You could be forgiven for looking at my photos of flat empty landscapes and imagining total silence. But anyone who has ever gone out for a walk, never mind a pilgrimage, will know the subtle sounds of the countryside. There is the steady sound of your own shoes walking along. There is the sound of birds singing to each other. And there is the sound of the wind rustling through the wheat and tall grasses. In France you may even hear the swish of a TGV speeding between cities.
But today we were lucky to experience a sound of immense power. It began with an ominous rumble which woke you at once from your meditation and you turned instinctively and looked into the sky. Here it comes towards us at some 300m altitude, the Eurofighter jet. The sound increases dramatically and then it is overhead and the noise is unbelievable, a massive explosion. You can feel the sound waves. I want to be in that plane so much! Just imagine it. I could be in Rome for lunch.
Today’s plan, hatched last night, was to start at 6.00. I told the hotel des Voyageurs owner (a Gerard Depardieu lookalike) that we would skip breakfast and he showed me the emergency exit. This morning, however, we amended the plan. I asked M Depardieu to set a table and we had a leisurely croissant. And good cafe au lait.
After that we reluctantly set off. Just around the corner I spied a Casino, not the gambling type but the supermarket. I led Paul to the front door at the back of the store and we queued until 8.32 when they opened. What a feast of luxuries to overwhelm the pilgrim. Aisles of fresh fruit, lunchtime delicacies and most important of all, suncream. It’s incredibly difficult to buy suncream in France. I paid 16euro in a Pharmacy for 50ml of something like foundation cream which lasts about 20 mins. Total rubbish. I also bought a small bottle of fresh orange juice which was squeezed for me by a Casino robot.
We set off again and walked a few more metres when I remembered I’d forgotten to apply KOK to my feet. So we stopped again while I fiddled around in a bus shelter. After 3 or 4 kilometres we found a bar and stopped for a coffee. And soon after that we stopped again for an early lunch in another bar. What is happening? There are so many bars all of a sudden. Could this be the Upside Down world of France from a time gone by? Stranger Things have happened. This was soon confirmed by the name of the village “L’Autre Monde”.
Tonight we are in Bar-Sur-Aube and we are in the Bar watching the England v Belgium match. We seem to be playing to lose in the hope that we can avoid Iceland in the next round.
To those kind people among you who send comments, many thanks. They cheer me up when times are hard. To those of you who glance at my photos, sorry they are boring but there’s only so much you can do with a field of wheat. Paul and I are keeping each other going because, for sure, we’d have given up by now if we were trying to do this alone. The absence of pilgrims is a real disappointment. But to cheer things up, I’m launching a couple of new features to the blog.
- “Cats of the Via Francigena” which, if I can get 12 shots, may form the 2019 calendar. I’ll look out for cats but they are few and tricky to photograph.
- Secondly, and equally challenging, “Toilets of the Via Francigena” It’s a shame this idea came to me so late because I’ve used some unpleasant facilities already. However, we still have Italy to come….
The owner of Hotel des Voyageurs
We took a short cut along a red road for 2km but it was a little nerve racking.
Paul in the long grass
Too late for maintenance
The Farm Cat
Cat watching the England match in the bar in Bar-Sur-Aube
Toilet of the Day: just to kick things off, here is the gold standard toilet in the bar in Jessains: plenty of toilet paper, good selection of disinfectants, brush… all set for last night’s chicken curry.