Day 18 – Walking the Via Francigena – From Hermonville to Reims, France – Arriving in Reims after a cold, windy and rainy walk
The weather on our pilgrimage thus far has been very agreeable.
We have enjoyed pleasantly cool and dry days, without any rain.
All that changed today.
A cold front moved in, and the first snow of the season has fallen on the Champagne region of France.
Because the temperatures were not cold enough, the snow did not stick.
It changed into rain, as the morning progressed.
At the lovely Chateau d’Hermonville, the owner made us a delicious breakfast,
freshly baked cereal Baguettes with fried eggs, a selection of regional goat cheeses, and a very good green tea.
She stamped our pilgrims’ passports, and asked how are we going to manage the relentless winds and rain on our walk today.
We explained that we have some rain gear and that we will be OK.
We packed everything inside our backpacks in large ziplock bags and a dry sack and covered our backpacks with rain covers.
We dressed very warmly for the walk, knowing that we will be walking for hours outdoors without places to stop and warm up.
We put on our rain coats on top of our winter coats, rain pants on top of our hiking pants, long gators on our shins and on top of our shoes, gloves, ski hats and scarves.
Peeling everything off to go to the toilet, is going to be a mission….
We were not cold as we set out, umbrellas in hand.
The combination of all our rain protection and the umbrellas worked well for the first hour.
After that our shoes and socks were soaking wet, and we started to feel cold.
The path passed through small villages and along rural roads surrounded by fields and champagne wineries.
When we neared the city of Reims, we joined the main road, which was full of speeding cars.
Luckily we had a bit of room to walk on the shoulder of the road, and we walked quietly and quickly, trying to be safe in the heavy traffic and slick, rain-soaked pavement.
It was windy all day and it did not stop raining until early evening.
When we reached the outskirts of Reims, we had proper sidewalks again, and that was a blessing, since we still had more than an hour of walking to get to the center of town.
When we got to the center, we made our way to a small, healthy food restaurant.
It was run by a friendly woman who made us salads, soup, green tea and, to my delight, chia seed pudding with fresh pomegranate seeds.
I love chia seeds.
Then we walked to our hotel.
It is very clumsy to get into places or walk around with backpacks dripping with rain.
Our hotel is located in the center of the old town, surrounded with restaurants and all kinds of shops.
We got a newly renovated room and we unpacked our backpacks to dry them out.
We changed our clothes to clean ones and I dried our wet shoes with the hairdryer.
Then we collected all our laundry and went to a nearby coin laundry to do our wash.
On our way to the laundromat, we stopped at the tourist information center to stamp our pilgrims’ passports.
The lady who stamped them looked at the rain and smiled at us in sympathy.
Nobody walks in this season…. it is too cold…
While Jules was waiting for our washing machine to finish, I walked to the nearby Sephora cosmetic shop, and tried on many creams and lotions.
I bought a small travel size Jimmy Choo perfume, as a small treat.
After our laundry was done, we walked over to a nearby department store and I bought myself a new wallet, to replace my stolen one.
Now I have a new wallet, but nothing in it.
No identification of any kind, no credit cards, nothing but a little cash.
Today is the end of our pilgrimage for the moment.
Tomorrow we plan to walk around Reims, see the old cathedral and do some sightseeing, and the next day we will take the train to Paris, to get new passports.
We plan to continue walking from Reims to Rome, sometime in Spring, after the snow has melted on the Alps so we can cross over in safety.
We have walked 398 kilometers from Canterbury thus far.
While we had dinner at a local Moroccan restaurant, eating vegetable couscous with green raisins and vegetable tajine with prunes, we talked over our experiences on the pilgrimage.
Aside from my stolen bag and losing all our papers and a lot of money, the pilgrimage has been a good experience.
We loved all the B&Bs and Chateaus we stayed at, and the food was consistently fresh and good.
The walk was not too challenging.
Yes, we had some long days of over thirty kilometers, but there were no mountain passes to cross and mostly flat or hilly landscapes.
I experienced it as easy, despite not having many benches to sit on, no public toilets at all and almost no places to enjoy a hot drink or to eat during the day.
I am not leaving with a feeling of disappointment like I felt on the day before losing my bag and on that day.
On those days I felt like I’d rather go in the springtime back to Japan, to walk a long pilgrimage there, instead of coming back to France to finish the Via Francigena.
But now I feel that I will return, to finish the pilgrimage and walk all the way to Rome.
We finished the delicious Moroccan dinner with fresh mint tea and a variety of Lokum, known as “Turkish delights.”
Good night to you and many smiles,
3.5 hours of walking to Reims (9:30 am- 1:00 pm)
Active walking time – 5.5 hours
Daily Steps – 30,658
Daily Kilometers – 23 including walking around Reims
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 398
From Hermonville to Reims, France
Best Western Premier, located in the center of the old town, perfect for dining and for seeing Reims.
Has some newly renovated rooms.