandra, on bicycles laden with pilgrim paraphernalia. He was leading with go-pro camera mounted on his helmet, iPhone on his handlebars and scallop shell on his backpack. She was following with another backpack.
Paul flagged them down like a pilgrim police officer needing to inspect their credentials. They had started in Canterbury about a week ago and expected to be in Rome by mid July. They told us that they began their pilgrimage with a blessing in Canterbury Cathedral and were informed that there were also two other pilgrims actually walking to Rome. They were pleased to meet us. Then off they went down a long stretch of road into the distance and eventually disappeared around a corner.
Naturally we foot pilgrims look up to these modern cycling folk who can speed through wheat fields without having to calculate the yield per hectare and whose solution to a blister is a quick tyre change. But I pity them when they will have to change gears as the Great St Bernard Pass looms ahead of them. They may not have been walking but at least they were travelling to Rome under their own steam.
Before we had finally left Reims this Sunday morning we passed 3 open boulangeries, unheard of so far. These fortunate people can afford to eat cake and it’s all down to us who drink their Champagne.
We are staying in the village of Verzy in a lovely apartment (34 Rue Carnot) with all modern conveniences and just 50 Euro including breakfast. As it was a short 20km walk today we arrived in time for a top class steak lunch in the village restaurant.
The Basilica St Remi in Reims
Portuguese pilgrims Diego and Sandra
In addition to their own vineyards Champagne houses use local producers to grow sufficient grapes. Everything is tightly controlled, even the quantity of grapes that can be harvested, to ensure the high quality of the price list.
An old trick. Beautiful roses indicate a healthy vineyard.
Verzenay nestling in the vines
Our fruit break in the vineyards of Moët & Chandon