Friday 26 September.
We didn't rush to get away early this morning but took it easy as we weren't going very far. It was 8 am when we eventually got up and had breakfast then finished packing. An hour later we set off. On the way through the town Moira got a baguette at the boulongerie and at the supermarket picked up a bottle of wine. The village we were going to for the night, Les Archots, reportedly had nothing in the way of shops so we made sure of some plonk. We opened the bottle and poured the contents into one of our water bottles.
After passing the Tourist Office the route took us along a busy street and through a large stone gateway into the Citadelle. The area was just a busy suburb and didn't have anything to signify the title of Citadelle. Another stone portal took is out again. Once we were out of the city we turned on to a quieter road signposted to the Source of the Marne. We didn't go to the source of this river but when we later reached the village of Balesmes-sur-Marne we crossed a bridge with the signpost La Marne, it was a dried up grassy track with no sign of water. A long steep hill took us down to Balesmes-sur-Marne, we saw two cyclists coming up, one had got off to walk so it was steep. At the bottom there was a bus shelter where we had a break and a cup of tea with a mini coconut bar.
The warm sunny weather with a cloudless blue sky had returned and it was hot walking. We climbed out of the village and joined the busier D17 for 3 km into Chalindrey. The traffic was heavy but there was a bit of a hard shoulder and a grass verge to head for if the cars got too close. It was another stop in Chalindrey where we had lunch on a bench in a small park. We didn't rush as we had plenty of time and after our meal lay back and enjoyed the warm sunshine.
We had according to the guide book 4km along a quiet road before turning off the Via Francigena to the hamlet of Les Archots. The book also said that we crossed the railway line but we found the bridge over it blocked off for repair work. Rather than go back and find a detour we scrambled over the fence at one end of the bridge and moved the barrier at the other. Fortunately it must have been lunch time as there weren't any workmen about to stop us. It didn't seem like 4 km when we reached the right turn to Les Archots and it was only a short distance down a hill to the river flowing through the hamlet. The Gite des Archots was just before the bridge over the river.
There were no preliminaries to go through, we were just shown straight to our room. It was enormous and so were the two double beds, much bigger than king size. There was also a single bed that was nearly a double. We showered and washed some of our clothes, there was a washing line in the garden and with the warm sun we hoped they would dry quickly. Next it was a cup of coffee and a relaxing hour, stretched out on the bed.
We looked at the possible places to stay in Champlitte tomorrow and made a list of them. The intention was to get the guy on charge to phone for us but we couldn't find him. Our accommodation list said that the man running of the communal gite spoke English so Moira dialled the number and I talked to him. He did speak good English and we now have a bed for tomorrow night.
Dinner was like being in Spain again and wasn't served until the crazy time of 8 pm. We stayed in our room, read and sampled the wine I had been carrying. The dinner turned out to be another gastronomic experience, an orgy of food and drink. There were another two couples dining as well and it began with an aperitif made of a little sweet red wine topped up with a white wine. The meal started with a quiche that almost melted in your mouth and a green salad with a very tasty dressing. Next they delivered a platter of slices of roast lamb and when nothing else served everyone started to eat them with bread. About 10 minutes later the chef came out full of apologises, he had forgotten to serve the vegetables. We all now had more lamb with the vegetables. There was a cheese course and the local Langres variety was soft and smokey flavoured, very nice. For dessert there was a rhubarb flan which was delicious. All this was helped down with plenty of a Rhone red wine. The meal was outstanding but too much, at the end we both felt full and bloated. The company around the table and our hosts were very friendly, all interested in our pilgrimage but there was the usual language difficulties in holding a conversation for any length of time.
We struggled up the path to our room and it was straight to bed. We were both exhausted, not from the easy walk today but from the enormous meal.