Via Francigena - Canterbury to Rome
Chaumont to Besancon
11 May 2019 to 19 May 2019
Saturday 11 May 2019
Via Francigena Stage 4 Off to Paris by the 11.30 Eurostar. After the short walk to Gare de L’Est, we discovered there was an early train to Chaumont and we were on our way very quickly. It was a journey of many dark storms punctuated by bursts of sunshine and when we got to Chaumont we were rained and hailed upon heavily whilst walking the two kilometers to our hotel - "The Golden Star" on the road going south. We reached it very wet and bedraggled. It was a friendly family run establishment and we emptied our rucksacks to dry in the room to them out. We had a decent evening meal in the restaurant and played cards in the bar
Sunday 12 May 2019
Chaumont to Leffonds (22 km)
The morning dawned with a blue and cloudless sky but a cold breeze. Almost perfect weather for walking and it stayed with us for the next 5 days. We progressed out of town through an industrial estate and got to a dead end where the map on Pocket Earth showed a footpath ahead. It looked very overgrown but after some debate, we took it, pushing aside tree branches and following the trodden grass where others had walked. It led us finally to a factory yard full of machinery from which there was, unfortunately, no exit. There were gates and fences barring our way and being Sunday, there was no sign of human life. We struck off in another direction hoping to regain the road but no luck. In the end, we had to give up and retrace our steps to where we had entered this nasty piece of land. We had wasted about 40 minutes. Not a great start to our walk. We went back for a couple of hundred meters and turned right to regain the main highway. At the next roundabout we went straight ahead down a broad cycle route to the right of the main road, passing a large school on our left.
Soon we were able to leave the road and take to a forest track going off to the left. This went on very pleasantly for several kilometers and took us through to join a minor road along which we descended to the quiet village of Crenay. There was a large parking area and we sat and ate our sandwiches in a bus shelter which deflected most of the cold wind. We had used several before on our walks through Europe and Gillian suggested we could write a book entitled “Bus Shelters of France” We crossed a river, turned up a hill, looked in at an old church and followed a track across some open farmland. The wind was blowing pretty patterns in the barley fields. The track joined the D243 which, wound away into the distance between fields of yellow rape-seed. After many kilometers it led us to the village of Leffonds. We sat in the sunshine on some benches opposite the town hall until it seemed like an appropriate time to go to our accommodation. La Cressonniere was a lovely house with extensive grounds but there was a scary very uneven circular stone staircase up to our bedroom. Our hosts Danny and Dominic had spent a large part of their working lives in Burkino Faso. They invited us to wander around their fields and we did just that as the sun set. That night we had a tasty meal enhanced by their use of African spices. They spoke no English. So Gillian had to carry the conversation.
Monday 13 May 2019
Leffonds to Langres (21km) We made good time for the first 8 or 9 km along the D102 through the vlllage of Marac and then joined a larger road (the D3) to cross a windy motorway bridge over the A31/A5. We took a break perched on some concrete slabs at the village of Beauchemin and then picked up the GR145 which turned off at right angles and followed a country track to the village of Saint Martin Les-Langres with views ahead to Reservoir de la Mouche. We sat on the steps of the church for a break and I ate my final ham sandwich from England. Then we descended steeply to a river valley and an old mill. The GR went off to the right on a loop around the reservoir, but instead, we turned left and followed a road which soon became a long hill. The ascent got steeper as we toiled upwards in the warm afternoon sun. The hill went on and on. Finally, at the very top we got our first view of Langres perched on the next ridge. I suggested a break but the place I selected was not very suitable. First, we disturbed a large black snake which slithered off into the grass and then, when we sat down, Gillian found she was being over-run by aggressive ants. We gave up that idea and left the road following a
broad parallel track. The road descended and disappeared from view but our track kept climbing until it intersected with the GR7. This narrow footpath led us steeply downhill through woods. At the bottom we left the GR and climbed straight up a road to the gates of the town. Langres was very attractive with some fine buildings, a cathedral and museums. It also had a bar where I could have a beer. Gillian ordered an iced coffee but got a normal coffee with a mound of cream on top. It was mid afternoon and we visited some of the ramparts and went into a couple of shops to buy picnic supplies. Our hotel (“Design Resto Novo”) was about a kilometer beyond the old town in the middle of a retail park. It was still bright and sunny and we went out looking for a beer. We found a “potato” restaurant and although it wasn’t open for meals, they sold us a couple of large beers from the bar. We sat outside in the sunshine, admired the view of the distant hills and the MacDonald's restaurant opposite, and relaxed. Life was good. In particular, I was having no repetition of my back problems. I attributed this to using a walking stick to improve my posture.
Tuesday 14 May 2019
Langres to Grandchamp (20km) Another fine sunny day. With picnic food already purchased we decided we could omit the next town of Chalindrey and make directly for our destination. We set out optimistically along a green and pleasant track that was shown on Pocket Earth as running parallel to the D122. After a while we came to a locked metal fieldgate We rolled underneath thinking that would be the only impediment to our progress. But within a few hundred meters the path disappeared completely and, after searching in vain for another exit from the field, we had to return under the gate and walk back 300 meters to a crossing track which led us back to the main road past a large supermarket. This was all a bit depressing and wasted a good 30 minutes. We turned left along the D122 which was to be our route for the rest of the day. To start with, it was quite busy but after four kilometers the route to Chalindrey turned off and it became much quieter. We passed through a number of villages with difficult names starting with Noidant-Chatenoy and then Heuilley Cotton where we passed over a canal newly emerged from a long tunnel. We were hoping for some canal-side meadows no such luck. So we stretched out on a triangle of grass near the outskirts of the village. The wind rattled a road sign above our heads and a local cat tried to be friendly by walking on Gillian’s hat. But we had a good rest. We walked on to the villages of Heuilley-le-Grand and St Broingt-le-Bois. Both had churchyards for a brief rest. Then we got a second-wind and went quite quickly over the last 2.5km to Grandchamp. Our accommodation was in the aptly
named Rue de Cul de Sac and was run by a Dutch lady. It was another beautiful house with a huge garden. Our outside room in a modernised stable block was large and nicely furnished. We purchased two cold beers and sat in the sun while other guests came and went. There had been a cold breeze all day and suddenly I felt a tickle in my throat which, over the next few days, turned out to be the start of a head-cold. We had a superb three course dinner cooked by Carla, our host and drank a lot of white wine. We chatted to another two guests from Leuven in Belgium who were spending a few days in the area with their car.
Wednesday 15 May 2019
Grandchamp to Champlitte (19 km) Another sunny day of road walking between fields full of green shoots of wheat and the yellow bloom of rape-seed. We passed through the village of Maatz and then crossed out of the Department of Haute Marne into the Department of Haute Saone. Our faithful D122 became the D17 and led us finally to the town of Champlitte which we reached at about 14.30. Champlitte was determined to make the most of its connection with the Via Francigena. It had lots of VF related signs and the tourist information office gave us a beautifully designed leaflet about VF routes in the area. They had even organised a series of VF walks for local people. But their aspirations did not match the reality of a town which was full of heavy traffic, slightly run-down and effectively closed for business because of typical French opening hours. Our Henri IV hotel wasn’t accepting guests so early in the day. So, we found the only open bar to have a coke and then parked ourselves on a bench in thegrounds of an impressive chateau-museum. At 16.30 we booked into the hotel and were given a
room on the top floor up another very difficult part-wood, part-stone, circular staircase. At 18.00 we went out to sample the restaurants of Champlitte and found nothing more than a small bar that did pizzas and a rather sad takeaway. But there was a good supermarket. So we purchased chicken, coleslaw and crisps and ate it back in our hotel room. This was to be the first of three consecutive nights that we were obliged to have picnic-type dinners.
Thursday 16 May 2019
Champlitte to Seveux (24 km) Another sunny morning. We found our way out of Champlitte via some nice grassy country tracks. These led us to the village of Neuville-les-Champlitte where we took a break besides a lavoir. Then we joined the D36. But before the next village, Gillian suggested we leave the road and follow a track which turned out to be a signposted GR. A series of pleasant tracks kept us away from the D36 for most of the day, in fact, all the way to Dampierre Sur Salon where we took a break for a drink at the bar of a modern new hotel. There was also a pharmacy where we bought some tablets for my cold. (extract of pelargonnium !! totally useless). There was then 6 km of unpleasant but unavoidable road walking. Lorries and buses whizzed by in both directions. Finally, we
crossed the bridge across the broad River Saone and entered Seveux. We went first to the restaurant Chez Berthe, well recommended in our book, to make a booking for dinner. Disaster ! They had a very large party of locals in for a wedding party (or similar) and were not doing meals. Our faces fell. Even the bar was closing early. We ordered a couple of large beers and sat on high stools consoling ourselves with the thought that at least we had passed an open epicerie. We bought another picnic dinner and walked to our accommodation in Rue de la Fourlotte. This was a house with huge gardens next to a river and a friendly dog which insisted I threw pine cones for her to chase. We had a very small pilgrim bedroom but luckily it was a dry sunny evening and we had our food on a wooden platform overlooking a pond and watched geese, a swimming dog and the sons of the owner using a rotavator.
Friday 17 May 2019
Seveux to Velloreille les Choye (16 km) The next day's route was a problem. We could walk directly from Seveux to our destination but this would mean 26km carrying extra supplies for an evening meal and picnic food for two days. There was another option to take a bus to the city of Gray and walk for about 16km carrying our extra supplies. We decided upon the bus which left Seveux at 07.00 and we were out on the village street in good time, sharing the bus stop with some school children. When the school bus arrived, we thought that we would have to wait for another one but it turned that it was OK to travel with the school kids. So after 30 minutes we were dropped in a parking area in Gray which was filled with school buses and children. Unfortunately, Gray turned out to be another unexciting French town. We shopped at a very large supermarket and sat by the side of the wide River Saone for a while. Then with nothing more to see we set out to walk at about 11.00. Our exit route was the D21 which was a very straight Roman road with forest on both sides. It went up and down, up and down, until the far horizon. You could see a car coming two kilometers away but it would disappear from view in the dips a couple of times before whizzing past. This type of road is a bit depressing and we slogged along mindlessly without appreciating the attractive woodland around us. Finally after 7km, the road finally managed to create a bend for itself and we dropped out of the forest into a flat river valley where we turned left on a much smaller road. After two kilometers we crossed another main road and followed a track to the village of Champtonnay. At another village called Onay we went straight ahead on a forest track towards our destination. For the very first time the sky had clouded over and there were a few drops of rain but it amounted to very little before we reached our accommodation in Velloreille Les Choye. This was another big French house, this time with very creaky wooden floors and the toilet a long distance away from the bedroom. Mary-Jo, our host, was a psychiatrist who held activity and yoga courses in the house. That evening, she kindly invited us into the kitchen to eat our picnic food consisting of frankfurters, potato salad and cous cous
Sat 18 May 2019
Velloreille les Choye to Emagny (15km) Rain was forecast but the day dawned fine and dry. We set out on the track to the village of Choye where we followed the Grand Rue out of town straight across another section of open countryside. At the second major crossing road we consulted our map and took a cycle path up into some wooded hills which cut off a big chunk of road walking almost as far as the village of Autoreille. As we neared this village Gillian realised she had overcalculated today’s route by nearly 5km and we would reach our end point much to early. (I could live quite happily with this i.e. less walking than expected) Fortunately, Autoreille, as well as the usual barking dogs, had a nice little white stone lavoir set in a little public garden. We parked ourselves there for 45 minutes to pass the time. After this village there was was a long stretch of white dusty track past a quarry. Then we were on a very straight two kilometers of road down to the village of Pin where we optimistically thought there might be bar. No such luck! Just a teasing Kronenburg sign from the last century hanging limply on a wall. It was yet another deserted French village except for a bit of through traffic. It was about 15.00 and we needed to use up another hour at least. So we went down to the river and found a spot to relax near a bridge which formed the boundary of the Haute Saone Dept. We were entertained by some men, in cheerful holiday mode who set out noisily in canoes and descended a weir just after the bridge. One canoe overturned but no harm was done. At 16.00 we walked into the adjoining vilage of Emagny. What a difference. There was a smart Boucherie and a very nice Charcuterie which even sold champagne. But our chambre d'hote (Rosa Bonheurre) had a sign on the door saying no arrivals until 17.00. So we sat on a bench on the village green in the sunshine. When we finally gained access, Our accomodation was the best of the holiday with a beautiful house, wonderful bedroom and a very friendly hostess. Gillian went around to the Charcuterie and bought a bottle of Prosecco which we started to drink in the garden whereupon it started to rain. So we took it back to the bedroom. Dinner was served in a beautiful dining room but my face fell when I saw the main course. It was a mini quiche plus ham, exactly what I had eaten for picnic lunch on each of the last two days. But very tasty. After dinner we were taken for a tour of the house including a large cellar was sometimes hired out for local events such as marriages.
Sunday 19 May 2019
Emagny to Besancon (18km) We had breakfast at 08.30. This was to be a day of ups and downs as we crossed a number of ridges leading to Besancon. This was the beginning of the Jura mountains which would take us all the way to Switzerland. We walked out of Emagny on a country track and then joined a road which passed immediately under a large railway bridge. We followed it up a lengthy steep hill and on the descent took a break at a concrete picnic table by the roadside. It was Sunday and several joggers passed us running both up and down the hill. We walked on, past the edge of a village called Pelousey and went into a residential road which had a worrying dead end sign. However, after about 1km we descended towards a motorway and then turned left uphill to follow a track beside it for about 800 meters to a motorway bridge. Across the bridge, we turned left signposted Pirey. This was a busy little road, clearly a cut through to the motorway. We were in need of a break but Gillian suggested we should get across a busy roundabout junction which we could see about 1km away at the foot of the hill. After this, we clmbed past the local refuse centre (firmly closed) and took an uncomfortable lunch break on the grassy verge. Within 10 minutes of starting off again we came abruptly to the edge of Besancon. It was a very unassuming entry point; just a country road junction with traffic lights and a name plate where I posed for photos. It was great to think we were almost finished but here was still another 3 km of walking up hill and down dale through the suburbs to reach the centre of town. Being Sunday almost everything was closed and there was little traffic. We found our IBIS hotel opposite the railway station and had a break. When we explored the town later, we realised what a lovely place it was. Lots of green spaces,