Day 16 – Walking the Via Francigena – From Laon to Pontavert, France – A beautiful day of walking in Nature
Breakfast at our guesthouse was a simple and delicious affair.
We had freshly baked baguettes with a selection of superb regional cheeses from the north of France, orange juice and good coffee.
A cold front has settled into this part of France, and we bundled up for a long day of walking in the cold and windy weather.
Fall leaves were falling all around us, as we left the medieval city of Laon through the unused old southern gate.
It was a narrow foot path that was very steep and took us to the outskirts of town.
For a short while, we walked by the side of the road.
Then we had three options of paths we could take, on our southern route toward Reims.
We chose a path that, although it was longer by one kilometer than the others, was a beautiful nature walk, passing through a national forest with a birdwatching lake, and lots of serene forested paths perfect for walking.
It was called Parcs Le Lac d’Ailette in Chamouille, and it also is the site of the ruins of an old Abbey, built in the year 1134 AD.
It was one of the most beautiful days of walking we have had thus far on this pilgrimage.
There were wooden boardwalks meandering through the forest and around the lake, with bird viewing wooden structures with little windows, where you can watch the birds without being noticed by them or frightening them away.
There were plenty of benches to rest on, and after about four hours of walking, we sat on one and had our lunch, of an organic baguette and some gourmet cheese left over from breakfast.
Even after we left the park, the path continued as a walking path through the forest.
I enjoyed the colors of Autumn, and walking on the carpet of bronze leaves, fallen from the trees.
I was reflecting on the person who stole my bag, and, not satisfied with having all my cash, he or she still went on to try to charge more on my credit cards.
At first I felt anger towards her/him.
But as we walked through this beautiful area, looked at the white swans on the lake and the beautiful and rare ducks, I started feeling so full of gratitude and beauty.
I felt so blessed to be here, enjoying this park and the beautiful walk.
I felt the cool day to be invigorating, not cold at all.
In fact, I didn’t want to finish the day and get to our hotel early.
I wanted to savor the experience of walking outdoors, enjoying nature’s glorious beauty.
Soon enough this section of our pilgrimage will be over.
Winter is approaching fast and the mountain passes in the Swiss Alps are already closed.
We have always planned to continue this pilgrimage in the Springtime.
Then my anger towards the person who stole my bag, changed into compassion.
I was filled with sympathy.
He or she is my brother and sister, a child of God, the same as I, only he must live a very disempowered life.
Only one who feels lacking, is needy, for he will not resort to criminal activity otherwise.
Those who feel abundant and very blessed, would never think of stealing.
They can only bless.
All my anger melted away.
I felt at peace, accepting the truth that God will provide for me, and will most definitely compensate me for what was taken from me.
He always has in the past….
What does the thief actually have?
A bunch of canceled credit cards and some cash that will not last very long.
When we did the foot pilgrimage around the island of Shikoku in Japan, I prayed for Kobo Daishi to walk with me and to guide me.
In this pilgrimage, I prayed for Jesus, to walk with me and fill my mind and heart with loving thoughts, full of the light of truth.
I want a mind full of light, instead of the thoughts of my ego, which are all based on fear and scarcity.
As I walked today, I listened to the Course In Miracles, and some of the things it said sounded as if Jesus was talking straight to me.
I am adding a bit of what he said, in my own words:
“On this journey, you have chosen ME as your companion instead of the ego.
Do not attempt to hold on to both,
Or you will go in different directions,
And you will lose the way.
The ego’s way is not my way, but it is also not yours.
The Holy Spirit has one direction, and that is guiding you towards Heaven and the Light of Love.
Do not lose your way in illusions,
And do not obscure God’s Voice, which speaks in all of us.
Never accord the ego the power to interfere with your journey.
The ego has no power to obscure anything,
Because the journey is the way to what is really True.
Leave all illusions behind,
And reach beyond all attempts of the ego to hold you back.
I go before you, because I am beyond the ego.
Reach, therefore, for my hand, because you DO want to transcend the ego.
My strength will never be wanting, and if you choose to share it, you will do so.
I give it willingly and gladly, because I need YOU as much as you need ME….”
It was a day full of enlightening messages which I received gladly.
It lightened my steps as we walked up and down the many hills the path took us through today.
We had lost one hour of daylight today, as daylight savings time has ended.
This means that when we arrived at our rural hotel at 4:45 PM, it was actually 5:45PM and nearly dark.
Our hotel is a lovely rural property, fully renovated with a modern design.
The rooms are white and airy, with exposed thick wooden beams
The young lady at the front desk helped us print some forms that we need to replace our stolen passports, and then we went for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.
We were the only diners in the place.
The meal was a Michelin Star worthy meal that left us in awe of the chef.
Every dish was delicious, delicate and perfectly prepared.
It was hard to believe that we were this lucky.
How often do you get to enjoy such a celebration of flavors in a set meal for only €29 per person, sitting alone in your socks without shoes…(our feet needed a break from showers after the walk)
We started with an Amuse Bouche of a bite size toast with roasted cherry tomatoes and herbs.
Then came a prawn risotto.
It was perfection itself.
The rice was just right, the prawns fresh and perfectly cooked, the herbed sauce was delicate and perfect.
Then followed two main courses.
We ordered a Salmon roasted with almond paste and gentle veg reduction sauce, and wok-cooked vegetables with noodles, scallops and prawns.
The vegetables were heirloom carrots, garden shelled bean, roasted baby root vegetables and some baby Jerusalem artichokes.
The salmon was prepared exactly right and was well complemented by the crunchy roasted almonds.
For desserts we ordered a banana and chocolate tart and an apple tarte tatin.
Both were fluffy and heavenly, with a decoration of musical notes made from vanilla sauce.
It was a perfect meal to end a beautiful day of walking in nature.
If every day of this pilgrimage can be this blessed, I can’t wait until spring to continue this walk….
Wishing you a heart full of gratitude and love,
Tali, the joyful pilgrim
8 hours of walking (8:45 am- 4:45 pm)
Active walking time – 7.5 hours
Daily Steps – 43,772
Daily Kilometers – 32
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 357.5
Maximum Altitude today: 199 meters
Total Elevation climbed today: 1960 meters
Total Descent today: 1941 meters
From Laon to Pontavert, France
Relais de Fleurette, Pontavert, France
A country hotel with clean and nicely renovated rooms, a spa offering massages and an indoor swimming pool.
They offer breakfast and have a restaurant which offers dinner.
It looks to be the only restaurant in the area.