Paul and I have pushed on to Champlitte, a distance of 38 km by the most direct route. It’s a desolate town but the restaurant has a TV set. Perhaps it will be possible to watch the England World Cup match.
I suppose this was a goodish sort of day. We departed from the hotel at 5.30 am and immediately my sensitive nose detected fresh croissants within 20 paces. The boulangerie was already open. What a country! It may be impossible to eat a meal outside the regulation hours or drink a cafe au lait anymore but it’s fine to pop into the boulangerie before dawn. Providing it’s not a Monday or Wednesday of course.
Le Pailly, home of another Camino Angel. We steamed along after that unexpected croissant. After some hours we reached the modest village of Le Pailly and settled down on the public bench outside the church. Almost immediately, a lady appeared as if in a vision. She said bonjour and invited us over to her house for a cup of coffee. And a chocolate chip biscuit. Such generosity and kindness. I was almost overwhelmed. We had a nice chat for 20 minutes and then continued on our way.
The was another unexpected surprise in one of the other villages later on. There was a bar and it was open but empty. I asked for a coffee. Even now after over 700 kilometres of experience, I still fall for the old coffee trick. Inside the bar there is a sophisticated coffee machine not unlike something you’d find in Starbucks. But the bar staff only know one button which delivers a small cup of intensely black coffee. And when I remind her to complete the deal with some hot milk, she produces a bottle of cold milk and fills the little cup. Cold coffee. Paul is wise to this and orders a beer every time, even at 11am. He looks at me with bemusement. At least she had a cat for the March page of my Cats of the Via Francigena calendar.
Lunch today was like one of those very expensive restaurants which is famed for its atmosphere rather than its food. Paul puts it differently. He calls it the tasting menu which is one of his pet hates in life, especially when paired with the sommelier’s wine recommendations. I’ve never experienced such a thing but it sounds slightly weird. Anyway we found a lovely spot on the river bank with wild flowers and butterflies all around. But all we had for lunch was half an apple, the remnants of the cheese from last week, some nuts and a small packet of complimentary biscuits from the Mercure hotel in Arras. We could have bought a fresh sandwich this morning but stupidly passed on the opportunity. So now we’re waiting for 7pm when the restaurant is allowed to open.
After 37 kilometres today we reached a campsite with a bar. And for the first time on our walk across France, it started raining. Heavy rain. Biblical rain. So there was no choice but to go in and drink a beer while the rain beat down on the marquee.
We checked into the only obvious hotel in Champlitte (Hotel Du Donjon, 53euros the room). It’s nicely located on the narrow road, along which giant trucks pound through the village, inches from our bedroom. Bring on the football.
Coffee with a Camino Angel
The scenery is picking up
The cows are expecting rain
Tonight’s hotel in Champlitte