Day 4 – Walking The Via Francigena – From Whitfield to Dover U.K. to Calais France

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,

Today’s Stats:
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

Day 3 – Walking The Via Francigena- Canterbury To Whitfield

Day 3- Walking The Via Francigena- Canterbury To Whitfield

Last night, it rained very strongly.
Everything was still wet when we got up this morning.

We dressed for the rain and covered our backpacks, and the I quickly and silently asked the Universe to hold off on the rain, until after we finished our walking day.
I asked for the rain to hold off until 5:30 PM.

My wish was granted in full.
It was a very cloudy and misty day, but not a drop of rain fell on us.
It was actually nice to walk on this overcast day.
It wasn’t too hot, and the mist gathering over the fields gave the landscape a dreamy, cinematic feeling.

We had breakfast in Town, in a lovely brassiere.
I had a hot oats porridge with berries and a fresh orange juice.
Jules had homemade pancake.

The distance between Canterbury and Dover is estimated at 30 km.
Because it was our first day walking with our heavy pilgrimage packs, I chose a charming B&B in the village of Whitfield Church, estimated to be about 20 kilometers from Canterbury.

As always when measuring on Google Maps, the actual distance turned out to be much longer.
The twenty Kilometers turned out to be thirty, and our feet and shoulders were throbbing when we finally made our way to the guesthouse.

The path was well signed, although less with Via Francigena signs, and more with those for North Downs Way, which is a circular long distance National Trail.
Many people cycle the North Downs Way, which is mostly on narrow paved one-lane roads that do not get much car traffic.
The Via Francigena and the the walking only paths of North Downs Way, crisscross many farms, agricultural fields, and small local foot paths.

Many times the path took us through farmland, where we had to open and cross small farm gates, or step over small wooden livestock fences.
But it was always well marked and easy to find our way.

When crossing newly plowed or just recently planted fields, I could imagine that it would be harder to discern the walking path, but it was easy to see at this time of year.

The path was hilly, but only gentle rolling hills.
Along the path, there were no places to sit, drink or eat.
If you do not follow the path and walk by the side of the main car road to Dover, you would have your choice of places to eat and the road is much shorter.

As we chose to follow the foot path all day today, our only choice was a small pub across from St Andrew’s Church in the village of Shepherdswell.
This small very old church constructed of flint, a beautiful local building stone with variegated black shiny surfaces, is open every day for both locals and tourists to visit.

Since we had walked for nearly six hours with no break and no food, except for a mini baguette that we had bought in Canterbury before setting out, we thought to stop for a cup of tea at the pub.

I asked the friendly young woman at the pub if they had any Earl Grey tea.
She said they had nothing like that, insinuating that I had asked for something fancy and that they served only black tea.

The musty pub smelled strongly of beer, so I gave up on the idea of any tea and we kept on walking.

All day, we walked by vines loaded with ripe blackberries which I ate along the way, as well as fallen ripe chestnuts which were delicious, and sweet and tart crabapples and rose hips, so I cannot complain about the lack of food.

The path was truly beautiful, and it was easy to take our minds off the difficulties of walking all day, by admiring the farmland scenery before us.

By the end of the day, we were so delighted to be off our feet.
The lady who checked us into our guesthouse urged us not to take off our shoes at the door, a habit that I don’t understand.
Just like in Japan, I prefer to take off my shoes before entering any home.
We explained that our shoes were full of mud from walking on farmland and footpaths all day, and that we did not want to dirty her carpets.

Our guesthouse turned out to be a lovely country house with a large clean and nice smelling room, with a hot shower and soft towels.

We showered, washed our pants, which were covered in mud on the bottoms, and rubbed tiger balm on our feet.

We asked about the food options for dinner.
The lady told us that the local pub, which used to serve meals, had recently closed down, but fortunately there was an Indian restaurant about a mile away.

To walk two miles back and forth in the dark countryside just to eat dinner, did not sound like a good idea to me, but Jules seemed to be hungry.
The lady offered to drive us there, but as it turned out, the place offered home delivery.
We placed an order and ate it in our room, which had a separate seating area with a long bench which served as our dining table.

Tonight I am achy from carrying my backpack and from walking without any rest all day.
I hope that I will get into better shape soon…

Tomorrow we walk to Dover.
We plan to walk around Dover to see the castle and the famous white Diver cliffs,, and then take the ferry to Calais in France, just across the English Channel.
We plan to do some sightseeing in Calais and spend the night there.

Talk to you soon and warm blessings,

Today’s Stats:
8 hours of walking (9am-5pm)
Active walking time – 7.2 hours
Daily Steps – 40,930
Daily Kilometers – 30
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 30

Canterbury to Whitfield
Accommodation: Rolles Court, on Church Whitfield Rd, Whitfield

Day 2 – Walking The Via Francigena – Receiving a Private Blessing for Our Pilgrimage at the Canterbury Cathedral

Receiving a Private Blessing for Our Pilgrimage, at the Canterbury Cathedral

We asked our B&B guesthouse to serve us breakfast early, since we wanted to see more of the town of Canterbury before the Sunday service at the church.

The full English breakfast that I saw on the plates of the other guests included eggs, sausages, canned, unappetizing baked beans and toast with a commercially packaged marmalade.

We asked for whole wheat toast and one fried egg with nothing else.
The egg was cooked in a microwave, and was so rubbery I could not eat it.

The town has many attractive breakfast places, so we decided that tomorrow, after we check out and begin walking, we will eat something better in town.

Canterbury was quiet as we walked down the main street in the morning.
The night before, we had seen so many people drinking, loud or drunk, that a quiet morning and empty streets meant that everyone was sleeping off their hangovers.

At the gate to the Cathedral, we were escorted to the welcome center.
As pilgrims, we needed our pilgrimage passports stamped before attending the Sunday service.
We had also scheduled a private blessing for our journey.

Before the service started, we toured the ancient cathedral with its beautiful stone pillars, arches and elaborate stained glass windows.

The service was truly beautiful, with songs and prayers, a short sermon and even a personal welcome to Jules and I.

The Archdeacon of Canterbury, the venerable Jo Kelly-Moore (a lively woman with great energies and positive life-force), had welcomed everyone and personally mentioned myself and Jules, as pilgrims who are setting off to walk the Via Francigena.

After the service, Jo came to pray with us for a safe journey.
It was very moving.
The three of us approached the altar and closed our eyes.
Jo asked God to watch over us, to walk in front of us to show us the way, walk beside us so we shall encounter only the Divine in all we meet, walk above us to inspire us, and walk behind us to protect us.

Later I was happy to find out that Jo had been a solicitor in Auckland, NZ and in London, before turning to the ministry.

She was installed as the  Archdeacon of Canterbury in January 2017.
Jo had been the Dean of the Anglican Church in Auckland, New Zealand, since August 2010.
During that time she led a major project to complete and consecrate the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell, Auckland.

After the lovely service and warm blessing, we left the cathedral and went to see the remains of the Saint Augustine Abbey and the old Saint Martin’s church.
These three sites are responsible for the UNESCO World Heritage status of Canterbury.

I really enjoyed seeing the ancient circular shapes of the crosses, seen in the Cathedral and in the old burial ground of St. Martin’s Church, the oldest church in the English speaking world.

Unlike the new cross that is commonly used these days, which is just an upright X sign, these old crosses encircle the cross with a circle, reminding us all that life is ETERNAL and EVERLASTING, an eternal cycle of life.

By late afternoon the sky had turned dark and the weather had gotten much colder.
We had a meal at a local Moroccan restaurant.
We ate a veg couscous and a veg tajine.
We also bought a small essential oil room deodorizing spray, just in case we have to stay along the way in other musty guesthouses.

While Jules got a haircut and a shave at one of the many barber shops in town, I sat in a cafe to gather my notes.

I am a bit nervous about walking in the cold rain, but with God above us as Jo asked Him to be, we shall have nothing to worry about….

With Love and Light,