Day 5 – Walking The Via Francigena- From Calais to Clerques, France
The receptionist in our hotel in Calais was surprised when we asked him to stamp our pilgrims’ passports.
He had never heard of the Via Francigena, probably because not many pilgrims have stayed in the hotel before.
We left the hotel by nine in the morning, bought some whole grain baguettes at a bakery in town, and sat in a local cafe and had fresh orange juice and cappuccinos.
Today’s walk was another long day of 31 Kilometers.
I am currently more comfortable walking about 20-23 Kilometers per day.
But in this part of the pilgrimage, the accommodation choices are sparse and spread out, so we have had to make do.
We even have two days coming up in which we will have to walk over 40 Kilometers.
There were not many signs for the path today, but mostly because the path has two options, to head south from Calais, or to head west along the coast to Wissant.
We chose to head south and at the beginning of the day, we walked for hours along a narrow canal filled with ducks, fish, and fishermen, lined with quiet houses.
We walked for four hours without stopping.
We saw on the map that we might be able to find a cafe or a restaurant in the small town of Guines.
When we arrived in Guines, only one pizza place and one burger takeaway bar were open, and no cafes.
We actually wanted to sit and rest, drink something hot, more than we wanted food; after all, we had the two mini baguettes that we had bought.
But there were no cafes, so we sat on a bench, drank some water, took off our light jackets and had a piece of chocolate that we bought on the ferry from Dover.
We started walking with only our t-shirts, and the day got even sunnier and warmer.
I might not have mentioned it to you before, but I am the Queen of good weather.
Everywhere I go, good weather follows me.
It is rare that we get terrible weather on our trips.
The barber who cut Jules’ hair two days ago told him that it is very unusual to have such a long stretch of sunny and warm weather, at the middle and end of October.
We passed by many farms, saw horses, cows, sheep and agricultural fields.
The path was very hilly, but not difficult.
It was the long day of walking without stopping to rest, that eventually made the day difficult.
We chose to walk mostly on quiet, empty roads.
Sometimes we cut through farms, and unmaintained roads, but the scariest part was when we arrived at a forest path that was closed.
The sign said do not enter, but they had left an entrance for pedestrians.
It was too late to walk back, as we would have to detour nearly ten kilometers if we did go back.
At that point, we were willing to take the chance, trusting that all will be well and that we can talk our way out of anything, should we get caught.
It became apparent soon after we walked into the forest, that the whole area was a regulated hunting ground.
They had spread corn and grains, as well as root vegetables as food for the pheasants and other game birds.
I saw spent shotgun shells on the forest floor, and many beautiful looking pheasants.
We saw wooden hunting blinds built between the trees, and even heard some shots as we hurried through the forest.
But the path was long and it took us over an hour and a half until we finally got to the road again.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we were back between farms and among beautiful cows.
We were almost waddling when we reached our resting place for the night.
Auberge du Moulin d’Audenfort is a small charming Guest House in Clerques.
It offers set menus for dinner and breakfast.
We took hot baths and nursed our achy feet.
Then we went downstairs to have dinner in their busy country restaurant.
We came to the dining room barefooted, as we did not feel like putting on our hiking shoes, the only shoes we have brought with us.
The food was great:
A pumpkin and coconut milk soup, a tart made with a local cheese and endives, freshwater trout with endives, peppers, tomatoes and mashed potatoes and a dessert of a delicious almond tart and a mocha crème brulé with a burnt sugar crust.
The portions were not big, but it was a lovely meal.
We finished it off with a great selection of teas.
I think that if we were not so ambitious and walked less per day, this pilgrimage would actually be a very enjoyable journey, with beautiful scenery, lovely country homes to stay at and delicious meals.
But as it is, we have already made many bookings ahead, so we will have to go at a faster speed than I prefer.
It was a long day and I am really beat, so I will send you warm blessings full of love and light, and go to sleep now…
8.5 hours of walking (9am-5.30pm)
Active walking time – 7.5 hours
Daily Steps – 43,053
Daily Kilometers – 31
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 78
Maximum Altitude today: 169 meters
Total Elevation climbed today: 1425 meters
Total Descent today: 1372 meters
Calais to Clerques France
Auberge du Moulin d’Audenfort, Clerques, France
Nice renovated old mill guesthouse with a waterwheel on the canal, serves breakfast and delicious dinners.