This post complements the post I published on the 10th of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had on the 3rd of August 2016 while riding between Tergnier and Reims, including the additional (and unnecessary, might I add) ride from the Auberge de Villequier, where I spent the night before, back to Tergnier . I am not going to repeat the content of that post in this one again, but I will try to add a few highlights for each one of the stages below. I encourage you to read the previous post before continuing on this one.
Starting a bike ride under heavy rain is always a challenge for me. Yet, I don’t mind if it starts to rain in the middle of the ride. Go figure!
The extra 15 or so Kilometres I rode to and from the Village of Villequier (Auberge where I stayed that night) should be deducted from the total distance to Rome. It was an unnecessary detour
The translation of the word “Auberge” (hostel) has different meanings in different languages. In Spanish (Albergue) those are the most common pilgrim accommodations along the Camino de Santiago. In French they are similar to a hotel. In Portuguese (Brazil) they are usually understood as being a shelter house for the homeless.
Be prepared to push your bike up to the cathedral / town centre in Laon. Very steep inclines.
Laon’s Tourist Information office is conveniently located right besides the cathedral. You can get your pilgrim’s credentials stamped there.
When leaving Laon, if using Google Maps to navigate, beware the App will lead you to a footpath which has very narrow restriction bars at the end. Thankfully, even with all the panniers and load on the bike, I’ve managed to get passed them by raising the bike vertically, but it wasn’t easy.
During a water rest at the church in Corbeny I looked at the guide and decided to skip Hermonville and ride straight to Reims. I wanted to stay in Reims and didn’t want to arrive too late there, so I could have a chance to walk around to city to get to know it a little. I think it was a wise decision, but that was, I believe, the last time I decided to skip a stage in the guide. It wouldn’t have taken me much longer to ride to Hermonville and from there to Reims.
The road to Reims was quite busy and no hard shoulder to ride on. Although I did not feel unsafe, I would advise caution. I am inclined to believe the Lightfoot recommended route is probably a better option in terms of vehicle traffic.
Reims is a city worth spending time. The cathedral is pretty amazing, even with all the scaffolding at the time. The city centre is lively with lots of things to see. The opera house (which I called a theater in the video) has some pretty interesting colour changing lighting in addition to being a very interesting building. Reims is also the French capital of Champagne and you will find references to it in many places like in the tourist information office. You can book visitations and Champagne tasting tours to many of the local producing houses. According to Wikipedia, Champagne ages in the many caves and tunnels under Reims, which form a sort of maze below the city. Carved from chalk, some of these passages date back to Roman times. The a look at the footage I recorded during my short walk around the city centre.
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This post complements the post I published on the 10th of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had while riding between Péronne and Tergnier, including the additional (and unnecessary, might I add) ride from Tergnier to the Auberge de Villequier, where I spent the night. I am not going to repeat the contents of that post in this one again, but I will add a few highlights for each stage below. I encourage you to read the previous before continuing on this one.
To go or not to go? Woke up many times during the night to the sound of heavy rain. In the early morning I decided to wait in the tent to see if the rain would stop. It meant that by the time I was done with breakfast and packing it was past 11am in the morning, but I think it proved to be the right decision this time (aided by some weather forecast on the phone). Wasn’t really looking forward to packing my gear under rain. The rain resumed just after I left, so I guess I can consider it a lucky dry window, just long enough for me to pack my gear.
After leaving the Camping Site the first stop was at Péronne’s tourism information office in the town centre to collect a stamp on my Pilgrim’s Credential. As I was late I couldn’t really explore the town. As with many other towns and villages I’ve been through, Péronne looked like it would have been worth at least a few hours, if I had time to spare.
Again and again, Google Maps is good, especially to those like me that are “navigation challenged”. One problem for cyclists is that it tries, as much as it can, to guide the cyclists away from heavy vehicle traffic. Yes, this is good, but it also means it guides you to paths that during or after heavy rain might be very challenging to transpose. As I left Pèronne Google Maps instructed me to leave the “D” road I was to some dirt paths that were very muddy, only to guide me back to the same “D” road about 1.5 Km later. When you don’t know the way, the decision is not always easy. Overall Google Maps helped me more than it hindered me though.
The ride to Trefcon was uneventful and the village itself is tiny and it appeared to be completely deserted.
It rained basically all day that day (on and off) and after leaving Trefcon the route was mostly on good roads up to the town of Montescourt-Lizerolles, where Google Maps instructed to take a path alongside the railway. The terrain was somewhat challenging as the Swalbe Marathon tyres I have in the bike are not really suited for them. After overcoming the path, I decided not to follow the route Google had planned and take my chances on the major “D” road, the D1, that took me straight to Tergnier. The traffic was intense and the road had guard-rails and no hard-shoulder. I don’t recommend this route, but on hindsight I believe it was the right decision, albeit somewhat riskier than to stick (no pun intended) to the dirt paths.
Riding under constant rain is not really fun, but the main challenge, besides the muddy paths, was the strong wind which slowed me down considerably and took away the high visibility orange flag I had in th back of the bike. I arrived in Tergnier tired and feeling a bit ill, probably due to the wet conditions (I am slightly asthmatic and humidity is not a good thing for me). The town hall was closed, so I turned to Google again for a place to sleep and the 1st option Google gave me was a hotel / hostel in the nearby village of Villequier.
The concept of “nearby” changes when you are travelling on the bike though. It took me almost 1h riding in the wrong direction (as I found out the next day) to get there, but the Auberge is lovely and the owners were very nice to me. The room was small, but big enough to wash and dry my wet clothes and dry the tent and camping equipment. Also enjoyed a very nice meal that night, my personal reward for a hard day of cycling under rain.
Took very few pictures during the day. The rain was the biggest contributor to this, but in all honesty I did not feel like there were a lot of picture worthy moments anyway.
This post complements the post I published on the 8th of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had while riding between Bruay-la-Buissière and Péronne. I am not going to repeat the contents of that post in this one again, but I will add a few highlights for each stage below. I would strongly encourage you to ready the August, 2016 post before continuing on this one, though.
Via Francigena can be just bike touring, of course, but if you want your Testimonium when you get to Rome, you have to present your pilgrim’s credential and it needs to have stamps in it. They do do a deep analyses of the stamps, but they will expect that in a 2,000 Km bike ride you will have collected a few. In the digital age is getting more and more difficult to find stamps… so analogical (illogical?). In many of the small towns and villages the chance of you to find a government facility (town hall, tourist information office, etc) will depend on the day of the week (Weekends? No chance) and the time of the day as some of these facilities will be closed, e.g. lunch time, or may have public opening hours. I really tried getting my pilgrim’s credential stamped but as it was the case in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire and others, as I got there I could not find anything open. Even the pharmacy was closed.
Arras is spectacular. Worth a visit if you can afford staying for a day. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and is more than 2,000 years old.
There is a “Route 66” café in Ervillers, between Arras and Bapaume, with a big statue of “the King” (Elvis). Coming across that reminded me of a friend who was about the ride the entire route 66 by bicycle. Her name is Cacá Strina. Check out her page here.
Don’t completely trust technology. Have always some low tech option to fall back if technology fails you. For some reason I lost GPS connection between Baupame and Péronne and I was relying on Google Maps entirely. At the very least download the offline maps over a WiFi connection, if possible, before you leave. Getting to Péronne was no problem, I simply follow the signs, but finding the Municipal Camping site took some time and effort (about 5 Km more than necessary).
By the time I setup camp, had a shower and was ready to go out to find something to eat, the nearby supermarket in Péronne was already closed and after almost 30 min walking the only place I could find was a kebab trailer. So I ordered an extra large Kebab plate for dinner (and a baguette sandwhich for breakfast next day) and had a feast in the comfort of my tent. In small towns it may not easy to find a place for a meal at night. Keep that in mind.
Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 14, From Bapaume – Péronne
Video Length: 5 min 38 sec To skip introductions and recommendations jump to time stamp 0:40 in the video timeline.
The next video is a time-lapse recording of my “awesomely akward” tent pitching skills. Took me “only” 20 min to pitch the tent. Thank God I don’t do this for a living… 🙂
In the municipal camping site of Péronne in France. Between the 3rd and 4th day of my Via Francigena pilgrimage. It raining a lot during that night and in the morning. Didn’t have a good night of sleept that day.