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Via Francigena, days 8 and 9: From Brienne-le-Chateau to Arc-en-Barrios and Langres

Day 8, 6/Aug (Saturday): From Brienne-le-Chateau to Arc-En-Barrois (80.52 Km)

After leaving the pilgrim’s house, which I am glad to say wasn’t haunted at all (or the ghosts were out on holidays) I went back to the Tourist Information Office to return the keys to the house.

I then cycled on pretty flats and straight line roads, some with a nice tree line, all the way to Dolancourt.

Dolancourt is a small village, so no wonder as I arrived there I found no place where to stamp my pilgrim’s credentials. One interesting fact was that as I was having a moment of rest in front of the town hall I could hear screams from time to time. The type of screams children (and some adults) do when having fun. I then found out there is a theme park in Dolancourt called Nigoland, right in the middle of town and the screams were coming from one of the park’s attractions, a vertical thrill ride.

After a few minutes of rest I moved on to the next destination which was Bar-sur-Aube, Stage 30 of the Lightfoot guide.

Few kilometres later I met a Dutch family on a cycling holiday having a pick-nick at the road side (Mum, Dad, daughter and son).

Bar-sur-Aube has interesting river views. As I arrived in the town the Tourism Information office, which I often sought for the stamp on the pilgrim’s credentials was closed, but it would open 20 min later, so that gave me an opportunity for a snack break (I often had a sandwich or some fruit with me).

With the stamp on the credentials, the next destination was Clairvaux, more specifically Clairvaux Abbey, where I found indications and signs of the Via Francigena, which in France is not that common. Time for some rest, pictures a quick prayer to thank for the strength and protection this far and then on the road again.

Châteauvillain was the next destinations. Châteauvillain looked like an interesting village. Had a little water break and took some pictures. As I could not find any of the traditional places to obtain the stamp for the pilgrim’s credentials I went to a Newsagent I found open. They often have stamps of their businesses with the name of the town in them.

As it was close to 17:00h already as I got to Châteauvillain I had to decide if I wanted to stop for the day or ride a little more. I looked in the guide and the next step was Mormant, but from the description and available places to sleep it looked like a really small village. The few options of accommodation the guide was suggesting were in Arc-en-Barrois, 15 Km away from Châteauvillain, which is along the walkers path of the Via Francigena, so I decided to try my luck there. As I arrived in Arc-en-Barrois I got confused with the directions my Garmin Edge 810 was giving me and ended up cycling 5 Km more than needed 🙁

A good part of the ride from Châteauvillain to Arc-en-Barrois was on dirt tracks through a forest, which was a bit tiring and stressful as my phone decided to stop working and I couldn’t get Google Maps back on. I used the Garmin Edge for navigation the rest of the way, which thankfully had in its database the same small dirt tracks Google was guiding me through.

Thankfully the Tourist Information Office of the village was still open and I got the stamp and some advice from a friendly man working there. One of the 2 Gites he suggested was closed and the other was a bit out of town in the opposite direction. The only hotel I found in town was a bit out of my budget, so as I

Had seen a camping ground as I arrived in the village I decided to setup camp there.

The information given by the tourist information office was that the cost for camping would be between €2 and €3,so I was surprised when 2 ladies “knocked” at my tent the next morning demanding €9 for the night. I told them what the tourist information office had told me and the price “magically” went down to €3.20. It pays not to be quiet. The camping had good shower facilities, but there wasn’t much around. As it was late, I was hungry and had no food with me I decided to go back to that hotel I had found expensive and have dinner there.

The night ended with me back in my messy tent.

Day 9, 7/Aug (Sunday): From Arc-En-Barrois to Langres (46.29 Km)

The next day didn’t start well. I didn’t have a good night sleep as my asthma decided to show up. In the darkness of the tent I could not really see what was going up, but the next morning I realised a lot of condensation had built up inside the tent. The inner wall of the tent (or inner skin as sometimes refereed to) was soaking wet and that is likely what triggered my asthma during the night.

It was a slow process to dismantle the tent and get everything ready as I wanted to let the tent dry a bit under the sun and this resulted in me leaving the camp site quite late (around 12 noon actually).

As the day before, after clearing the urban area Google Maps took me to dirt tracks through forests. Something a bit odd happened in the middle of the forest which to this day is still puzzling me. As I was on one of the dirt tracks in the middle of the forest, I saw a Dachshund dog (the “sausage” dog) alone by himself. The had a collar and looked a bit scared and disoriented. At 1st I thought it’s owner was in the forest somewhere and continued cycling, but kept an eye on the dog in my rear mirror. I was already 200m away and no person, so I stopped and got off the bike, and started to walk towards the dog. As I got near him he ran into the forest and I could not follow him. I was I did try whistling to see if the dog would come to me, but after a few minutes I had completely lost track of the dog. I honestly hope he wasn’t lost and that if he was he was found later on. I hate to think there was something more I could have done and didn’t.

The dirt path had some closed barriers and most had a clearance on the side which enabled me to get by, except one. Thankfully there was a bit of clearance between the barrier and the ground and I could lay down the bike under the barrier and get through without having to take the panniers off.

As I arrived in Mormant I confirmed that the decision to stay in Arc-en-Barrois the day before was the correct one. Mormant is a tiny village with just a few houses. There used to be an Abbey where Sigeric presumably stayed during his pilgrimage, but it is now in ruins. There are Via Francigena signs in the ruins.

Few kilometres after Mormant I met Nicholas, one of the few Via Francigena pilgrims I had met at that point and the first from Britain. Nicholas, is from Lancaster and had left Canterbury on the 11th of July. He expected to arrive in Rome by the end of October.

He told me that after his brother died, a few years ago, he walked from Lancaster to Canterbury in his memory. When he got there some people asked, “why don’t you walk to Rome?”, and that got stuck with him.

As the Lancaster to Canterbury walk was in memory of his brother, the pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome he is dedicating to the memory of his niece, who 40 years ago was abducted or went missing right after birth. He says that even after all this time, his sister is still grieving for the loss of her girl, so he is taking her little hospital blanket with him to Rome. Just one of the many interesting stories along the way.

After Mormant Google guided me to a point where the path was closed, so I had to find a way around it, and that meant a quite substantial detour of several kilometres.

Like in Laon, Langres has a substantial hill to climb so you can get to town. As I arrived in Langres I was feeling very tired, from the bad night sleep, so after getting my credentials stamped at the tourist information office I asked for pilgrim’s accommodations and they sent me to the L’Abri du Pèlerin, offered and maintained by the Catholic church, right beside the Cathedral. It is a small place, only 2 rooms. One room has 2 beds, the other 1 bed. It has a bathroom and a kitchen and it cost €10 a night (no WiFi). There was a couple from France staying in the room with 2 beds and I was alone in the room with a single bed.

Thankfully, after a shower I was still in time to get the local mini-marked opened, which enabled me to buy some food to prepare in the hostel.

I had a good night sleep there.

That’s it for days 8 and 9 of the pilgrimage. Have you contributed with your donation to my chosen charity already? Anything will help.

Thanks a lot for your time.

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