Day 7 – Walking The Via Francigena- From Wisques to Auchy-au-Bois, France
My dreams during the last few nights, have been very vivid.
I am definitely working out some inner issues hidden in my subconscious mind, because during the day, while I am walking through the vast fields, these kinds of thoughts do not cross my mind.
This is part of why I love walking pilgrimages.
The long, strenuous and very slow days of constant walking, help bring up issues that sit under the surface of my mind.
Normally these subconscious issues do not make themselves apparent, although like all of our underlying beliefs, they do guide our destiny.
My dreams last night involved my family, and other people whom I don’t remember meeting before, yet they were interwoven into complex storylines in my dreams.
This morning we got up early, before sunrise.
It was a chilly morning, but not cold enough for a coat.
We packed our backpacks, making sure not to forget any items, and went to eat breakfast early.
Breakfast was the usual continental breakfast that we get in many French guesthouses.
Croissant, pain au chocolat, baguette with butter and cheese, a selection of sugary cereals and sugary yogurts, sugary preserved fruit salad, coffee, tea and jams.
I skipped all the sugary items, but did take a pain au chocolat.
Then after eating it, I regretted the 500 calories.
If I loved French croissants, I wouldn’t regret eating one, but I do not even like them.
They are oily and not to my tastes.
I much prefer a breakfast of fresh juice and fresh fruit, or steamed Japanese rice with pickles, seaweed and a miso soup, or a Chinese breakfast of steamy rice Konji (watery steamed rice) with a little grated century egg on the top, roasted peanuts and black olive paste.
Or even hot noodles….
We checked out of the hotel, paid for our lavish French feast the night before, and started walking just when the sun started to rise.
It was another day of over thirty kilometers, and we wanted to make sure we would cover the distance before sunset.
The walk was pleasant.
Small villages, small churches, Jesus crucified at the corners of the fields, and thousands of acres of rapeseed, corn and sugar beet fields.
Most of the day our path was a narrow lane between fields.
On the right side we could see the main road, and on our left, the main highway.
By lunchtime we arrived in the small town of Thérouanne.
There is an old church from the 1500s that has been reconstructed through the years, and it is in good shape.
We stopped into “Le Moriny bar” to have something to eat and to drink something hot, but mostly to put our backpacks down, rest and use the toilets.
The cafe/ pub was set up for a big party of locals, who came pouring in as we took off our backpacks and sat at the bar to have a hot coffee and a baked apple tart.
The locals spoke with Jules and the owner asked me if we were walking the Via Francigena, and then wished us a good journey.
Near the church, I was delighted to see that there was a big supermarket.
Tonight we will be staying in a guesthouse that does not offer dinners, and the area has very little around it.
I wanted to get something for dinner, plus a hairbrush and new shampoo and conditioner.
In order to save space in my backpack, I had brought from home only a folding comb, but it has been tearing off my hair in the shower every night.
I also needed a better shampoo and conditioner, as most places we stayed at had nothing.
The fully stocked supermarket felt like heaven, with dozens of good choices.
The rest of the places in town were closed.
In most French villages, if they are any stores, they usually close between 12:00-2:30 for a long leisurely lunch, and open again for a few short hours in the afternoon.
Then we left the village and continued walking.
By late afternoon we entered a quiet rural village with small gardens with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs statues, and cute little houses.
Then we saw signs posted throughout the village that the whole area was a German airfield with airplane bunkers and bombs, during WW2.
Signs along the quiet streets showed the old hangers for the planes, the bomb shelters and the remaining airfield.
The signs said that from here, German V-1 pilotless planes, the precursors of today’s Cruise Missiles, were launched from camouflaged bunkers with bombs that weighed 830 kilograms, in missiles that could reach London in just 22 minutes.
The whole area, including nearby villages, was badly destroyed during the War.
The V-1’s often malfunctioned or missed their targets, and landed on neighboring villages, destroying all the houses and killing many.
It was heartbreaking to see the ravages of war….
When we left the village, we needed to rest.
We had been on our feet for hours since lunch, without a single break.
But there was nowhere to stop, so we took out of our backpacks a silver foil blanket that we had brought for exactly this purpose.
It is an emergency silver foil blanket that is very thin, and can be used as a tarp to put on the ground and to sit on.
A pack of five of these very thin blankets cost only a few dollars on Amazon.com, and they fit into a small pocket.
Of course after you try to fold it back again, it is bigger, but it is handy to have on a pilgrimage.
We sat there on the grassy banks of the field, drank water and had an apple and a piece of Toblerone chocolate each.
We are drinking much less water, because the days are fairly cool.
On hot days we drink more, but otherwise we only drink one small bottle of water each, during about eight hours of walking.
This is good because there are few places to refill our bottles.
We must be getting stronger, because we did not waddle by the end of the day.
We were strong and arrived at our guesthouse by five PM.
The lovely elderly owner welcomed us in.
She offered us something to drink, and showed us to our room.
She brought out a guestbook full of photos of pilgrims and the notes they have written her.
I recognized some of the pilgrims from having read their blogs online.
We still saw no other pilgrims since we left Canterbury at all.
The farm house is full of paintings, decorated plates hanging on the walls, toys, vases, walking poles, furniture, statues, hats, and all sorts of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac.
The owner also has memorabilia of the Via Francigena everywhere.
It looks very charming in a “dust-collecting” kind of way.
We took showers and went downstairs to the guest kitchen to make our dinner.
I made us cheese toasties using the bread we bought in the bakery and the good cheese I bought in the supermarket.
We sat in the large living and dining room and ate our dinner.
Tomorrow is a shorter day of walking.
Goodnight to you and many warm hugs,
8.5 hours of walking (8:30am-5.00pm)
Active walking time – 7.5 hours
Daily Steps – 45,120
Daily Kilometers – 33
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 135.5
Maximum Altitude today: 124 meters
Total Elevation climbed today: 1604 meters
Total Descent today: 1629 meters
Wisques to Auchy-au-Bois, France
FERME DE LA VALLÉE in Auchy-au-Bois, France – a charming Gite guesthouse owned by an elderly lovely lady who loves collecting arts and crafts.
This is a guesthouse that has hosted most of the pilgrims who have walked the Via Francigena.