Sunday 21 September.
J&G couldn't have been very far away from us in the hotel last night as I could hear Jacques snoring through the thin walls. It had been raining during the night, streets were wet when we left but it was dry and the sky looked as if it was clearing. We went all the way through the town past the Tourist Info but this time it was quiet just the stall holders beginning to set up for another day. The route then took us over a grassy track to the village of Brienne-le-Vieille. I had bought some new socks at the market yesterday and was wearing a pair, the rain from last night was still on the grass and my feet were soon soaking.
After Brienne-le-Vieille there was more off-road walking through lovely wooded countryside but the rain returned. It wasn't ever heavy but it continued on and off until mid-afternoon. By the time we came out of the forest at Dienville my feet were thoroughly soaked and my new socks stained with mud.
We had a stop on a wall beside the church just for a rest then it was road walking to the next village of Unienville where we found a bus shelter to brew up a cup of tea and a biscuit. The rain was quite heavy as we sheltered but it eased off when starting off again. Our next stop after more road walking was the village of Jessains where we sat on the wall outside the church. The church door was open and we thought there was a service taking place but Moira had a look and the church was empty. It was raining yet again so we sheltered inside and it was a pleasant surprise. A beautiful little church in a tiny village with a remarkable colourful window behind the altar. There was a visitors book which I filled in and also left a card, maybe it will bring a donation or two.
The route was easy to follow now, it kept to the D46 all the way to the end at Bar-sur-Aube. It was a quiet minor road and went through a series of small villages. The first Dolancourt had a bus shelter near the church and it was a very convenient spot for our lunch break. We had a good feed today, hard boiled eggs, a pâté sandwich and a cheese one, an apple and a cup of coffee. From there still on the D46 we went through Jaucourt and Proverville before crossing the river L'Aube and into Bar-sur-Aube. The agriculture varied along today's route, still plenty of maize and there were more vineyards appearing but lots of sunflowers and rape ready for harvesting. We had a break just before Proverville after really pushing hard for half an hour to get some distance in, so we were really surprised when J&G appeared while we were resting. It was a 5 minutes start we gave them and caught up with them again just as we entered Bar-sur-Aube. The speed they walk there was no way they could have suddenly caught up with us unless they had got a lift in a car. Moira remarked that when she spotted them coming along the road there had been a car close by !
One advantage of having them in front now was that we were able to follow them to the hotel. Also when we got to the Pomme d'Or it was closed and Gerard was able to phone and get somebody out with the keys. The hotel was a bit run down but the room was nice enough. I made a cup of coffee and then we showered. The water was piping hot and we both felt much better afterwards. My back hadn't been too bad today but I have to keep adjusting the straps on my rucksack whenever I get twinges of pain. The next big place along the Via is Chateauvillian, 31 km away. We checked with J&G what they were doing and they were heading there. We were looking for an easy day and found that there was a Convent in the village of Clairvaux. Gerard kindly phoned them and booked us in, it is only about 10 km and will give us an 'active rest day'.
After satisfactorily arranging accommodation for tomorrow the next thing was something to eat. The hotel restaurant was closed so we headed for the 'centre ville' . When coming through the town earlier it was completely dead with everything closed but now there was a few signs of life. There was a pizzeria open, well not quite there were getting ready to open in 15 minutes. We decided to walk on and come back later for a pizza. Further along we changed our minds when we saw a little eating place that had chicken curry chalked on its menu board outside. We ordered that but it turned out to be little pieces of fried spicy chicken and chips. It was all right but cost 'an arm and a leg', together with two beers - €23. Going back we still felt hungry and bought a small pizza. We had it our room with a cup of tea.
There was supposed to be WiFi but there weren't any services showing on the iPad. I think everything was shut down here except for two rooms. We read the newspaper and got to sleep early tired after two long days of walking.