Monday, 10 September 2007

Day 12 – Laon to Berry au Bac – 50kms

After mooching round the medieval part of Laon, which is currently undergoing some impressive renovation, but still well worth a visit, we are back on the bikes and the sun is shining!

The route predominantly takes us over tracks and minor roads through forest and farmland – the kind of travelling I enjoy most. The two days off seems to have helped both of us and for the first half of the day, even I am powering up the hills. On the way we meet two girls riding horses in the opposite direction to us, but on the via Francigena nevertheless. They (one Swiss, the other Italian), have been riding for 40 days from somewhere we guess must have been just this side of the Great St Bernard Pass. We spend a good five minutes exchanging woes and experiences, particularly with regard to the poor VF signage – yet more proof that our guide really is needed.

Our next highlight is coming across two boxing hares, something I have only ever seen via David Attenborough, and then the discovery of a hotel that gives a discount to pilgrims travelling along the via Francigena. On the St James Way this was customary, but it is the first time we have found one here.

Discounted Hotel details: Hotel du Chemin des Dames in Corbeny – discounted price 32 Euros, regular 55 Euros. BB Tonight we are staying in the only accommodation available in Berry au Bac, Hotel des Nations – a 2 star travel lodge, though at 44 Euros, reasonably priced. The Hotel is run by the folks from the Restaurant de la Mairie and we guess has superseded the Hotel de la Mairie. They hope to have WiFi available soon, but it was having teething problems while we were there. Despite the appearance of Stalagluft 17, the rooms were just what we needed and a good choice of food in the restaurant.

The other alternative, identified by our map, would have been to camp, but when we investigate this option, we are told that the only campsite is kilometres away from here. We later discover that the campsite referred to is an unofficial option run by Emmaus – remember it? The charity run for the homeless? Vagabonds we may be, but I don’t think we are entirely homeless, yet.

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