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

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Days 17 & 18: Coole To Brienne-Le-Château Via Corbeil

We say goodbye to our delightful hosts: from left to right: Jean-Pierre, Peter, Mathilde, Monique, Ernst and Daniel.

In Humbauville we'd stopped for a rest and a bite to eat (a sandwich Monique had kindly made for us) when Siméon (right) invited us into his family's renovated farmhouse for drinking chocolate and biscuits. His father, Marc (left), arrived soon afterwards. It wasn't long before we were eating mirabelle plums and bread and some deliciously creamy Chaource cheese, a local delicacy! Marc was an agriculturalist and owned a truffle plantation. He also had a truffle hound in the yard. We asked him lots of questions and he cleared up many mysteries: such as what was the purple-flowering crop we'd seen along the Roman road? It was lucerne (known as alfalfa in the US), a member of the pea family, and cultivated as feed for dairy cows because it's very high in protein and easily digestible. We spent a very enjoyable hour or so with this father and son — yet two more 'trail angels' — before continuing our journey . . .



The Roman road goes on forever . . . We just managed to reach the shelter of a grain silo before the storm really hit with a vengeance.

We slept the night in a room (la Salle des Pèlerins) opposite the church in the tiny village of Corbeil. Michel from the village brought us food, including some microwave meals . . . The photo shows a deathbed scene from a tomb in the churchyard.


Inside the church was a representation in stained glass of St Roch, one of the patron saints of pilgrimage. His effigy appears in many places along the Camino. You can see his staff, the plague sore on his knee, and his faithful dog, which licked the wound clean.

Statue of a youthful Napoleon Bonaparte at Brienne-le-Château. Napoleon attended military school here from 1779 until 1784. The school still stands — part of it now contains the tourist office and a small, rather fusty and dusty museum, la Musée Napoléon. Napoleon was to fight some of his last battles against the Prussian military commander Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher in this area: the Battle of Brienne (January 1814), in which Napoleon was victorious, and the Battles of La Rothière (February 1814) and Laon (March 1814), in which Napoleon was defeated. La Rothière was the first battle Napoleon had ever lost on French soil.  

Go on, admit it — you'd love to spend the night in this sweet little hunting lodge at Brienne-le-Château, wouldn't you? Well, I stayed two nights here — for only €10 a night!

6 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Robert, I get more envious by the day/
As to Lucerne - remember when we lived at Aisthorpe manymoons ago? The fields surrounding us there were full of lucerne.

Ruth Mowry said...

Yes, I would!

This post is chock full of great stuff. A truffle plantation (!) . . . Lucerne . . . St. Roch . . . Napoleon . . . all of which is fascinating.

Question: Did you give yourself a km goal each day? Did you have a date by which you wanted to reach the end of your journey? Or did you take everything as it came? Staying two nights in one place sounds wonderful and spontaneous.

Finding refuge in a silo made me think of a novel (not a specific one).

George said...

What a rich experience, Robert — history, charm, the kindness of strangers, the list goes on. Love that little hunting lodge.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ah, yes, Pat, I remember Dominic and Carmen talking about Aisthorpe...

Glad I'm keeping things interesting for you, Ruth! I generally walked between 20 km and 30 km a day — the distance often, but not always, depending on what sort of accommodation I could expect by late afternoon. I really had to get back to England in early September, so I'd given myself a time of six weeks — which was perfect. This also allowed me the odd rest day, such as two nights in Brienne...

The grain silos (which are everywhere in this area) made me think of the rice silos I'd seen in the French Camargue at the start of my pilgrimage from Arles.

Yes, that hunting lodge was a charming little oasis, George — marooned, as it was, in a sea of much more modern buildings. It must, I think, have originally been part of the château's estate. The château at Brienne — from where Blücher escaped from Naploeon in the nick of time after his defeat at the Battle of Brienne.

am said...

The photo of the Roman road that appears to lead up to the sky and into forever is particularly timely for me as I have just finished a second reading of the revised edition (1994) of Boundaries of the Soul, by June Singer. It begins with this:

You would not find out the boundaries of the soul, even by traveling along every path: so deep a measure does it have.
-- Heraclitus

For me, that photo celebrates the deep measure of the soul which so many of experience through walking. Celebrated, too, in that photo are the places where we find shelter from storms that hit with a vengeance while walking on those paths and roads.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGRzVVBB6to

Love your photos of the kind people who give shelter to those on pilgrimages.

And, back a little ways, those photos of Chagall's windows! Wow!

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, I'm just so pleased you found significance in that photo, Am — truly, it's one of my own favourites. I must admit I saw my companion, Peter, taking that view first — and realised immediately what an interesting, minimalist and symbolic shot it could make.

And, yes, those people I met... I will never forget them.

And the Chagall windows... they were amazing, and affected me profoundly. (I saw more Chagall — some mosaics — later, in Martigny, in the Swiss Alps.)