A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 26 September 2014

Day 22: Bar-Sur-Aube To Châteauvillain

Once again the weather was perfect for walking: cloudy and breezy, with sunny periods and the odd light shower. From Bar-Sur-Aube the path made another brief excursion into Champagne country. This is Baroville, nestling at the foot of vine-clad slopes . . .

Then, at noon, after a couple of enjoyable hours hiking the wooded hills south of Baroville, I arrived at the Cistercian abbey of Clairvaux, founded by St Bernard in 1115. I was just in time for the first guided tour of the day. Reconstruction and renovation of some of the monastic buildings is ongoing, though most of the site is occupied by a high-security prison! The abbey was also used as a gaol during the French Revolution and in Napoleonic times.

The landscape now reverted to flat farmland with scattered trees and isolated hamlets — the valley of the river Aujon. Though I was pounding tarmac again — quite a high proportion of the pilgrimage entailed road walking —  the roadside verges were always a colourful sight, swathed as they were in wild herbs and flowers such as thyme, yarrow, clover, toadflax, meadow crane's bill and bird's-foot-trefoil. 

It was with relief that I finally reached Châteauvillain, for the blister had reformed on my left foot and the big toe on my right foot was uncomfortably sore. No doubt the new walking shoes I'd been forced to buy in Châlons were still bedding in.

Châteauvillain seemed a pleasant but undistinguished town; yet, when you explored it more closely, it was full of historical interest — with ancient fortifications, stone towers and medieval gateways.

I stayed the night in La Belle Époque, Steve and Maggie Tait's café-bar-chambre d'hôte in the Rue de Penthièvre. The Taits were a British couple who had fallen in love with France. They kindly let me have a beautifully-furnished double room at a pilgrim-friendly price. Maggie was an excellent chef, and later that evening I enjoyed her salmon tart with dill followed by tarragon chicken and rice in a creamy, winey sauce — all for just €12.50. The previous night I'd also found another sweet little restaurant in Bar-sur-Aube called Le Jardin des Délices, which offered a three-course set menu of egg mayonnaise, steak frites and tarte aux pommes at the same cost. Clearly, I was eating far too well and would have to do penance! My photo shows Steve standing at the door of his bar.


Susan Scheid said...

All wonderful. I love the photo with the vines rolling out into a long view of the countryside. I also think you earned the right to your dinner feasts! Those meals sound delectable.

Ruth Mowry said...

Everything except the high security prison sounds sublime. I'm with Susan about the meals and am glad to be eating lunch at the moment.

Lovely photos, as always, and the litany of vegetative names I love.

George said...

Lovely photos, especially the first one of the Champagne countryside. All of this sounds quite wonderful. I wonder if the hard surfaces of the large amount of road walking made the pilgrimage more physically demanding.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for reading and commenting — Susan, Ruth and George.

Yes, I think the hard surfaces made it more demanding — and may have led to a few foot problems. Also, perhaps I should have had slightly sturdier boots to cope with the unaccustomed backpack weight ( with tent, sleeping mat etc.)

For a couple of weeks I walked in sandals (well, proper walking sandals with thickish, arched soles). Then again, heavier, more confined footwear could have created more restriction, more swollen feet, and a further set of problems. I didn't really have a problem with the sandals until a strap broke.

Rachel Fox said...

Reminded me of 'A Prophet' (film set in French prisons). Have you seen it?

The Solitary Walker said...

No. But I just traced it on Wiki and it looks good, so I might reserve it.

Rachel Fox said...

We are deep in 'Orange is the New Black' right now (also prison-set). It is so good (if nothing really to do with France or caminos... though I suppose it is about those who lose their way... or something like that).