Day38 Seveux to Bucey le Gy – Growing Hills

This morning started like many others…too early for my body. Haha ,at least the pleasant toll of church bells echos in the street, a sound that I actually enjoy.

Morning Update

After a breakfast of bread, yogurt, homemade jam, butter, fruit and, coffee and orange juice we headed out for the day along a country road.

Churches and bell ringing on the hour and half hour.

Today we walked mostly on the road or farm tracks which are still used by all types of vehicles. Along the way we passed by an old tractor. Mark just had to take a picture. Take a peak at the following photo to see why.

An old tractor.
Finally a Lamborghini I can afford!

One odd sighting we had was a huge group of deer assembled in someone’s field. Mark attempted to take a photo but we were just too far away. There must have been at least 40 deer huddled all together. I have never seen that before. And of course we saw many more cows.


Just prior to eating lunch we were greeted by a Bernese Mountain Dog who just leaned into Mark’s leg for some extra attention. His master was standing close by and the dog was very well behaved. As a matter of fact, all the dogs we have encountered here in France have been incredibly well behaved and trained. Whatever the standard training method is here, works.

Deciding where to stop for lunch is always a guessing game – one that we routinely get wrong. Today, we ate our lunch of tuna and bread and grape tomatoes on our handy tarp of a trash bag using a stone wall as back support. I know, so high class. It wasn’t a great spot and certainly not the most comfortable. But sure enough, after packing up and carting out our lunch trash, we shortly passed 2 benches in the shade. We certainly can pick our lunch spots.

As we wrapped up for the day we noticed the hills we’ve been encountering for the last few days are starting to grow. In the background the individual hills are merging to for chains. We are slowly approaching the Juras.

Our place of lodging today is in the little village of Buysey les Gy. And our hosts are Dominique and Dominic. I think we will both be able to remember their names. It is the little blessings in life that make your day, like the fact this place has a washing machine. I may have been a little too excited about that because I began our load of laundry before Mark was finished with his shower. Yes, that meant a slight lack of hot water. Sorry honey.

We joined our hosts for dinner and had some fun conversations. The daughter-in-law is an English teacher so we had some much welcomed help in our conversations. The family seems very close and it was a joy to be with them. Allison was particularly happy that the cheese course had two hard cheeses to choose from. This is a growing joke between us since I like all cheese but most in France (and there have been hundreds) have been “stinky” soft cheeses.

We started dinner with a scotch followed by a tomato and egg vinagrette, pate and bread. The next course was an avocado, carrot mixture. The entree was pork and scalloped potatoes followed by the cheese course. We ended with a caramel cake with peaches and then coffee. Can you say “satisfied”

Tomorrow we hit Besancon and have another scheduled rest day, our last in France.

Day37 Champlitte to Seveux – Cows

Day37 Morning Update

Today was a bit odd. We started out a little late because we made our own breakfast of scrambled eggs and cheese with some tomato juice and yogurt to top it off. We next hit a bakery for a fresh baguette to make lunches for the next two days.

The ville of Champlitte was a pretty place as we walked out this morning. The old bell tower caught our eye as did our morning view of the growing Salon river.

The church steeples have all taken on a shape/style that reminds me of Bavaria. Most have decorative tilework as well.

Ironically we subtitled this entry as “Cows” because we walked past so many pastures and herd of cattle today. And yet, searching through my pictures I have none of cows. So here’s one from yesterday. Because everyone likes a baby cow.

Other than that it was one of those odd days where the distance felt much longer than it actually was. We enjoyed the walks through the little villages and the weather was quite nice. It’s hard to explain. Everyday can’t be awesome I suppose.

A water trough in two sections. It seemed to me that there were seats too. Hmmmm

We did pass an interesting graveyard with the ironwork shown below. If anyone has an explanation I’d be interested. I can propose a few ideas but they are all guesses.

Parce, Deus Israel (Spare us God of Israel)

Other than that it was an uneventful, but not unpleasant day. We finished up at a gite full of a lot of opportunities, fishing, a pool, etc, but all we really wanted after a shower and laundry was to sit and soak up the atmosphere. Rumor has it that we’re having bbq tonight. It’s tough to say. Our host doesn’t really have a lot of patience with us. This Gite is a business and guess he has decided that we don’t represent a future opportunity. Other families on vacation here seem to be having a nice time.

Most villages have a cross marking their entrance and exit. This one was in the middle of a field. Just an observation, but I’m not seeing the small chapels and madonna’s like we did all over northern France. These seem to have been replaced with simple crosses.
A creepy pedestrian tunnel under the Railroad track called “the bridge of the devil”.
Another Canal

When we arrived at our Gite for the night I kept the camera running to show you how a typical greeting and check-in work along the Via

Day36 Somewhere in the Woods to Champlitte Part Ii

A word about the Word of the Day

The feeling the morning after tent camping is an experience that anyone who has done it doesn’t need explained. You aren’t the MOST comfortable but you survived and the best thing to do is start moving.

Beauty along the Via.

So we packed up our tent, thankful that there’d been no dew fall so everything was dry. We had two crickets in our tent and we joked that we’d better be sure to get them out or we’d have chirping backpacks all day.

Morning update Day3

On the road again, we made our way into the little village of Grandchamp. Sometime in the last km’s a strange thing had happened. We crossed an imaginary line in France and the people just changed. We’ve had zero complaints about the hospitality of people in France. Oh sure, there was the odd sales person who was brisk, but in general we have been warmly received everywhere we’ve walked.

An unexpected encounter awaited us here in Grandchamp. I took this picture to send to Matt and Katie saying that we were headed their way.

But in Grandchamp, as we were stopping to tie a shoe, I said Bonjour to a man sitting outside his home. We exchanged the normal pleasantries “Yes, we were pilgrims”, “we’re walking all the way to Rome”, “yes, it’s been a very rainy and cool August”, “You slept in the woods last night??” and then… happened….he asked us if we’d like a cup of tea or coffee. It struck me that this simple act of generosity was very genuine. Also…after camping a hot drink sounded lovely.

Generosity demonstrated. Jean Pierre and Allison

We obliged and sat for about 30min talking to him. Jean Pierre received a key for this simple act of kindness. He mentioned that, like in the United States, the south of France is known to be more opened hearted.

Jean Pierre and his key.

About an hour later we stopped to grab some nuts out of our packs at a cute little footbridge in the small creek (later to become a river) Salon. We watched as a bakery delivery truck stopped to make a delivery to the cottage next to us. It was interesting to see this truck through the morning so far as he distributed daily bread, pastry, and fruits through the village.

After the truck left, a gentleman from the cottage came over to us and …. offered us coffee. We had indeed crossed an invisible line of hospitality. This man, Jacques was a retired judge from Marseille. He was spending time in the country for a vacation with his 11yr old grandson.

So twice in our day we’d been randomly offered coffee. Perhaps we’re just looking more tired than usual, but I think it’s more.

Later in the day we had one more quirky encounter. We walked past a beautiful old waterwheel and peered through an open gate to take a photo. A shirtless 30 something man with a small sunflower in his long hair strode toward us asking if we needed help. Struck by his hippie appearance I glanced in the background to see several other tie-dyed adults hanging around. It turned out to be a 70’s themed birthday party. Groovy.

Sorry I didn’t capture the hippies! Haha

Finally we reached our destination for the night, the village of Champlitte.

We’ve coined a name for that “mascot” pilgrim that marks our path “Petey”. First he is small (except in this case) similar to Petite, second Petey is diminutive for Peter, the patron Saint of Rome, and thirdly as a word for PD which stands for Pilgrim Dude. We think it should stick.

Champlitte is special. It is the headquarters of the French and Swiss Via Francigena society. A young man, Jacques had agreed to meet us and had even asked if we’d be willing to have dinner with him. On our arrival, Jacques and his associate Vanessa met us outside our hostel.

Jacques is a Christian believer and directs the Francigena society in France (and Switzerland) went out of his way to act out his beliefs and help us on what was ostensibly his vacation day. He even took our truly filthy and smelly clothes and washed them at his house. Wow.

Jacques further treated us to a visit to the local castle which is now a museum of culture and art of the area throughout history.

Allison giving Jacque his key.

We ended the evening by having dinner at a local restaurant which was fun. Inviting Jacques to eat with us was only fitting as he had done so much to assist us. Jacques received one of our keys. We even got to taste the local pear schnapps. How do you get a pear in a bottle? Wait, I know. Do you?

Pear in a bottle

Day36 Somewhere in the woods to Champlitte – a two day story – Part I

Leaving Langres

Hey folks. When we last left off, Mark and Allison were stealth camping somewhere in the woods between Chalindrey and Champlitte. Let’s rewind a bit and see how they got there.

Day 35, as we left Langres we had planned a relatively short day of 24km followed by a long 20miler on day36. As you’ll hear in the morning update videos, our day had begun after a highly interrupted sleep due to a fete in town. Apparently the street outside the presbytery where we were staying was ground zero for the events – or so it seemed. As the partying died down around 5am we drifted to sleep until our alarm buzzed at 6. There’s no surprise that we were a little groggy starting off the morning.

However after a nice egg and pancetta breakfast with yogurt drinks and a quick shot of sugar at the bakey we were off.

A kickstart on the ramparts of Langres

The east side of Langres where we exited offered a beautiful view from the ramparts over to the reservoir.

That reservoir was our first target and the VF takes an unnecessary but beautiful trip around 3/4 of the perimeter. It was during this trip that we met up with a gentleman on his morning walk. We struck up a conversation and chatted for almost 45min. He was so much fun to get to know briefly, and he complimented us both on our French. THAT was very kind on his part.

Looking back at Langres from the far side of the Reservoir.

Around noon we met up with Chantile and Bernadette (forgive the misspellings). They were out for a day walk in the opposite direction. They had hopes some day of walking some or all of the VF and were curious about our experience. Two more wonderful people to add to the many we’ve met.

Chantile and Bernadette
We’ve heard that many hardwood trees are being harvested because the Chinese are offering high prices for hardwood these days.

However it was about this time that we started to get a little concerned. The host that we’d hoped to stay with had yet to return our left messages or emails. Alternatives were very limited. We didn’t have enough food nor water to go much farther. Additionally there were no alternate lodging options within reasonable walking distance.

When you start taking to cows…perhaps it’s time you got out of the sun.

So..our plan was to continue to our target destination of Chalindrey to stay there if possible, to resupply if an option presented or even to find alternate transportation to a nearby town with lodging.

This turned out to be a profitable decision. The host did return our calls but no lodging was available. The town did however have a good sized grocery…and it was OPENED! Hallelujah!

Perhaps we went overboard – never go shopping when you are hungry. We bought lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch for the next day as well as some snacks. We were just tired of being without food I guess, and we still didn’t know what to do about lodging.

So we sat outside the grocery store parking and ate a lunch. It was yet another surreal moment. “How did we get to this point in life, space and time?”

We made the decision to forge ahead and wild camp for the night. It would accomplish four objectives:

  • It would allow us to brag about wild camping in France;
  • It would be the ultimate in cheap lodging;
  • It would make me feel better about sloughing our tent around for a month;
  • But most of all, it would subtract miles from what was going to be a pretty long day on Day36.

So off we headed into the unknown with the intent to walk for about 4-5km (about an hour for us) and find a good discrete spot in the woods. Despite my pack weight, which was easily 10lbs heavier than normal due to the food, we passed the 5km mark feeling pretty good and pressed on just a bit further, then further passing numerous excellent camping spots.

The next section the camping options looked less favorable. The Gaia GPS seemed to indicate another section of woods 1km further. Too steep. Then another just 1k further down a steep incline to a nice level spot right beside a barn size cow manure pile. Needless to say that was deemed too stinky. The terrain and options were running out and so was our motivation and energy.

Looking one last time at the GPS I spied what seemed to be an ideal spot. The only problem was it was yet another 2km away…and steeply up hill.

There was nothing to be done, so we trudged, bemoaning our mistake of not stopping at some of the nice spots earlier in our extended walk, but also laughing and sharing the situation together. The steep hill was really tough with our tired legs and the weight of my pack, but we made it.

In the end we reached the top and there was indeed flat and isolated spots in the woods. We dutifully set up our lodging for the night, spread out our handy trash bag mat as a seat, and ate our dinner. The woods were quiet, we were sweaty, the sun got low in the sky and the temperature began to drop.

To bed we went after accepting a call from Isabel to confirm some car insurance information. The only sound we heard was a lone woodpecker and the call of a pheasant. Life wasn’t too bad at all.

Our home for the night.

Day34 Leffonds to Langres -“Yes madam, I am crazy”

Our Gypsy caravan from Day 33

Our morning began as others have. We woke, groaned as we got out of bed, packed, and headed off to our hosts table for breakfast. Here we were served bread (including a really yummy cranberry hazelnut loaf) with jam and honey and of course COFFEE!

We signed their book, received our stamps, and headed off for the morning. Our hostess saw us off and requested that we send her a post card when we arrive in Rome. I actually wrote that down on paper too so I will remember.

Since my ankle has been acting up the last couple of days, I decided to lightly wrap it. And that seemed to do the trick! Walking today was almost pain free!

Thank you to all who were sending up prayers and well wishes for me. Now Mark’s knee is starting to complain. I am thinking that our next rest day will be met with great enthusiasm.

Back to today’s events. You know the drill by now. We walked on the road and then mostly trails and fields today which was a welcome relief. After walking up some seriously steep inclines, we found ourselves on top of a reservoir. It was pretty spectacular. We ate lunch on a bench facing the water side after opting out of the first open restaurant we’d seen in days. It was a little fancy for two stinky pilgrims we decided.

The reservoir

We truly emptied out all our food supplies. We feasted on an avocado, split a little can of tuna in tomato sauce (mostly sauce), bread, and one fig each. Knowing we were heading to a large town where we could easily resupply made emptying out all our food less stressful. We have discovered that most of the towns we are traveling through do not have stores or food markets open either due to going out of business or being away for the summer. Yes, small grocery stores do actually shut down for the entire month of August in France.

A beautiful specimen

Then we started climbing. Did I mention we began walking uphill? That pretty much sums up our afternoon. Sometimes steep, sometimes not but always up. Just before the endpoint we went steeply down for about 45min loosing all the hard work of the afternoon. Weep not for us dear friends. Our destination was a hilltop fortified town, and we got to recover all that altitude for a second time.

And then in the distance on top of a mountain was our stopping point. We were truly winded after finishing the climb into Langres. Entering a city through the Arc Gallo-Romain gate was impressive. Of course there are many other historic gates too, but I promise not to list them all. But for fellow history nerds, the city of Langres is worth researching or better yet visiting. It is one of the few cities untouched by recent wars.

The ramparts of Langres

Mark and I walked on top of the ramparts that surround the city and provide some spectacular views then we actually went shopping for food. After stocking up on food for dinner tonight, breakfast in the morning, and lunch tomorrow we headed over to the pharmacy for some assistance.

You all know about the tooth saga. Well, the super glue supply dried up. Obviously Mark needs some more but where to buy it in France is the question. We walked into the local pharmacy and apparently made the pharmacist’s day because she could not stop laughing. But she did point us to a store through her tears of laughter. Then Mark glued in his tooth and went back to show the pharmacist that it is possible to use super glue to temporarily replace a tooth. She now has a great story to tell at the end of her work day. She left us with the words “you are crazy”! This truism didn’t phase us….we’ve heard it before…often from some of you reading this vlog.

Eatin’ all fancy tonight.

Day33 Cirfontain to Leffonds – A road in the clouds.

There were some concerns as we started off this morning. Firstly, we didn’t get enough sleep because we stayed up chatting too long. Secondly, we had a long day ahead 20+ miles and to shorten it we needed to walk along a lot of road and not the more pleasant woodland. Thirdly and almost concerning was the result of a small incident the day before.

Day 33 Morning Update

As we approached the village of Cirfontain yesterday Allison tweaked her ankle. We didn’t think that much of it because…these things happen…and it was a small twinge feeling. Normally a good nights sleep cures these small issues.

However, this morning, Allison’s ankle was more sore. Those of you that know the issues Allison had on the 2014 Camino, are aware that a similar issue became much worse by the time we’d reached Burgos. They got so bad that we almost had to go home. So we are a little concerned. Having a long day today wasn’t going to help.

So slow and steady was called for, and that’s how we started. This meant our 20mi day would drag on….and so it did. Motrin seemed to ease any issues and we made it to our destination – later than we’d like – but we made it. Most of the day was cool (high 40’s low 50’s) and it was spent with heavy mist since we were waking shrouded in cloud.

There is little else to write today. There was a cool community pool or community spa or laundry in one town (see video).

It isn’t like there weren’t things to see. We came across someone’s collection of birds which was fun to see.

But other than these and a fox sighting it was a day of walking along roads through French towns with nothing to offer pilgrims I.e. no open stores or cafes for food or supplies. Just statues.

Our destination for the night is a Gite. It is a fun one – we are sleeping in a gypsy caravan! Our hosts, Dominic and Dani. Our dinner was a pilgrim special with some apologies for the lack of fresh items from the garden. This year in France has been horrible for gardens. We’ve seen a terrible grape crop, and our hosts told us that they only got a few tomatoes and plums where normally they’d have an abundance. This is due to the nonstop rain this summer.

Our hosts.

We ended our dinner with a course of cheese including: Gruyère suisse caprice des dieux. Langres. Brie de meaux. Brillât savarin. Followed by a homemade dessert.

Je adore fromage.

Two final notes. French is getting easier and easier. We, by no means, understand everything, but we can follow a conversation with a little help and with the help of hosts that are able to slow down a little.

And just for the record books I’ve only lost 4.4lbs. That means I’m doing a good job of keeping up the calorie count. Must be all that good cheese! 🙂

Day32 Bar sur Aube to Cirfontain – Dear Abbey

When we took our first step outside of the presbytery, it was quite cool with a cold wind blowing in our faces. I was happy to have on my long sleeve shirt. The fact that it is cold usually makes us walk faster. But this morning we were moving in slow motion. Sometimes you have a day where your shoes seem to be made of lead.

Bruno our host last evening was correct about the route today being steep and then steeper yet again. Oh my goodness, he was not exaggerating at all. The climb got our blood flowing but did not help us speed up any.

At the top we were treated to “a view” of sorts. See the compilation video.

The path was packing another surprise for us too this morning. We discovered pile after pile of logs lining the path.

This big and about 30min walking long.

These piles were at least 20 feet high. The best part was the logs had been carefully placed on both sides of the path creating impenetrable wall right on the edge of the path. Because the piles of logs were clearly created by heavy equipment the trail was a mess of ruts and mud with no way around.

Then it got worse. Those deep ruts hold water… voila you have a big muddy mess. At one point, all that was left was an inch wide foothold. At this point we were basically bouldering using the logs as handholds instead of rock. I never imagined that my bouldering skills would be needed on the VF.

After emerging from the woods we came out into more vineyards overlooking the village of Baroville. This was one of those places that you could really see how much the terrain had changed in just a few days. Ahead were clearly rolling hills and even some mountains behind them. Allison and I took guesses as to which of the hills we’d eventually have to climb. But for now we had a short and pleasant walk down hill into the village.

Pilgrim sustenance
Almost Pilgrim sustenance.

Farther along we came to Clairvaux Abbey. It is worth visiting if you have time and plan ahead. Unfortunately we did not factor the time it would take. We spent about an hour walking around the existing walls and learning about the Abbey’s history. It was built by the Cistercians and at one time had 1000 monks living there in strict silence. For all those history buffs out there, it is worth the research. I should probably mention that there is a museum that gives tours but only in French and they are 2-1/2hrs long. Also…part of the grounds is an active prison. You can thank Napoleon for that. I actually took a bit of video and pictures there – but it wasn’t very interesting – its included in the compilation.

I think the Fig Newton like cookies we had with lunch increased our speed in the afternoon. We covered the remaining 11km in just over 2 hours. We are definitely buying more fig-filled cookies.

The descent into Cirfontaines En Azois was beautiful with rolling hills. Our hosts today are Miriam and Alain. They are delightful! We spent a couple of hours chatting in French with the help of google translate a few times. Mark was in heaven because they actually enjoyed his discussions about his work in the airline industry. Alain was particularly interested and amazed with the Insta360 camera. I don’t blame him. It still amazes Mark too.

Dinner was again amazing. We had a pate starter, ham & greens casserole, cheese and an apple pie …..and wine of course. Miriam and Alain gave us hours of laughs as we conversed in Franglish with lots of help from Dr Google. They are so kind and patient.

Day31 Dienville to Bar sur Aube – Milestones

We hit triple milestones yesterday and today. At the end of today’s hike, we will have completed our first month of walking, We will have passed the 500mi mark, and sometime today or yesterday we passed the 1/3 mileage marker for our trip.

Our Day31 Morning Update

This morning was difficult to leave the Colombier. The atmosphere where you can chat with others on vacation is heart warming. The family that owned and or worked there was amazing in so many ways. I enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere that they naturally share with all their guests.

The Meteo forecast app that we use here in France said rain for most of the day. Every day we look at the forecast and the only part which seems to be accurate is the temperature. It did spit rain which made us practice our quick change into our rain gear. I am not sure why we look at the forecast, but we do so every morning.

The overall hike today consisted of lots of roads…tarmac, gravel, clay, dirt, and even some woodland trails (my personal favorite). Even though it was a short day in distance for us both, we were ready to stop after 27 kilometers. When you start singing Christmas songs to entertain yourself in August, it is time for some self care.

We did pass through a town with a largish amusement park. It was fun to hear the stereotypical scream of kids riding the roller coasters and other thrill rides as we walked past the park as hikers. No such thrills for us, but greater joy I think.

We ended the day deep-seated back in Champagne country, namely BarSurAube. This town was a hub of commerce and importance in the Middle Ages. It flourished in the trade of wine and was an important city in its day. Its oversized church of St Pierre to which our alberge is attached was a main pilgrimage spot.

For our part we are staying at the presbytery here in town. It is a pilgrim hospice (to add to the types of places we’ve stayed) and costs a set 10Euro per person. That’s about $12 per night per person. It’s not a full service hotel of course, but it is a bed and shower and kitchen. What more do you really need? Bruno went out of his way to help us get settled.

Our host for the night – Bruno
Is this a pilgrim hostel or what?!

Our night ended with a champagne dinner and some funny food. We had a charcuterie board as an appetizer.

Allison had a steak for dinner. I went rogue and ordered something in the Fondue section. It turned out to be another charcuterie board – this time with a candle to soften the cheese. Funny experiences to remember. Of course the tiny tea lights did little to stave off the cool 15C temperature outside…it was a chilly dinner.

My tea light powered cheese warmer.