“Monday is washing day.” And a rather long walk! 33km.

There are problems! We are where there are hardly any shops and they open whenever. It is a long way from the nearest big town. Langres is over 30km away.
We start with an aim which may involve wild camp or a campsite in Hulme where there are no shops. Plots are a foot. If we could get to Langres there is all that could be desired. And a rest day could be declared.
There are many little villages en route, one of the further is Mardor, it is renamed Mordor and the wandering of Frodo with Smegol in the desolation comes to mind. The countryside is far from desolate though
It is proper farmland, not at all like the industrial agro landscape of before. There are woods cows streams butterflys and orchids …….and Lavoirs!
Every village has one. Most have a sign saying eau non potable. they are wefed by local springs, on one with no water some wag has written “Eau potable”. We go from village to village until finally the plan is revealed in St Ciergues. just outside the old and very nice little church we have late lunch and the remaining 8km to Langres are surmounted. It is not miraculous we still have to walk it.
Eventually we get there. And discover, as some had already known, that it is 150m up a hill!
Nice campsite though! And with a day to dry not using all those Lavoirs is not a problem.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

A floating washtub. A short day at last. Orges to Arc-en-barrois. 21km.

We leave the village before 8am well fed on pancakes and probably home made jam. We have eaten very well here but thought the price a bit over the top considering the unfinished nature of the facilities. 40euros b&b and evening meal per head.
It is a short hop over to the next valley with the town of Chateauvillain where there are cafes and a super market open till 12, it is Sunday!
The town is the interest for the day. There is,it is claimed,the second largest dovecote in France with 3,000 places non it appears still in use. Where is the largest we ask? It also has a floating wash tub, this you might think is some sort of pleasure boat, a floating gin palace but no,it is a lavoir or public washing area on the local stream. These are no longer used. We can recall seeing one in use by one person in Spain. This one is built on a floating raft with washtubs attached presumably because the hieght of the river varied to much.
After coffee we walk on through the woods accompanied by possibly a French Canadian who live locally. He tells us the very straight road we are on was built not by the Romans but by the Templars for pilgrim use during their period of power after the crusades.
Soon we reach Cour Leveque where life is enlivened by Nougat a fluffy little dog who escaped and has a whole family chasing him up and down the road while he annoys another dog on a lead and tries to follow us. This other dog was barking superiorly from an upstairs balcony. There’s always something going on in rural France.
Early arrival washing done time for some time resting feet

Link to where we are on Google Maps

In which we realize the earth is not flat! Bar Sur Aube to Orgues.31km.

Breakfast in the bar of the hotel d’or is at 7am so we are off before 8. We recross the river Aube with it’s wide open sluices. We later find further evidence of why the rivers are so full. Across a few fields and we rise up once again like bubbles into Champagne country. There are several champagne producers en route but it is too early even if they were open. We are not very high and soon descend again to more mundane crops and then up into the woods on the hill between the valley of the Aube river and it’s tributary the Aujon. These are pleasantly cool but a little damp and full of butterflies. We spot whites a small intensely blue butterfly, Tortoiseshells and Red and white Admirals plus quite a few Small pearl bordered frittilaries. We climb to around 330m possibly the highest we have been since entering France.
When we descend again it is 1pm and time for lunch. An orchard is being mown at the side of the path and we are welcomed to sit and eat lunch by the mower driver. Who also points out that there are storm clouds gathering. We have only 6-7 km left and although there’s a smattering of rain we escape a drowning and stagger after 30km to the mill on the stream in Orgues that makes silk flowers that was organised by Betsy and the lady in the Tourist office in Bar Sur Aube (pronounced Barsurode to Betsy’s confusion). The place is deserted but after a phone call Monsieur arrives and arranged to hand us on to another lodging who take pilgrims occasionally. His wife is away. We would not like his cooking. A very French excuse we feel.
We dutifully trot down the road back into the village. Madame appears from a window and comes and welcomes us, she seems a bit flustered and put out. Eventually all is explained. She had about 10mins notice the part of the farm for pilgrims is work in progress And they were flooded out a few weeks earlier in storms which caused the innocent looking stream just 10m away to burst it’s banks. They are still drying out. There is nowhere else and beds are upstairs. Monsieur the farmer arrives we suspect all was arranged by Monsieur at the mill whose wife is away and the farmer with little discussion with madame. Either way she had 5mins notice of our arrival! All is smoothed out and we are grateful for showers and a washing line in the remaining sun of the day. The whole area it appears is slowly drying out.
Tomorrow may be a bit easier.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

The bar on the Aube.

The bar on the Aube.
We have to leave the campsite in Dienville our home for the last two nights. Our next few stops are into the unknown, we believe that Bar sur Aube has a campsite but have been unable to verify this which is a little worrying. Since the local boulongerie opens at 6.30 we get an early start. Off down the road it’s only 6kmm till Jessains and our coffee stop. On the way we cross the canal d’amenée which is a feeder canal joining the lake near where we were camped to the river we are now following upstream. Flooding has been a chronic problem in this area and theany gravel pit lakes are linked and used for flood control. It is even possible that water can flow either way at need large sluices and only 3m difference in spot hieght beside the Aube river and lake makes this entirely possible.
Coffee stop complete we move off and are a little disturbed by the name of the next village. L’Autre Monde, and wonder if we will be unchanged after passing through. Sadly it seems a standard French village not a parallel universe.
We now walk down the road in the valley of the Aube the water in which should by devious means find its way into the Seine River and through Paris to Le Have. We have not yet reached the watershed to the Seine and Rhone rivers.
There is a fountain or source along the roadside and many more marked on the map. There is a sign proudly announcing we are entering another champagne growing area but we see few vineyards and think they are higher on the chalky slopes above and thus all the water sources on the map.
Soon enough we get to Proverville just the width of the river away from our destination. We are outside the church having lunch when we’re accosted by a French, originally Polish lady who never stops talking. She seems not even to draw breath and is overjoyed to discover we are walking to Rome, she plys us with bottled water and sweets. The water is heavy and Tony and Tim when we eventually get away have to carry it around the streets of Bar de Aube as we discover that the possible campingsite has morphed into a tourist park where you can stay in wheeled gypsy style caravans at expensive rates
The internet and Tony’s abilities find us a three bedroom room in a hotel down the road for 60 euros
We still have solve the problems of accommodation for the next few nights!

Link to where we are on Google Maps

The Artillery School. 25.5 Donnement to Dienville

Ray leaves us today he is going he to see his daughter who is visiting from Australia, their respective journeys may well takeuch the same time. The bus to Troyes the nearest rail link leaves at 6.33am it is on time .Tim sees him off and gets the breakfast and is rewarded with early morning light on the large church in town. So we are well ready when the taxi arrives at 8 to take us back to Donneville where we left off yesterday.
The walk is interesting around the various ponds in the area. Unfortunately they are ex gravel pits some are still in action we are repeatedly buzzed by large lorries along the fairly small roads.
We get to Brienne de Château for lunch it is the home of the military academy that trained Napoleon 1 for 5 years They are very proud of him maybe because he gave them a million Francs when banged up in St Helena. Though the museum dedicated to him does admit that he was glorified across France in the century after his death and so this may be a bit exaggerated. The church in town is again in this Gothic style and has some very old and subtle stained glass, looks a bit like sepia toned photos.
A few km from home we meet a French woman walking the route to Santiago de Compostela this coincides with the Via Franicigena for this point but not for much further.
Back at the campsite a cool dry day with light packs has been quite pleasant and we have spotted two Black Kites wheeling above us.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

More Roman about in the fields

.
We were very well welcomed by Monique and Jean-Pierre who are retired farmers, their son has take over the farm three doors down in the village. It’s like that in Coole everyone is related. We learnt quite a lot about the crops we passed by including realising one looking strange was hemp for clothing and Jean Pierre insisted that some poppy crops are for morphine production as well as cullinary. But the farmers will grow whatever will pay in this industrial agri landscape. We also learn there’s a new automatic shop on the next street that has recently been set up as useful to pelerin and even the locals if caught out. There are no shops for miles and miles. So we walk on.
Continuing on along the Roman road the day is much as yesterday, cool and cloudy but without rain. Fairly soon Ray spots a patch of orchids there are at least 3species including some fine bee orchids. Soon enough we see in the distance along the very straight road a field of pink. It turns out to be a field of poppies. Purpose unknown.
Slightly further on we find a clump of vetch attracting butterflies and moths including the Five spot Burnet Moth

Most crops are more mundane barley, wheat, potatoes and beat. Eventually we descend a slight gradient to Donnemont where the taxi is arranged to meet us. The nearest campsite is another days walk and even then we discover shops are not all that could be desired.
We arrive at the campsite in Dienville and receive an interesting reciept for a very reasonable camp fee. Look carefully it is in Betsy’s name!

Link to where we are on Google Maps

Roman roads and Wind turbines. 24.5km

There is rain during the night and the tents are wet but the boulongerie almost at the gate is open at 6am the earliest we have yet found. Tim finds a friendly cheerful lady in there at 6.30 and we get Pain au Raisin which sets us up well for the day.
We are out of town and arr soon through the first village,Sogny du Moulins the name but a hint of what’s to come. There is a warning in the guide that this stretch can be difficult in high wind. Today is quiet but most of the dozens of wind turbines visible from the old Roman road from Challons to Bar sur Aube are functioning. This is a gravel road and it is dead straight as far as we can see into the distance where it disappears into a point. The turbines are all around and the day is cool with occasional showers of rain. So we bowl along quite quickly. But get nowhere fast, the road goes on for ever with turbines to the left and right. But there are marbled white and black veined white butterflies and a lot of different flowers including St John’s wort incase we feel depressed.
Eventually after passing a very small and derilict Maire in Vesiguneul-sur- Coole we reach our goal of Coole. Village name taken from the stream in the valley. Where Betsy with the help of Mme.Jacqueminet from Trepail with whom we stayed the previous night has organised us into the home of Jean Pierre and Monique a retired couple.
We all get clean and the use of the washing machine and Betsy is soon engrossed in helping Madame and a neighbour pick raspberries for confiture. Tony and Betsy have been working at solving the problems of the next two days. Involving an even more remote stretch of French farmland. More about that tomorrow

Link to where we are on Google Maps

The last fizz of Champagne.

We are all well rested after the night in the quiet house in Trepail Madame Jacqueminet is a generous host we start our simple pilgrim dinner with a bottle of Champagne from the vineyards surrounding us. Her son and granddaughter were there when we arrived and the small black rabbit that Tony thought might be for dinner disappeared when they left.
We descend through the vineyards and through the village of Ambonay. There are quite a few agriculture vehicles and workers in the vineyards. T village is full of Champagne houses and very quiet at 8.30am but has some interesting displays of wine making devices. Again there is a sudden change to arable fields as we leave the realm of Bacchus. A few rather straight boring km see us joining the canal and a very long day relieved at lunch by a group of fellow UK citizens creating a video for a new venture renting canal boats, big ones!
Eventually we enter Challons en Champagne with its 11thC early gothic church of Notre Dame du Vaux after the three valleys the city is on. It is quite different to Rheims and we get our pilgrim stamp from a man in the entrance office who looks suspiciously at us. Just before we get there the thunderstorm that has threatened turns serious and we are pinned in a bar for shelter for two rounds they have to change the barrel but we do not think it was our doing.
Another 3km out of town are relatively painless and rain threatens but does not happen.
Time to cook dinner. We have earnt it. 30km.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

John Barleycorn gives way to Bacchus. 26.5km.

Tim over slept, Tony in backup mode gets us going. We loose maybe 30minutes before getting starting. Ray bought a hat in Rheims having been using Tony’s spare for a week after loosing his. He may appear in several photos.
We leave town on the Ainsle to Marne Canal and bowl along overtaken by runners and cyclists and rollerbladers everyone trying to stay fit on Sunday at least. We look for a café in the small village of St Leonard who comes from Limousine on the other side of France (circa600CE) but he is patron saint of POWs and women in labour, coffee is not high on his wish list. We leave the canal at the village of Sillery the wine from here is mentioned in Patrick O’Brian’s naval novels and did indeed exist as a light white Chardonnay possibly petillant, the Prosecco of it’s time’ it seems it is no more.
Off the canal there and onto roads we cross the A4 autoroute de est and enter a new country. Gone are the fields of barley and potatoes,we are walking through vineyards. Mostly Pinot Noir making various Champagne types including Mumm who own the perching bar in the windmill towards the top of the vineyard. Top is used correctly as the vines are on a southeasterly slope and we are heading SW. Eventually hot and sweating profusely we reach Versenay and an open bar. Madam laments her lack of pression (draft beer) but we are glad of the bottles. She goes on about her lack of customers and the fact that there are three champagne producers with big houses in the village but they don’t live in them. A local who appears to have recently drank a bottle of vintage 2002champagne appears with the bottle, in itself a wonderful creation.
We pass on out of the village past the church where the bells are ringing and the congregation is just leaving across more vineyards and into the woods which are significantly cooler and with some but fewer biting insects than our previous forest path.
There are no campsites in the area but we have now covered over 25km fortunately Betsy phoned a Gite Rural yesterday and booked rooms for us. We emerge from the forest to find the village of Trepail nestling in its vineyards and Ray in the lead is welcomed by madam who is waiting for us
There maybe thunderstorms tonight but we are getting proper washing done for us. Wonderful.

Link to where we are on Google Maps

Rhiems Cathedral. Anointer of kings. Supplemental

We visit Rhiems cathedral. Soaring hieght of stone carving, suberb stained glass old and new. Worth a visit.We visit Rhiems cathedral. Soaring hieght of stone carving, suberb stained glass old and new. Worth a visit.
The unknown butterfly on inspection of the photos by Betsy seems to be a Lesser Purple Emperor.

Link to where we are on Google Maps