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An Aussie on the VF

John Holland

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016
G’day,

I am an Aussie walking from London via Canterbury and the VF to Rome. After completing the Lon-Cant section (Chaucers’ Pilgrims Way) I am now in Licques at the end of Day 4 on the VF.

I will be taking roughly five months to complete the trip. That means, because of Schengen visa rules limiting stays in Europe to 90 days, I will do the trip over two years. A combination of getting on in years and a crook left knee means I can no longer do consecutive long days. I will doing relatively short days (hopefully not too many over 16 or 18 kms) and be having regular rest days.

I will not be posting every day, just when something interesting happens and when I feel like it.

So far it has been a delightful walk, getting into Guines and my accommodation there just minutes before a storm hit the town. I was stayed dry.

The accommodation in Guines was excellent: a small cabin at Camping la Bien Assise. Only €25 with the pilgrim discount. I thoroughly recommend it.

Thanks to a number of people who have previously walked the VF. Some of that info, particularly that by timR, has been particularly helpful in my planning.

That’s all for now.
Cheers,
 
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We will continue the VF from Calais in 10 days, so I am eager to read your postings.
Bonne marche à vous!
 
I wish you good luck with the weather, less cold and wet and that you will find open Restaurants, Bars, and accommodations, in this huge area with less population. Hopefully the path isn't as swampy as I had and the Marne river has less water, as it had an impact on the VF.
Just finished my Canterbury - St. Maurice (Switzerland) last Saturday.
I will return in Autumn for the rest to Rome. (check my Blog)
 
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Keep trucking. There is no timeline. I started from Canterbury in 2022 and am tonight in Siena, 14 days from Roma. This is the third of 3 stages. The Confraternity has been and continues to be a storehouse of great information. TimR and others have provided much useful advice in previous posts.
As always, I suggest that VF planners join the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and support their work. They don’t solicit much on their own behalf but they offer a lot for a completely volunteer organization. Cheers and buona fortuna on the rest of your journey.
 
G’day,

I am an Aussie walking from London via Canterbury and the VF to Rome. After completing the Lon-Cant section (Chaucers’ Pilgrims Way) I am now in Licques at the end of Day 4 on the VF.

I will be taking roughly five months to complete the trip. That means, because of Schengen visa rules limiting stays in Europe to 90 days, I will do the trip over two years. A combination of getting on in years and a crook left knee means I can no longer do consecutive long days. I will doing relatively short days (hopefully not too many over 16 or 18 kms) and be having regular rest days.

I will not be posting every day, just when something interesting happens and when I feel like it.

So far it has been a delightful walk, getting into Guines and my accommodation there just minutes before a storm hit the town. I was stayed dry.

The accommodation in Guines was excellent: a small cabin at Camping la Bien Assise. Only €25 with the pilgrim discount. I thoroughly recommend it.

Thanks to a number of people who have previously walked the VF. Some of that info, particularly that by timR, has been particularly helpful in my planning.

That’s all for now.
Cheers,
G day John keep us informed on how your going Buen Camino
 
Am now in Therouanne staying at Eden Gite. This gite is superb. Run by volunteer VF supporters it has superb hosts (Alain, Patricia and Christian). It is immaculate with a max of 3 beds per dorm ( I am in a room on my own) and superb facilities. Cannot recommend it enough.

Last night was in Wisques at the Abbey Notre Dame. Rooms are all twin beds or doubles. Again, very good and definitely recommended. Book ahead as it is often booked out, taking in not just pilgrims.
 
...and ship it to Santiago for storage. You pick it up once in Santiago. Service offered by Casa Ivar (we use DHL for transportation).
Well it has been quite a while since writing, but here is a little uodate. The stay in Therouannd was superb as there was excellent gite, Eden Lodge, with the hosts marvellous. Three of us staying there and the host, Alain, took us on a guided tour of the town. Had dinner from a very small little fritterie/cum burger place (the only place in town as even the supermarket was closed) which was right on the VF between the old Roman ruins and gite. Good meal and a lovely place to stay,, Thoroughly recommended.

Bruay-la-Buissiere was also a great place to stay with Annette Bureau with her place right on the VF as you come into town. She is a lovely lady and rents out one room a night and provides both dinner and breakfast for €40 superb value.
 
If you have been at Therouanne at May 8th. It seems to be a long time to go to Bruay-la-Brussière. Or where are you now? Did I miss some post?
 
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The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Another update:

Bapaume: stayed at Le Gourmet Hotel. Excellent. Not cheap at €72 but includes a good evening meal and breakfast. Lovely staff.

Peronne: Paroisse Saint Jean Baptiste. Have own little “house” so quite good. Donativo.

Trefcon: Wynyard family. Converted farm shed with two room, one with two beds and the other with three. Nowhere to eat in town but the farmer will sell you some eggs and a box of pasta if you want to cook yourself. Very large breakfast included in price.

Very tough days walk from here to Saint Quentin with long sections of mud.

St Quentin: stayed at the youth hostel. Its a long way from the centre of town and nothing nearby where you can eat. Not recommended.
 
Another update:

Bapaume: stayed at Le Gourmet Hotel. Excellent. Not cheap at €72 but includes a good evening meal and breakfast. Lovely staff.

Peronne: Paroisse Saint Jean Baptiste. Have own little “house” so quite good. Donativo.

Trefcon: Wynyard family. Converted farm shed with two room, one with two beds and the other with three. Nowhere to eat in town but the farmer will sell you some eggs and a box of pasta if you want to cook yourself. Very large breakfast included in price.

Very tough days walk from here to Saint Quentin with long sections of mud.

St Quentin: stayed at the youth hostel. Its a long way from the centre of town and nothing nearby where you can eat. Not recommended.
Well done. You are making great progress. I stayed at Le Gourmet.
In San Quentin I stayed in the joint worst accommodation (a hotel) that I have stayed in anywhere. So you avoided that. 😉 The other was a hotel in Brindisi.
 
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Ideal sleeping bag liner whether we want to add a thermal plus to our bag, or if we want to use it alone to sleep in shelters or hostels. Thanks to its mummy shape, it adapts perfectly to our body.

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thanks John I will be reading your updates as I will be departing Canterbury 26 July. How did you get in contact with Bien Assise? I have emailed a few times with no reply. They look all booked out for July.
 
I also emailed bien assise and never got an answer. I noticed that in France I either get no reply to an email or only several days later. So I booked at another place. Since than I made a call instead of an email and that worked fine. The only thing is that you have to speak some french. Just learn a few sentences in french and it will work.

“Bonjour, je m’appelle (your name). Je suis un pélerin. Je voudrais reserver une nuité pour 2 personnes pour (date). C’est possible?”
 
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You’re welcome, Marcelle. I am on the Via Francigena right now sipping a cafe alongé in Dampierre sur Salon.
i always thought Dampierre sur Salon had a nice ring to it and you have brought back happy memories.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon, with no accommodation booked, and found the office de tourisme closed.

But I found the mairie still open and they came up trumps. They sent me off to an extraordinary place called Croq'Loisirs - a sort of outdoor activity centre for primary age children. They kept a mattress for pilgrims and gave me a great welcome. Everything - chairs, tables, toilets and showers - was the perfect size for a 7-year old. They went away at 4pm, closing for the weekend, leaving me the sole occupant with the key. And telling me to help myself to showers, washing machines and kitchen!

Sadly I think they don't offer this anymore. I think if nothing else there would be 'safeguarding issues' but this was nonetheless a perfect example of old fashioned hospitality.

There are a few pics here https://walkingtim.com/day-28-dampierre-sur-salon-to-gy/
 
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You’re welcome, Marcelle. I am on the Via Francigena right now sipping a cafe alongé in Dampierre sur Salon.
Surprise, surprise, I just got an email from Bien Assise confirming my booking!
 
i always thought Dampierre sur Salon had a nice ring to it and you have brought back happy memories.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon, with no accommodation booked, and found the office de tourisme closed.

But I found the mairie still open and they came up trumps. They sent me off to an extraordinary place called Croq'Loisirs - a sort of outdoor activity centre for primary age children. They kept a mattress for pilgrims and gave me a great welcome. Everything - chairs, tables, toilets and showers - was the perfect size for a 7-year old. They went away at 4pm, closing for the weekend, leaving me the sole occupant with the key. And telling me to help myself to showers, washing machines and kitchen!

Sadly I think they don't offer this anymore. I think if nothing else there would be 'safeguarding issues' but this was nonetheless a perfect example of old fashioned hospitality.

There are a few pics here https://walkingtim.com/day-28-dampierre-sur-salon-to-gy/
@timr You are correct, the Croq'Loisirs place was closed (aftermath of COVID had something to do with it) and the lady at the Mairie office gave me a key to their small pilgrim house with four beds and a rudimentary kitchen. It is a donativo of sorts (they took my offering, but didn't really know what to do with it) and they asked that pilgrims leave it relatively clean when they depart. There is a large supermarket across the footbridge by the pilgrim house, but there were no other restaurants open in the city when I passed through in late June 2022. Beautiful walking in that region.
 
Hello Marcelle,

Sorry to be so long replying to your question about Bien Assise. I forgot my password for this site, took me many many goes (after being continually locked out because I failed so often) before I remembered it. Plus problems with my ipad among other things (more about that later). But I emailed them. Glad they finally replied to your email.
 
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Here is a little story about one day on the VF:

2 Swiss ladies, two little dogs, a baby stroller and even more mud.

It is a Thursday and I’ve been staying in the converted barn of a farmhouse at Trefcon. I arrived last night and was told I’d be joined by three other pilgrims on the way to Rome, all women who had booked to stay there. The couple who run the farm, and the associated gite in the old barn, insist that I have one of the two rooms to myself, and the other room, with three beds in it, will be shared by the women.

The first two women arrive, two Swiss women in their late 30s accompanied by two little dogs and a baby stroller. Both are also carrying backpacks. The third woman arrives much later and is an older Australian woman , whom I previously met in Arras.

I am intrigued by the Swiss women with the dogs, which sleep in the room with them, and the stroller. They explain they are walking the VF, from London, as I am, but will finish this year in Basle, their home town. But why bring a baby stroller? They tell me the stroller is being used primarily to carry the food for their dogs, one of whom is quite elderly at 15 years. She cannot walk too far each day so they often place her in the stroller and push her along. They say they always take their dogs when they go on walks.

Now it is the next morning. It rained quite a lot overnight but has now ceased and I head off, making a detour via the Trefcon British military cemetery, one of hundreds of cemeteries set up by the Commonwealth war Graves commission after World War I. It’s only small, about 280 graves, mainly British and Indians . Like all Commonwealth war graves commission cemeteries it is immaculately kept.

After having a look around, I rejoin the route towards Rome and it starts raining, just a light drizzle but soon gets heavier and I pull on my poncho and waterproof pants and keep walking. After a while I hit a long patch of mud. It is the worst mud I have ever struck, much worse than what I experienced in England earlier on this walk or any on the numerous caminos I have walked.

It extends for well over 1 km and is ankle deep in parts. It covers the entire width of the track so there is no going around it. You have to go through it while trying to avoid the deeper puddles of water as much as possible. My walking stick comes in very handy to help keep my balance.

As I walk I notice recent wheel tracks weaving from side to side but occasionally disappearing. I quickly figure it must be the Swiss women who must have overtaken me while I was at the cemetery.

At the end of it, I come out, and there are the two Swiss ladies, Angelica and Myriame, with their stroller and two dogs.

They have just made through the mud and are having a rest. Both are laughing. The two little dogs are quite dirty with mud as is the baby stroller.

I stop and ask them how they got through the mud. Their answer: “All we could do was laugh. It was either that or give up. We couldn’t do anything else.”

They then told me how they got through. They tied a rope to the front of the stroller and one of the ladies would push while the other would pull . But that did not always work. When it didn’t because the mud was too deep and thick, they would lift and carry the stroller through as the wheels would not turn in the muck.

The dogs, though, loved it, and would waddle through the mud, which was up to their bellies as the two ladies push pulled and carried the stroller.

It was a heck of an effort to get through well over 1 km of mud, mud and more mud. Now, as I bid goodbye to them at the end of the muddy section, one of the dogs does not want to walk any further. They place him in the stroller and off they go pushing the stroller along with a dog in it acting, as they say, “our pilot.”
 
I accidentely ;) stayed on my trip to the Tuscany on a Agriturismo on the VF the last 14 days (between Certaldo and San Gimignano, Pancole to be exact) and only did see 2 small groups of pilgrims in the first week of my trip.
A couple and a group of three. Pancole do offer a pilgrims stop with stamp and a pilgrims menu (Trattoria Leonetto / Hotel Le Renaie). To San Gimignano it's 4km by foot or 6km by car. On that part, the VF was well marked (older stones with arrow and "VF" on the side of the street, or the modern brown signs on streetposts.

It was hot, up to 38°C and very dry, sunshine every day. Despite the fact that I only done "touristical duties" I drank up to 3l of water per day. Stay hydrated! I was happy to hop into the pool in the evening.
Start very early (sunrise ~4am and stop before noon).
It's an amazing landscape with many historical important places.

Best wishes!
Roland
 
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