Day 26 – Walking the Via Francigena – Chavanges to La Rothière, France – A Gluttonous Day of Two Gourmet Feasts

I rigged a clothesline so we can dry our hand-washed laundry as we walk.

Day 26 – Walking the Via Francigena – Chavanges to La Rothière, France – A Gluttonous Day of Two Gourmet Feasts

I remember once having a friendly exchange with one of my art collectors about which country in Europe had the best food.
He argued for Italy, and while I saw his point and remembered eating exceptionally good food in Italy, I sided with France.
Needless to say, neither one of us convinced the other.

When walking a pilgrimage, one does not get lots of opportunities to feast.
A pilgrim often stays where the route takes her, and even if there is a fabulous restaurant fifteen kilometers away, we would not have the time nor the
energy nor the opportunity to go there.
But today, by chance, we had two fabulous meals in one day.

The church bells rang all night by our open window, which did not make for a very restful sleep.
We kept the window open to get some fresh air, but even with ear plugs, I woke up every hour to the ringing of the loud bells.

We started the day early, with shiatsu massages from Agnes, the owner of Le Gilliard.
After the massages we sat down to a breakfast with Agnes, who told us about her many part time and seasonal jobs.
She also said that most of clients are pilgrims or bird watchers.

This area has two large lakes and many species of migrating birds come to visit these lakes.
The birds migrate from Norway every winter to the warmer weather in Morocco, stopping along the way at these lakes in France in both directions.
Right now the lakes are drained of water, and the birds have not yet flown south from Norway.
By October the lakes will be filled again and the birds will be coming on their way south.

We asked why those huge lakes are empty of water in the summer, and Agnes said that the control of the waterways is in response to demands from the Paris area.
If Paris needs water, they drain the lakes to provide it.
They also have in place measures of regulating the lakes to prevent Paris from ever getting flooded.

We thanked Agnes and started walking early.
We did not have a long day of walking, and the route took us through the town of Brienne-le-Château, where I was hoping to have a proper sit down lunch and rest, instead of eating a baguette on some closed church’s steps in the middle of the road.

I did fill our water bottles, but did not buy any snacks for lunch, trusting that we would get to town by lunchtime.
We walked for a few hours without a place to rest.
We did not find a bench, so we entered the grounds of a small village church and leaned on one of the stone graves, to rest our feet and drink some water.
The old church building was locked of course, like most rural churches.

We hurried to get to Brienne-le-Château, knowing that most restaurants close at two in the afternoon.
We arrived in town at one thirty and chose a restaurant to have lunch.
The three course meal we were served was finger licking tasty.

Fresh scallops on a bed of caramelized cabbage was our appetizer.
The main course was fish with a Morel mushroom sauce, garden vegetables and a mixed grain rice.
For dessert, we had café-au-lait and two desserts to share, a chocolate dessert with raspberry mouse and a flaming, caramelized Crème Brulée.

We hardly were able to walk out of the restaurant, but we still had two more hours of walking to get to our hotel for the night.
Our hotel is located in a small rural village called La Rothière, just south of Brienne-le-Château.
The walk was on the edge of the fields by the road, which was a bit dusty and filled my socks with sand.

We were shown to our room where we took long showers and washed our clothes.
I knew they would not dry overnight, but I would rather dry them tomorrow, than start the next day with dirty or sweaty clothes.

We were told that dinner would be served at seven thirty in the hotel’s restaurant.
Our feet, hips and shoulders felt very stiff, and we were so happy to lay in bed feeling clean and comfortable, but we made it downstairs at the required dinner time.

Unlike our gourmet lunch, which was very pricey, dinner was only €19 per person for a delicious and generous four course feast.
We started with a green salad, then had a main course of filet of red trout with shrimp and seasonal root vegetables.
The seafood was amazing, and the pumpkin, zucchini and local potato were exceptional.

Then came the cheese course.
The waitress came to our table with a tray of a dozen local cheeses, willing to slice as many pieces as I cared to try.
I chose six cheeses and asked her to slice them really thin, just as a taste.
Jules asked her to choose for him.
The desserts were a great chocolate mousse and a big slice of apple tart.
After tea, we barely made it up the stairs back to our room.

We both agreed that it is nearly impossible to get this quality meal with such fresh ingredients in our area of the USA, and most definitely not at these prices.
Maybe this is why we feasted like that instead of watching what we ate to make sure we would stay fit for our walk…..

But as I rubbed our feet for the night with a mixture of cream and oregano oil, we vowed to limit our feasting to one meal per day.

I remembered how in Japan when walking pilgrimages, if we came upon rural villages without a restaurant, we often ate one or two humble rice balls for dinner.
Yet I went to sleep content.

Here in France, in the land of gourmet food and great food veneration and appreciation, we are forgetting that we are nomads and pilgrims who walk for hours in silence and inner contemplation, and instead of becoming more and more enlightened, we are becoming gluttons and more and more stuffed with gourmet cheese and food…..
May God help us…..

With blessings and light,

Today’s Stats:
7 hours of walking
Active walking time – 5.5 hours
Daily Steps – 33,252
Daily Kilometers – 24.5 Km
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury UK – 563 km

Auberge de la Plaine, in La Rothière.
A small comfortable hotel with a very good restaurant.

2 Comments on “Day 26 – Walking the Via Francigena – Chavanges to La Rothière, France – A Gluttonous Day of Two Gourmet Feasts”

  1. Hi, Tali and Jules

    I laughed when I saw the clothesline in Jules’ backpack.

    And I laughed when you feel guilty to eat gourmet in France.

    With love and laughter

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