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Via Francigena, Day 2 (31 Jul), From Alembon to Bruay-la-Buissière

Expect the unexpected!

As suggested by my host in Alembon the day before, 8:00am I was downstairs for breakfast. Got to taste all the home made compote she does and home baked cake as well.

After breakfast I started packing. I confess, this is one of my weak points and something I definitely need to get better at. The Camino de Santiago has taught me a few lessons last year, which I seemed to have forgotten, but the Via Francigena is being quick at reminding me of them.

Before I left home I packed everything according to item type, e.g. clothes and footwear all in one pannier, electronics in another, 1st aid kit and items of personal hygiene in another and so on…

The thing is, when you are on the move and need something you don’t want to be opening several different panniers to get items you may need. The lesson I learned on the Camino was to pack a pannier with the most likely things you are going to need during the day (in the case of the Camino I packed it in a rucksack, as I had only 2 panniers then, where I now have 4), so you’ll only need to open one bag during the day, unless something out of the ordinary happens, which is not uncommon. I am, therefore, attempting to change the packing accordingly and moved several items around the panniers.

When I finished packing everything (took me about 25 min… yes, I am slow) brought everything downstairs, where the bike was, and started to load them in the bike. About 15 min later, when all panniers and the camping bag were loaded and fastened, I realised I was missing my Cateye cycling computer, which I thought I had placed in the handlebar bag together with the Garmin Edge 810. It wasn’t there. Went back to the room and searched everywhere as I knew I had it the day before… couldn’t find it. There was only one option left: Search in the panniers, which, as I mentioned before, were already loaded in the bike. I’ll give you one chance to guess if it was in the 1st pannier or in the last. Did you guess? Of course it was in the last. It must have fallen in the pannier as I was rearranging the packing. Altogether, I literally spend 1h looking for the damn thing. That meant I left the B&B only around 11:30am. For a pilgrim this is almost time of arrival, not time of departure. Anyway… need to give no excuses to anyone as I am alone, but it was a bit stressful. My own fault.

From Alembon I rode to Licques, where I managed to get a stamp from a water park there, as everything else was closed. Then to Tournehem-sur-la-Hem, where there was also nothing open. Not to say nothing, the church was open, but there was no one in it. From Tournehem my next destination was Thérouanne, where, according to my host the day before, there was a pilgrim’s hostel, but… everything was closed. I wasn’t planning to stay there anyway, as I wanted to ride more, so I rode further to Amettes where there is another hostel with special rates for pilgrims (€13/night). Guess what? Closed!

In all the villages I rode through everything was closed. Even the petrol stations were closed. if I wanted to setup camp somewhere I would have to go hungry as I couldn’t find anything open to buy food. I also couldn’t get any stamps on my Pilgrim’s credential which, upon arrival in Rome, is the document you have to show.

So I decided to continue riding to Bruay-la-Buissière as I knew it was a bigger town and there was bound to be something open. As I got there I asked several people about “auberges” or hotels but I couldn’t find any near, so I turned to Google which offered me a few, with one of the cheapest being the Ibis Style in the outskirts of town. Had to ride another 4 or 5 Km to get there and the daily rate wasn’t the €53 Google suggested, but €69 with Breakfast. By that point it was late and I was too tired to go searching for something cheaper, so that is where I stayed. The room was great and the hotel was near several restaurants. Had a really good meal at the 3 Les 3 Brasseurs.

When I left Alembon in the morning, the day was a bit unsettled and that made me forget to pass on the sunscreen on my skin. I live in the UK, so this is something we use very little there 🙂

The sunscreen was on the bottom of one of my panniers, which I really didn’t want to take off the bike again. The result was a really bad sun burn and fever at night which made for an uncomfortable night. I should have stopped to get the sunscreen… lesson number… ? (who’s counting anyway).

Well, that was it. I’m attaching a few pictures to this “post by email” which I hope will be self-explanatory. If you have any questions, just drop me a comment.

Before I close the post, have you made your donation to Mind UK, which is the charity I am sponsoring during this ride? Common, 20 quid will not be much at the end of the month and it’s all for a good cause.

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