Day 10 – Walking the Via Francigena- from Souchez to Arras, France
It must have rained a lot last night, because this morning the garden outside our room was wet and all the cars were covered with raindrops.
I did not hear the rain last night, but I had many vivid dreams.
In my dreams, I was helping save people from a gigantic tsunami wave.
I remember the wave towering above us, as tall as a high rise building.
I was swimming around and pulling people out the water, and telling them to run uphill to safer ground.
We had breakfast by 8am.
I was surprised to see a fruit plate, a pot of good quality green tea, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a freshly baked seeded bread with butter.
I marveled at how the owner knew that this was our preferred breakfast.
Then Jules told me it was no mystery, but that the owner had asked him yesterday what we would like to have for breakfast.
The owner of our comfortable and nicely designed Gite cottage, told us that he is an architect and that he had designed the place.
He has put into the place some nice small design elements that are not often seen in country places.
When we checked out and strapped on our backpacks, the rain had completely stopped.
It was still cool, but not enough to put on our coats.
The road to Arras is a straight road south, passing by many cemeteries of soldiers fallen in the First World War.
There was an English cemetery, a Canadian cemetery, a Czechoslovakian Cemetery, a Polish Cemetery, a French Cemetery and the biggest one of all, the German Cemetery.
The Canadian and English cemeteries had mostly unmarked graves, for the bodies had been damaged beyond recognition
The headstones on the graves simply said “A Soldier Of the Great War, Canadian Regiment.”
Even though it is a term that refers to the First World War, seeing the two words “War” and “Great” together, seemed so wrong….
There is nothing great about these deadly wars, and I sighed in sadness, for our human race is still stuck in fear, power games and struggles for domination.
When will we put down our arms against each other and fully realize that we are all one family….
Sometimes the graves had names.
In the German Cemetery, there were four names of soldiers on each cross.
When I counted the rows and lanes, it became obvious that this cemetery had well over 50,000 soldiers buried there.
The German Jewish soldiers had their own graves with the Star of David on them, located between the Christian crosses.
It was sad to see the graves of the Jewish German soldiers who died for their country, when only a few years later, Germany turned on them, forced them into concentration camps, and gassed them to death…
The walk was not too long, but it was not so pleasant.
For most of the day we avoided walking on the paths between the fields, because it was very muddy from the rain last night.
We walked by the side of the busy road, mostly without sidewalks.
On the edges of Arras, Google Maps showed that there was a Chinese restaurant.
I was delighted at the opportunity to just have a fried rice, but the huge restaurant was closed.
A sign on the door said they are only open on weekends.
This is the second Chinese restaurant we’ve passed in this northern part of France, that was out or nearly out of business.
Back home in Colorado, Jules and I have a private joke.
We have a Chinese restaurant located nearby, and it is ALWAYS open.
They do not close once during the 365 days of the year.
When we used to travel for six months to our home in New Zealand, I used to ask Jules if he thinks that our Chinese restaurants is still in business.
Jules always answered that the ONLY chance that they are not in business, is if the end of the world has arrived.
If the earth is still rotating, our local Chinese restaurant is going to be open.
We once even saw a standup comedian, telling similar jokes about his local Chinese restaurant, which is open all the time except on Memorial Day.
He said that he thinks that the Chinese who are running that restaurant are very pissed, saying: “Oh, this government, they make war, then people die, now we must have Memorial Day, when we have to close restaurant and make no money…. NOT good!”
When we arrived in Arras, we stepped into a coin laundry to do our laundry.
It is much nicer to always keep ourselves in clean and nice smelling clothes, because we do not have much with us, just one extra set of clothes to change into.
While our clothes circulated in the washing machine, we went to have lunch in the center of Arras.
The center square is a thing of architectural beauty.
There is a town hall, that is tall, ornately decorated, and looks like a cathedral.
It hosts the Giants of Arras, a family of four giant mannequins who parade around town at festival times.
This center square is surrounded by beautiful buildings.
The lower street level is for restaurants and shops, while the upper levels are hotels and apartments.
There are lots of places to choose from, some even catering to the Canadian and British people who come to visit the war cemeteries nearby.
These restaurants serve fish and chips or a Canadian Poutine.
If you have never had Canadian Poutine, you are not missing much.
It is not Canada’s best culinary export and does not serve well the reputation of Canada for food that is truly fabulous.
We chose a casual place and had a fairly good lunch.
Then, after drying our laundry and doing a bit of sight seeing around Arras, we settled into a great cafe with good sofas and good coffees and teas.
For some bizarre reason, the guesthouse that we booked in Arras, has a policy that guests must arrive after six in the evening.
It would have been a hassle if it were raining or if the town did not have such a great cafe, but it was no issue for us.
The guesthouse is a lovely, renovated old house with spacious en-suites full of character.
After we’d checked in, we walked the streets of Arras in the evening, looking for a place to eat.
We saw the two large town squares, with their glorious architecture.
We chose to eat at a small Korean/Japanese place.
The food was just OK, nothing to write home about.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that after walking about twenty kilometers today, we were not too tired to walk around the city and do some sightseeing.
I asked Jules if he misses the comforts of home while walking here in France.
He said that sometimes he does.
I also miss it sometimes…..
Back in Colorado the first snow has already fallen on the mountains.
Some ski resorts are opening by the end of this month.
When I see the photos, I feel a bit more homesick….
Maybe it is because I do not like it here in France so much…. maybe it is all the homeless people I see in the cities…. maybe it is the rich and meat heavy food I see without green salads and healthy options…. maybe it is just today, because we walked all day between graves of soldiers who died for no reason….
11 hours of walking (9:30am-8:30pm)
Active walking time – 5.5 hours
Daily Steps – 30,263
Daily Kilometers – 22.5 (including sightseeing in Arras)
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 205
Maximum Altitude today: 134 meters
Total Elevation climbed today: 940 meters
Total Descent today: 954 meters
From Souchez to Arras, France
Au Coeur D’Eden Chambres d’Hôtes de Charme, Arras, France
A lovely B&B with breakfast
Arras is a town with many places to eat dinner, and two historic town squares.