Day 4- Walking The Via Francigena – From Whitfield to Dover U.K., to Calais France
We slept well in the little guesthouse in Whitfield.
The lovely owner made us a breakfast of porridge with bananas and toast with her homemade jams, each made from fruit she is growing in her own garden. She knew how to make these jams so that the berries’ natural tartness was enhanced, without too much sugar.
The guesthouse owner stamped our pilgrimage passports for us.
She told us that she sees many walkers, not so many on the Via Francigena, but more walking on North Downs Way, a very popular local hiking and cycling route.
She said she is unable to walk herself, since she fell years ago and hurt her back and knees and now her hips are in need of repair also.
Her forty year old daughter, a woman with many tattoos and a shy smile, told us that she was a vegan and offered us her own oat milk to put in our teas, instead of regular milk.
I love this new wave of vegetarianism and veganism in England.
You can get soy, oat, almond and coconut milks in every cafe, and really tasty vegan food almost everywhere, in markets, restaurants and even in traditional places.
Today’s walk was a short one.
We walked to Dover and saw the big castle towering over the hills of the city.
Since we were coming from the hills, we walked down very steep roads into the town of Dover.
The famous white chalk cliffs are beautiful, and there are also tunnels and storage facilities carved into these cliffs, that were used during World War Two as military bunkers.
The Ferry terminal is a massive facility that dominates the Eastern part of Dover.
The ferry ships transport many passenger cars and huge eighteen wheel trucks, carrying supplies across the English Channel.
There was only one French couple besides us on the ferry who came on foot.
They told us that their home is in Normandy and that they had brought a car to their daughter, who lives in the UK.
The ferry ride is very stable and calm, and it takes only one and a half hours to get from Dover to Calais.
In Calais, I was surprised to see how different the two cities of Dover and Calais felt.
Separated only by the Channel, you would not imagine the two places would be so different, but they are.
We had heard disheartening things about Calais.
People mentioned the recent arrival of refugees, homelessness and beggars in the streets.
None of it is true.
The city is very clean, people are friendly and warm, the architecture is beautiful and there are lot of great places to shop and dine.
Two cars honked their horns in encouragement when they saw us walking with our backpacks.
People told me how much they liked my hat and many people greeted me as I walked.
The sky seemed more blue, the weather about three degrees warmer and I had to take off some of my clothes and walk only with a t-shirt.
The weather forecast for the next ten days is very positive.
Every day looks to be dry and warm.
It is wonderful to walk in the autumn without rain and to be pleasantly warm, but it sure makes for heavier backpacks, full of warm coats and clothing we do not currently need.
We checked into our hotel at around three pm, and were pleasantly surprised to find that it is a charming French hotel with nice flowered wallpaper and a grand staircase with beautiful carpets.
There is no air conditioning in our spacious room, which is not a problem at this time of the year, but I can imagine it might be a bit too hot in the summer.
Since today was a much shorter day, we collected all our laundry and walked into town to withdraw some euros, get another internet SIM card with more data for the walk, do our laundry and choose a place for dinner.
Getting an internet SIM card required me to walk to the new part of town where the Lebara shop (internet provider) was located.
Since we had already started doing our laundry, Jules stayed at the laundromat and I walked about five kilometers back and forth, to get the SIM card.
I enjoyed walking in the town, practicing my French, and had no problem getting a 12 GB SIM card for only €20 at the Lebara shop.
We could have taken care of that before we left London, but we really thought it would not be a problem doing it in Calais.
We had a real feast for dinner at a French restaurant near our hotel.
It was a four course meal with an “amuse bouche,” an appetizer, a main course, a cheese plate with a small salad, and rich desserts.
It was a very good meal, made with fresh seafood and good quality ingredients.
It was perhaps too decadent, but it is OK to stray from the path once in a while…
It was nice not to walk too long today.
Tomorrow we have another long day of walking, and even though we wanted to get to bed early and thus went to eat dinner early, we got back to our room fairly late.
French feasts like these take time.
The dinner took about 2.5 hours but it was well worth it.
From Calais, France, across the English Channel, I send you thoughts of Light,
Active walking time – 4 hours
Daily Steps – 22,136
Daily Kilometers – 17
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 47
Whitfield to Dover to Calais, France
Accommodation: Hotel Meurice in Calais, classic hotel located in a nice part of town near the cathedral with good restaurants nearby.
Restaurant: Aux Vieux Forneaux, Calais, excellent French cuisine with several set menu choices