We are starving. Help! If anyone is reading this, please send food especially fruit. We are trapped in the Empty Quarter (of France).
Our hotel in Champlitte, Le Donjon, served us the tiniest meal I’ve seen since I left infant school. It was too late to complain, we just wanted to eat and sleep. But sleep was difficult as the trucks thundered past our window all night. And the bell struck the hour across the square. It was a pleasure to close the door of the hotel this morning.
We rarely see a shop on our walks so we are at the mercy of the hotel kitchen or the B&B. Thankfully this is our last week in France. It’s been such a contrast to my wonderful walk last year. No wonder almost no pilgrims walk the Via Francigena in France.
Champlitte is a ghost town. Many of the houses are derelict. Old workshops and disused factories line the streets and lovely little cottages nestle between them. But they too are boarded up; the occupants have left or died and no one wants the property. Some optimistically display a “for sale” sign; in truth the whole town is for sale. It’s a massive problem and I can’t think of an answer. Employment opportunities are few and the farms are now mechanised. But Champlitte is just one of many such ghost towns that we have walked through. The local tourist board has painted Via Francigena logos everywhere in the hope of generating a Camino style revival as seen in Spain. It’s a forlorn cause. I don’t have the answer. I just can’t wait to cross the Swiss border.
Champlitte has one boulangerie still operating and we bought some croissants for breakfast. Then Paul noticed a lady opening a cafe. Who knows what business she was expecting at 6.30am but she sold us a couple of coffees for 5 Euro. We then hacked our way through a wheat field and onto a path for a walk through shady woods and open fields.
We were promised all sorts of attractions in the next town, Dampierre-Sur-Salon. But it too was run down. We were dehydrated. The water from the hotel had an unpleasant metallic taste and I tried not to drink too much. It’s normally possible to get drinking water in a cemetery but today they were labelled non potable. The first bar on the way into town occupied a derelict modern glass building. As we approached the entrance, 2 glass doors slid open and the interior was even hotter than outside but without any fresh air. So we sat in the sun and drank the beer but declined everything on the menu.
We then walked around the corner to the town centre where, among the empty shops, was the Istanbul cafe. It hit the spot. I don’t know what I ordered but a large plate of meat, chips and salad was served for 10 Euro followed by a Turkish coffee. It cheered us up. The cafe was run by a man who cooked and his daughter who served. The girl wasn’t any good at sums. When I went to pay, she fiddled with a pocket calculator and showed me 15 Euro for two. I had to discreetly beckon to Dad behind the grill to help get the correct bill. They locked up after I paid and were driving away while we were putting our packs on.
And next we were walking towards tonight’s Chambre d’hote in Beaujeu St Vallier. It’s well located in an otherwise barren area for accommodation between Dampierre and Gy. The Madam is looking after us and has washed our clothes and cooked us a huge dinner. All is well again.
40 Rue du Lavoir, 70100 Beaujeu-Saint-Vallier-Pierrejux-et-Quitteur, France
Champlitte for sale
Main square, Champlitte
Ok, here is a dog for you, Lucy. It belongs to the lady who runs the Champlitte cafe.
Champlitte for sale
Escaping across the wheat fields this morning
The old bath houses date from the 19th century and our common in these parts.
A nice shady walk to Dampierre-sur-Salon
The sad sight of the defunct old cinema in Dampierre-sur-Salon
The defunct glass tower in Dampierre-sur-Salon