Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Final Day, and explanation

Tuesday 9 September

We had a very hearty breakfast with home-made jams, treacle / gingerbread cake ( local speciality to the Dijon area ), figs, prunes, other misc fruit, croissants and sliced loaf.  This would see us well through our final day of walking.

This day was a combination of farmer’s gravel tracks and tarmac.  We were happy with this, as it gave us brain space to contemplate our journey rather than to watch where we were putting our feet ( and wheels ).

We did the usual, ‘ what have you enjoyed most and least, will you miss most and least ‘ chit chat, and summarised various things - examples below :

Wildlife seen - cats, dogs, horses, ponies, cows, sheep, goats, hens, cockerels, peacock, camels ( circus ), deer, herons, geese, mice, lizards, snakes.

Bike incidents ( Rachel ) - 5 punctures, 1 new tyre, a set of pedals, 2 fall-offs, numerous bruises + 1 cut on legs by pedal ( when walking alongside bike on rough ground ).

Walking incidents ( Tony ) - several bovine confrontations in the UK, one pair of walking boots worn down to the sole.

Types of accommodation experienced - camping in people’s gardens, in church yards and in campsites.  Sleeping in town hall annex rooms, nursery classroom floors, a convent, a barn, on camp beds in walker’s refuges, in bed & breakfasts and in hotels.

Our destination today is Citeaux Abbey ( see further down for info on this ).  We reached it mid afternoon. We had an arrangement to meet a Brother ( monk ) from the Abbey this evening, so we popped in to arrange a time to meet later.  We then walked / cycled a further 2 miles ( oh the torture ! ) to our accommodation for the evening.  It was called ‘ Ferme de Saule ‘ Willow Farm, and was a barn owned by the Abbey, part of which had been converted ( in the loosest sense of the word ) into basic accommodation for walkers / pilgrims.  We spread our possessions around and claimed our camp beds ( we were the only people there, but better to be safe than sorry ).  We made curry noodles for tea, and got ready to go out for our evening rendezvous.  

Now that Tony was no longer logging the walk ( destination reached earlier in the afternoon ), he was excited at the prospect of him riding the bike, and me walking.  Or perhaps he could give me a ‘ croggy ‘, or ‘ backy’ for us Scots.  This we did, with surprisingly minimal wobbling, but with a few expressions of discomfort coming from me.  It was fun. 

We met with Brother Benoit, and enjoyed a very interesting and informative discussion with him whilst walking around a small Abbey garden.  We parted company with him at 8pm as he had to attend Compline at the church.  We attended too.  It was a wonderful end to our very special destination day.

Some of you may think that we have been wandering aimlessly through UK and French countryside in a general southerly direction with no particular destination or aim, just because we can.  This isn't the whole story....  

We have walked from Rievaulx Abbey (the first Cistercian abbey in the North), Helmsley, North Yorkshire, England to Citeaux Abbey ( ( home of the Cistercian Order), just south of Dijon, France.  We are creating a new long distance walk / pilgrimage between these two Cistercian Monasteries which takes in other British and French Cistercian Abbey sites.  We will be creating a website in months to come which will have GPS co-ordinates and written text for others to follow who are interested in walking this route, or just parts of it, plus other Cistercian Abbey linked walks in both the UK and in France.  Watch this space / website -

Distance - 17 miles
Distance since Helmsley - 1006.85 miles !!!!!!!

Penultimate Day

Monday 8 September

We had some thinking and planning to do re food for the next few days.  We were passing through small villages only until Wednesday evening, so needed to stock up on staples.  I was at the Carrefour at Pesmes at 8am, and Tony set off in his walking direction.  I bought the necessary, and cycled my way to find Tony on the country lanes that he was striding along.  

Today was all tarmac again.  On these days there are no off-road walking routes ( Grand Randonnee GR routes ) on our map.  We could trail across farmer’s fields, through forests and wade our way through streams in order not to be on tarmac, but that would be far too much effort on these occasions, and also illegal.  

We were heading for a B&B - Aux Mesanges ( English translation - “To the Tits” ), our last of this trip. The sun was doing it’s thing, but we were well stocked with water and goodies.  We had a coffee and orangina break in one village, and wondered if we might actually hit 2 cafes in one day with the next village that we were due to pass through.  To no avail - the next village’s cafe shut a 2pm - we were there 2.10 pm. It was a record, however, that 2 consecutive villages actually had cafes !  Why on earth shut a cafe at 2pm on Mondays ?  I still don’t understand or appreciate or see the logic in the French working week / opening hours system.  Drives me crazy.  

The final straight was straight.  We were at the B&B at a record ( for an 18 mile day ) 3.15 pm.  We were welcomed ( rather than snarled at for being early ) by our hostess.  Tony had a luke warm bath ( just on the cusp of being cold apparently ), and he was snoozing by 4pm.  

I coordinated the washing of our clothes in our kind host’s washing machine and hung them out to dry.  Oh, how good it was to have fresh smelling clothes, know what I mean J & J ?

An early night was again had by both.

Distance - 18 miles

Distance since Helmsley - 989.85 miles ( ooh, can we do it ? )


Sunday 7 September

We rose deliberately early in order to leave for 8 am again.  This was partly in order to arrive at our destination earlier / more resting hours in the afternoon, but also in order to walk more in the cooler hours of the day.  We imagined long ago that we would need to do this, and the time has now come ( late in the day in our trip, but nevertheless … ).  The weather has been constantly very hot for the last 10 days or so.  Lovely for sitting around doing nothing, but too hot for walking and generating ones own heat at the same time.

We walked road together, and then forest.  I decided to brave the ‘ tracks’ with the bike in order to stay with Tony.  I do quite like his company.  It was a gamble, as tracks in forests can mean shaded areas with bogs where I have come very (un)stuck before now i.e. mud gets stuck under rear mudguard and stops the rear wheel from rotating - not good.  Fortunately only minimal dirt stuck to the tyre today so didn't cause friction.  There were some deep tractor tracks to contend with though where much heaving was needed.  

After a good hour of forest work ( and some rather impressive compass and map work undertaken by Tony due to GR signs being hidden from view ), we exited the forest and moved to open field farm tracks, and then onto small country roads.  This is all so familiar to us now. 

We were heading for a campsite this Sunday evening, our last night under canvass of the trip.  I was getting slightly sentimental about the impending event.  The town was another walled medieval town called Pesmes ( pronounced ‘pem’ ).  We were both jiggered by time we arrived in the late afternoon, but knew that if we went straight to the campsite that we wouldn't take / make time later to visit the town itself.  We wandered the empty ( nothing new ) streets and visited the church.  Pesmes was indeed rather a jewel of frenchness - a fortified town on a hill above a river.  

We entered the campsite grounds, and both of our eyes fell upon the static chalets.  Ooh - we wonder if they have any of them available !?  Yes, they did indeed, so we ‘ upgraded ‘ from tent to chalet.  It was the end of another long day, and my sentimentality regarding camping had gone out of the window - stand upright, and not have to be tidy inside a small tent it was then !

Distance - 17.50 miles
Distance since Helmsley - 971.85 miles ( will we make 1000 before the trip is over ??? )

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Nursery night

Friday 5 September

Our hostess of the night before needed to leave for work at 8.30 am this morning so we committed to being ready to leave then too.  An early start ( mostly ) means an earlier finish.

Another hot and long day was ahead of us.  We were ready for it - must think positively, must think positively…
We had plenty of water with us, plus plenty of energy food including left over rice dish from the night before.  Our first stop was late morning at Champlitte, the town where we knew that the Italians and the Americans from a few days before had stayed overnight.  Might we possibly bump into them ?

We then went our separate ways until lunch time.  My route was along a straight main road, long and slow uphill.  A left turn after approx 3 miles took me to the point at which we had arranged to meet for lunch.  The meeting point was a ‘ Lavoire’.  We seemed to be in Lavoire country.  These were roofed wash houses from times gone by, set in the middle of a village.  They were very well preserved and still had running water in them.  We found this cool water always very useful for freshening up and cooling down with.

Tony was late.  Very very late, and I was getting hungry ( not good ).  We spoke on the phone, and he had been having navigation issues - differences between map vs gps vs walking route signposts.  Eventually he arrived, and we tucked into our veritable feast of afore mentioned goodies.  

We separated again for the final stretch of the day.  I went ahead to establish where in our destination town of Dampierre-sur-Salon our accommodation was.  We had booked this through the town tourist office ie the phone number of a lady who worked at a local nursery / infant school where we were welcome to sleep on one of their class room floors.  The lady with the key and I met, and I was shown around the building.  We had use of the kitchen, and any food or drink that was there.  There were showers too.  Perfect.  This was another example of people being aware of long distance walkers who need ( simple ) accommodation and therefore registering their contact numbers with the local tourist office where walkers find them - simples.

I met Tony at a supermarche and gave him the heads up.  We bought provisions for a tasty tea ( including booze - oh what extravagance ! ).  Here we met 2 Brummy walkers.  One had a very nasty blister that had had to be treated by a French doctor.  The other had a very large tummy - we wondered how they would fare on their onward journey.

Tony had suffered today.  The sun had been hot again, and the day long.  We were on the final countdown of our days to destination Citeaux Abbey, just south of Dijon, so motivation was high but the body had just about given up.

A very good sleep was had by both.

Distance - 19.50 miles
Distance since Helmsley - 939.35 miles

Long, hard and hot

Thursday 4 September

This was the 5th day of the final 10 day stint of our trip to just south of Dijon.  There is no rest day planned within these 10 days.  Today was a long and hard and very hot day.

We were together for the whole day again = another tarmac day.  The plan was to simply get down to it, which we did.  

We left Langres behind us and dipped into the valley to one side of the town.  It was pleasantly flat along a disused railway line for quite a few miles, but then the rolling hills returned.  We had plenty of goodies for snacks and lunch today, a result of staying in a town ie supermarkets and patisseries being easily at hand and most importantly, open.  

I walked with bike alongside me for the majority of the day.  This was partly because I found it easy ( my increasing fitness over recent months must contribute to this ), but also because I wanted to keep Tony company on these long hard roads, and try to help the day go by quicker for him with my entertaining and pleasurable chit chat.  I didn't take offence to the fact that he didn't talk much to me…..

We had arranged to stay at a B&B at Coublanc, but we could only check in after 6pm.  We sat for half and hour in a bus shelter ( for the shade ) before checking in.  The accommodation was perfect, and well worth the long walk to get there.  We had a very well equipped en-suite room on the upper floor of what will have been a barn in days gone by.  We had use of a utility / kitchen room below and of the inside / outside bbq + dining area complete with hammock.  We had big bowls of a rice meal for tea on this lovely summer’s evening.  We were in the land of nod before 10pm.

Distance - 18.50 miles

Distance since Helmsley - 919.85 miles 

Town on a hill

Wednesday 3 September

The six of us left the B&B together, but over the next few hours parted company due to pace differences and different routes taken.  The rest of the day was half  ( R & T ) togetherness, and half going our own way.

The landscape was becoming much more rolling and green with rivers and forests.  I thought that I could see a german / swiss influence in the churches and house designs.  

Something happened around midday that has very rarely happened throughout this trip on the French side, and that was that we found a cafe that was open !  We had our coffee + orangina fixes ( I would rather not drink tea, than drink black tea of non-Tetley, Typhoo, Yorkshire, Earl Grey origin ).  

After the cafe stop the rest of the day was hard.  We were heading to Langres, a medieval walled hilltop town.  There were hills and valleys to traverse before arriving there.  I pushed the ups ( with intermittent stops in order to regulate my breathing ), and rolled the downs.  I came across the Italians who were tucking into a bumper size pack of Maltesers for energy ( I still have no idea how they got in front of us ).  

Tony, in the meantime was enjoying walking on forest paths, and on well marked tracks also in direction Langres.

Tony and I finally met each other in the late afternoon, and had our 2nd cafe / orangina break to celebrate the end of this very physical and long day.

Our accommodation this evening was in a flat in the Prespytary belonging to the Cathedral of Langres ( we had heard that there were only 2 beds here and therefore needed to be booked well in advance ).  Our flat was on the top floor of this very old house with wooden floorboards, none of which were flat.  We had a bird’s eye view of Langres Cathedral roof and of the Langres skyline of one particular direction.  We looked out of the bedroom window at one point, and low and behold - our Italian friends were passing beneath.  We chatted briefly and bid them bon voyage for a final time.

We made ourselves a very large carbohydrate meal, with fruit salad and cake for pudding, and watched another film on’t laptop.

Distance - 16 miles
Distance since Helmsley - 901.35 miles

Italians & Americans, and the 3 Whews

Tuesday 2 September

Just before leaving Clairvaux, we had our photo taken with the 2 nuns and Gerard from Rotterdam.  We purchased necessary goodies from the mobile patisserie ( van ) that tooted at 8 am outside our abode.  We were good to go.

The day started with an uphill rocky path for us both that quickly went down the other side.  From then on it was fairly gently ups and downs and some very long straights.  We spent the whole day together = Tony was on tarmac all day.

Later in the day we came across 2 Italian walkers who were doing the same route as us.  They were older gents, and only one spoke English.  They walked slower than us, but they had been walking since Calais in early August, so respect.  One can’t judge a walker by his / her pace.  We parted company from our new Italian friends when we came to the B&B that we had booked for the night.  The Italians were walking a further 4 miles to the next village of Mormant.

We felt very pleased that our walking day had ended so early ( 3.30 pm ), and since there was no reply at the B&B we made ourselves comfortable on some flat grass and read / snoozed in the sun.  An hour or so later the gent of the B&B arrived from having walked his dog.  We greeted each other and confirmed that we had a booking for the night………..but it turned out that we didn't !  Straight away shock waves went from top to toe at the thought of a night wandering the streets and / or sitting on church steps awaiting Christian kindness. 

I consulted my trusty notepad for the info about this evenings accommodation, and the man confirmed that we were indeed at the address that I had noted, but that the phone number was not his.  He kindly phoned the number that I had booked with, and fortunately he recognised the answering machine voice of being that of another B&B down the road at  Mormant ( of 4 miles away ).  I had to break the news to Tony, who's feet were already tarmac-ed out. The news was not graciously received.

In order to be sure that the B&B at Mormant actually existed ( what other mistake could I have made ? ) I felt it necessary to cycle ahead to see the place with my own eyes.  In my state of peddling panic, I caught up with the Italians.  I relayed our story to them.  I was very much comforted by the fact that the phone number that they had booked their B&B with was the same number that I had in my notepad.  Whew number 1.
I cycled on, and arrived at the B&B in Mormant.  I had indeed booked this one.  Whew number 2.

Tony arrived in due course ( mood having lightened slightly ), and so did the Italians, and 2 Americans.  All six of us shared a meal together ( prepared for by the lovely B&B lady ), and had a fun and interesting evening.  It seemed that Tony forgiven me by now for my earlier administration error.  Whew number 3.

Distance - 22 miles ( oops ! )
Distance since Helmsley - 885.35 miles

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A prison in an abbey

Monday 1 September

We were off before 9am this morning.  We had a fairly long day ahead.  The first part of the day was together along small country lanes and through small villages as usual.  We did notice, however, that the villages we passed today looked much more ship-shape than ones of recent days / weeks.  We can’t work out why some villages look like they have been abandoned ie houses are shabby and farm barns are practically wrecks, and others clearly have lots on money spent on them.  Wether shabby or chic they are still all so quiet, even on this Monday morning - 1st day of the working week.

We had our lunch bread and patisserie goodies at Bar-Sur-Aube, followed by a system boosting piece of fruit each. There were 2 sections of separate walking and cycling this afternoon joined in the middle by 5 minutes sitting on a wall together comparing map routes and wondering if it was too late to apply suntan cream.  

We had hills today.  We were still in Champagne country, but the vines were on very much hillier terrain than in recent weeks ( yes weeks ).  My hills meant that I had to push up them - good for the right arm muscle which had been resting rather too much I thought.  Tony, no doubt, will have steamed up his like a train.

We met and arrived at Clairvaux at around 5 pm, just in time to visit the Abbey ticket office before it closed.  The guided tours of the Abbey had finished so we wandered around the open courtyard ( car-park ) and imagined lots of 12th to18th century happenings.  

Our accommodation was a house on the main road of the village which takes in walkers, but mostly accommodates female family visitors of the inmates of the prison which takes up part of the Abbey complex across the road.  The house was owned and run by a Sisterhood of Nuns which originated from Alsace.  We had our evening meal with 2 of the nuns and another walker from Holland.  Around the table we were from England ( us ), Holland ( male walker ), Alsace ( 1 nun ), and Slovakia ( t’other nun ).  Around the table we spoke English ( us ), German ( us + man + 1st nun ), French ( me + man + both nuns ).  It worked.  

We were not allowed to help with the washing-up, so happily had an early night.  

Distance - 17 miles
Distance since Helmsley- 863.35 miles

Back to it

Sunday 31 August

We arrived back at our hotel in Brienne le Chateaux the night before ( where Napoleon was stationed for 5 years you know ! ) after a very enjoyable and eventful 8 days in the UK ( hence lack of blog entries recently ).  I had left the bike and panniers at the establishment with the permission of the owners.  It was a great relief not to have to take bike + related gear to the UK.  I only had a small day rucksack for the journey home - it was so strange to have my hands free.

We were pleasantly surprised that the patisserie round the corner was open on this Sunday morning, first day back.  We purchased our usual and headed off.  We only had approx 10 miles to travel to our destination village of Jessains today - a deliberate plan in order to break ourselves back gently into the truly physical days that are this trip.  

Landscape was slightly rolling, with intermittent forests.  Our pace was leisurely, and we revelled at the fact that we arrived at our campsite destination before 3 pm. 

We were staying at the Jessains Municipal campsite.  It was basically a toilet + dish wash area block with rain cover section at front and a strip of land ( appropriately flat ) alongside.  It was on the outskirts of this small and picturesque village.  The campsite caretaker welcomed us. He said that he lived in the ( only ) caravan on site, but I don't believe him - think he just stays there when they know people are camping etc. 

This caretaker was surprisingly popular with the local 13 - 15 year old boys.  They arrived on their scooters ( high pitched motors etc ) and parked up outside the toilet block.  There must have been 6 or 7 of them all chatting with a very animated ( and presumably hip ) 50-something man.

We snoozed in the tent ( only the 2nd time that we have done this in all our camping stays, and not very effectively due to the intermittent scooter motors), made our broccoli and cheese pasta dishes for tea ( thank you uk and Bachelors ! ), and watched a film on’t laptop before officially ending the day.

Distance - 10.5 miles
Distance since Helmsley - 846.35 miles