Day17 Villers Chatel to Arras – Digging History

On the road. Ruins of Monastery of St Eloi on the horizon.

We started the day after a light breakfast. Our host, Jean, was so gracious to walk with us into a nearby town to find an ATM. He continued with us acting as tour guide for a bit before breaking off to head back to the chateau. Our route would eventually connect us back with the VF.

So after our trip to the bank and a quick stop for some groceries, we bid goodbye to our host and began our day of walking.

A friendly pal

We saw many interesting sights: fields of wheat and flax and green beans and beets and corn and sunflowers. We also saw the crumbling remains of the monastery of St Eloi, lots of cows and horses, and even some miniature ponies. Let’s not forget the cackling fowl: ducks, geese, chickens, quail and partridges. The rolling hills of the country side were beautiful especially against the ever changing sky.

Mr Hedgehog

At the head water of the Sainte-Bertille, just outside the village of Maroeuil, we stopped for lunch. The spot is the site of a 7th century miracle. Here, Bertille, daughter of Ricomer and Gertrude, was caring for the serfs and peasants working in the area. The nearby river Scarpe had dried-up in a drought. After prayer she struck the ground with her staff (similar to the story of Moses) and water sprung from the ground and flows to this day.

On the sight of this miracle there is a tiny chapel and some benches…a perfect spot for lunch.

Our lunch consisted of …drum roll…bread, ham and tomato all washed down with water. It was relaxing to kick off our shoes and “prop up the toes” while eating lunch. The main reason we stopped was because it was hard to hear anything over my rumbling tummy.

Routes to Rome (Via Francigena) and Routes to Santiago (Camino) go through this area. Note the VF trail and the Camino Shell and yellow arrow.

The walk into the town of Arras was uneventful. As we approached we called our contact at the Tourist Information Center. She was excited to talk with us about our pilgrimage, and she helped us arrange our arrival at the youth hostel in town. She was so eager to help us onward and even took the time to meet us around dinner. That extra measure of kindness really encouraged us.

Cat on a fourth story balcony.

Before we took dinner however, we strolled into the main square of Arras called the Place de l’heros. The history of this area is so interesting that I’ve included it in the History Bits page as it’s own entry.

We also stopped by a stereotypical French cheese shop. I know you can’t appreciate it without the wonderful smell, but a clip is included in our video compilation.

Flemish Architecture of Arras
The square
Town Hall..underneath our feet is history.

Tomorrow we head south again along the VF and something tells me the surroundings will transform. Already we’ve left behind the chalky coastal area. We’re seeing more and more signs for WWI cemeteries and more war memorials. This area witnessed some of the bloodiest and terrible events of two world wars. The scars are evident everywhere.

Published by

Mark Dowty

"An Intentional Life"

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