Day 29 – Chalons-en-Champagne, capital of Champagne

We stayed last night in the delightful village of Verzay at the gite of Alain Lallemen. Our breakfast was served outside, crunchy baguette, large buttery croissants, French butter and jam and a pot of steaming hot black coffee with a jug of hot milk. I suppose it lulled us into a false sense of security for soon we were starting our walk with a stroll through the village square. The boulangerie was busy but we turned our backs on it, knowing that more towns were coming and this was Champagne with tourists roaming from one vineyard to the next. Surely it would be a case of choosing the most attractive cafe and deciding which little pastry to eat with the mid-morning coffee?

We marched on with alarm bells ringing in our ears; today is Monday and this is France.

In the villages to come, it was difficult to tell whether the only bar had closed some years ago or just for today. It seemed to us that some lookout team gave the warning as we approached and immediately all the shutters were pulled down, the children dragged inside and told to keep quiet and all the lights turned off. Then one old man with a stick is sent out as a decoy. We approach him and ask him if there is a bar or cafe in the village. He pretends not to understand at first then chuckles and says something like “ferme!” And “rien”.

Many hours later we caught one young man off his guard in a distant homestead. In a fluster, he directed us to a shop but fortunately for him it too was closed on Mondays.

My plan at this point was to grab a chicken and barbecue it in one of the village gardens. But all at once Paul’s nose twitched and he set off around a corner and along a narrow alley. At the end was a small industrial unit housing a craft beer brewery. The small workforce were eating lunch outside, spaghetti bolognese with rose wine. These lovely people (the brewer Jacques and his sales director wife Natalie) invited us to join them and to sample the beer. Here was another story of the Camino providing.

The food was a life saver and the beer was superb. I had to restrain myself from trying all 6 brews. The brewery called DP Bieres & Tentations was established 3 years ago and now produces 30,000 litres per year.

We met a chap called Geoff on our walk. He is a retired organic chemist from ICI now living in France. He was interested to hear about our walk and, in turn, it was nice to speak to someone in English.

We have now reached the capital of Champagne, a town called Chalons-en-Champagne. Being rather tired after nearly 40km today, we chose the nearest hotel to the Cathedral, a smart place called the Pot D’Etain which refused to offer the usual pilgrim discount.

Look who joined us for breakfast (Clemenceau)

We meet Geoff on our walk this morning

Lunch at DP Bieres & Tentations

it’s still not too late to switch to Compostela

6 comments on “Day 29 – Chalons-en-Champagne, capital of Champagne

  1. Strawberry jam doesn’t count as one of your 5 a day either. Take plenty of champagne with you as I think it’s a few days walk until you reach chablis…

    • Does Champagne count as one of my five per day? All those grapes…

  2. Martin

    Hi,Tim, you are having a great time and I’m quite jealous. You know how I like history and old churches (and booze). I was thinking of you when I was doing the Poundland version of your walk on Sunday up Box Hill and through Denbies vineyard. It’s part of the plan to get myself and Sue fit for our walking holiday in Bavaria this August. The football’s been good and England’s hopes have been raised for now. The Belgium match will be the first real test.

    • Hey Martin anytime you fancy just come out and join us for a few days. It’s history all the way to Rome

  3. Philippa Thomas

    Clemenceau is tres belle, and the spitting image of our cat Emmy!

    • You’re right and I’m under orders to photograph the cats of the Via Francigena. I might put out a Christmas calendar if I can find another 10

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