Thursday 25 September.
I went downstairs and made a cup of coffee in the kitchen then we began packing. When we went downstairs again Mne. M. was already there setting out breakfast. It was the usual, orange juice, bread and jam and coffee. We finished, washed up and ready to go by 7:30am.
Initially when we left the village the weather was clear and mild but as we got out into the countryside the mist was lying thick over the fields. We took the shorter route suggested by Mne. M that went direct to Marac and by-passed Leffonds. It was all right on the long straight country lane, you couldn't get lost, but when we entered the Forest of Bugnieres things went wrong. The track was supposed to go straight but we immediately encountered a Y-junction. After an argument, Moira won, and we went left. After 500m we came to a fence with the motorway on the other side. Backtracking we now took the right hand fork which did go straight for a while but ended up at a T-junction and we had to guess at the direction to take. In the end we got horribly lost and kept taking turnings not knowing where they would lead. We tried the GPS and map on the iPad but the signal in the forest was nonexistent. The early mist that had been hanging about now began to clear and the sun came out, I suggested that we head towards the rising sun - east- towards Switzerland ! It worked and we cleared the trees and picked up a tarred lane. Still not knowing where we were we continued along this lane, at least now we would eventually reach life and civilisation. After a short distance there was a sign post; Marac 2.4km, somehow we had managed to get back on track. When we reached the village it was time for a rest on a convenient bench, amazingly we had only lost about half an hour wandering about the woods. We kept thinking that we could end up like the people lost in the Blue Mountains in Australia and only found after some weeks.
Where we stopped for a rest the signposted pointing to Langres said 16 km which seemed good but it was a more direct route either on the motorway of busy roads, ours on minor roads and lanes still had nearer 20 km to cover. The first stretch when we got going again was parallel to the motorway which we eventually crossed to head for the village of Beauchemin. We could see the church spire from quite a distance away but it never seemed to get any closer. We didn't go into Beauchemin but picked up a very minor road that veered away from the village. At the start of this lane we sat on the wall around a house and I brewed us a nice cup of tea.
2.5 km along the country lane there was the pretty village of St. Martin-les-Langres where the road dropped steeply down to the Moulin St Martin where the old water mill bridged a small river. After this drop we had to climb again, through the hamlet of La Fontiane au Bassin and keep climbing to what the guide book said was a plateau. It was flat for a couple of kilometres but then dropped to the start of Langres. There was still a bit to go and it was all uphill, the old town of Langres was on a hill and we could see the twin towers of the Cathedral high above us. At the Eglise Notre Dame de Brevoines, a small church that was near a lavoir that had been converted into a covered seated area. We had seen many of these lavoirs in his region, they were open buildings near rivers or streams for the locals to do their laundry, there were sinks and the water for washing was channeled through from the river. This one had the sinks removed and replaced by a bench where we sat and had lunch. We had been making excellent time even with our wander in the woods and where we were staying in Langres didn't open until 5pm, so we had a long leisurely lunch and checked out tomorrow's route and places for accommodation.
We now had a very steep climb up the hill to the old city. The road went sharply up, crossed a bridge over a cycle track that looked like an old converted railway line, then climbed some more before it was up stairs to the city ramparts. Once through the Porte de l'Hotel de Ville it flattened out and we were in a large square with the magnificent building that was the Mairie. It was open and I enquired about the location of the Tourist Office, I received a town map and the route highlighted for me. Initially the place looked typically dead but once we reached the main street with shops there was a lot more people about. At the tourist office the woman informed us that the Presbyter of the Cathedral where we were staying opened at 4pm an hour earlier than we thought, good news. The bad news was that the woman wasn't at all helpful initially about phoning ahead to arrange accommodation for tomorrow. She said she couldn't phone places outside her tourist area. I said to use our phone to do it, but it was strictly against the rules. Happily at first we discovered that where we intended staying was in her area and she agreed to phone, at €1 for the booking. Unhappily she couldn't get through to one hotel and another that answered was full. We said we would come back later and she could again try the one that didn't answer.
This was the first Tourist Office that was uncooperative, the others couldn't have done enough for us. Moira went to a nearby supermarket and bought a couple of cans of beer and we sat on a park bench quenching our thirst and debating the options for tomorrow if we couldn't get a place to stay. The next big town, Champlitte, with plenty of hotels was 36 km away, we considered leaving early and attempting that distance or the other option was to take a bus or train part of the way. We decided to head for our bed here and see what transpired later when we returned to the Tourist Info.
It was a nice walk back through the town past the huge 12th Century Cathedral Saint-Mammes with the two enormous square towers that we had seen from a long way while walking this morning. When we reached the Presbyter we found a person with a totally different attitude. This woman couldn't be more helpful and friendly. She had the details of our booking on a sheet and was a very apologetic when she had to charge us €5 each for the room. She stamped our credentials and was about to show us to our room when I decided to ask her to phone the hotel for tomorrow. She didn't seem very familiar with the operation of the telephone and had to make enquiries about obtaining an outside line but she was successful. The man at the hotel, Gite Des Archots, spoke English and Moira took over the call and made the reservation.
Our room was upstairs in a separate building. We had two single beds, shower, toilet and a kitchen. Once we had dumped our bags we headed out again to the supermarket for essentials like milk and wine. On the way we visited the Cathedral Saint-Mammes. It didn't have a lot of ornamentation and the windows where mainly coloured glass, no story to tell. But the building itself was outstanding with columns and archways and a towering vaulted roof. The strange thing about this and other great church buildings we have visited is the doors at the entrances. They tended to be tatty and the wood painted in an ugly brown or red, it tends to spoil the overall appearance.
Having got what we needed at the supermarket it was back to our room for a shower. It was another strange system where you should have the instruction manual to operate it. I managed to get hot water and began soaping myself only for it to turn cold, fortunately it got hot again. I warned Moira about it and she washed quickly before it had a chance to go cold. For dinner tonight we had the chicken that Moira a cooked last night made into a curry with mushrooms and tomato. Instead of rice she used the last of the pasta that had been in her bag for a few weeks.
After washing up we got to bed to lie and read but Moira was very tired and was sleeping just after 8 pm. I read for a little longer but my eyes were also closing and I turned in. It was very quiet and we both had a good night's sleep.