I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Days 15 & 16: Trépail To Coole Via Châlons-En-Champagne

There is the opportunity from time to time on the Camino to eat and pass the night with families in private houses, as some very special people are generous enough to open up their homes to pilgrims. You should grasp this chance when you can. Some of my most enjoyable evenings on the Camino have been spent like this. It's an amazing and precious thing — to give hospitality to strangers. In Trépail, Peter, Ernst, Daniel and I stayed with an extraordinary lady called Vivienne (pictured above). For dinner she gave us a beautifully prepared salad, rabbit pâté, Brie cheese and one of the best omelettes I've ever eaten. She used twelve eggs and a proper, high-sided, thick-bottomed omelette pan. To lightly cook the top she simply put on a lid for a while and let the trapped heat finish it off. I've never thought of doing that! Oh, and we also drank a glass of champagne — half a bottle had been left by the previous pilgrims! Vivienne had not had the easiest of lives: her husband had died young, and her son had contracted cancer — but had recovered. We left early the next morning after the usual French breakfast of coffee and bread and jam, leaving a donation . . . 

The wooden market hall in Condé-sur-Marne. 

It was then a punishing 20 km trek to Châlons along the Canal Latéral à la Marne. To make matters worse, a strap on my sandals had come loose (later I bought new walking shoes in Châlons). 

The attractive, half-timbered tourist office in Châlons-en-Champagne. We stayed in the seemingly-brand-new youth hostel and were the only occupants. In the evening the weather broke and we had to retreat to a bar (such a trial!) to escape thunder, lightning and a huge downpour of rain.

The next day the path took us along this old Roman road — which we followed for two and a half days. A little tedious, particularly after the long straight stretch of canal the day before. The sun burned in a blue sky and there was little shade. I began to long for some curvy, woodland track . . . 

It was with relief that we arrived at the small, remote village of Coole. We knew that a family there put up pilgrims, but we didn't have the address. We needn't have worried. Barking dogs signalled our approach and the lovely Monique came walking down the road to greet us, holding her granddaughter, Mathilde, in her arms! Later we ate outside on the patio — and what a meal it was: rice with sausage, egg and tomato, steamed potatoes with butter, a dressed salad, rillettes and cornichons, a selection of cheeses, a cherry cake Monique had whisked up in a trice. Not to mention the beer, the wine and the eau-de-vie . . .  The photo shows Peter, my travelling companion, farmer Jean-Pierre and his wife, Monique.

5 comments:

Ruth Mowry said...

Two amazing and precious things in two days!

George said...

Can't say it better than Ruth. That kind of hospitality is a rare thing these days in any country. Needless to say, it is to be cherished — and remembered as we encounter pilgrims of various sorts ourselves.

The Weaver of Grass said...

It all sounds so wonderful Robert and the food - simple and yet delicious (not to say the wine). As to the tip of putting a lid on to finish off the omelette - marvellous tip. Having an Aga I have no grill and finishing the top of an omelette is always difficult.

dritanje said...

I have been away from blogging for a while and now have a lot of catching up to do. It sounds wonderful to experience such hospitality - and to be in France! Soon, I intend to start at the beginning of your walk, and follow it all the way.

The Solitary Walker said...

To give is to receive, to receive is to give... the host and guest are one...

Pat — if a farmer's wife and star cuisinière is picking up cooking tips from me, I'm truly humbled and honoured!

Hi, Dritanje... Honoured too that you're going to follow my journey from Day One... Thanks!