« The Via Francigena in France. My experience from Canterbury to Champlitte »

The pilgrimage of Martine Gautheron, vice-president of the European Association of the Vie Francigene, from Canterbury to her French town: Champlitte.  A journey which lasted almost a month and many kilometres, through the English countryside, French villages, and in sight of some of the most celebrated cathedrals of Europe.

"After three years since my husband and I hiked along the Via Francigena from Champlitte to Rome, we decided to go to Canterbury by train to return home on foot along the Via Francigena.  In this way we journeyed along the whole route, and as the vice-president of the EAVF, all of this made sense!

On the 29th August we met Velia Coffey, vice-president of the EAVF and deputy chief executive of Canterbury City Council, and Edward Condry, bishop of Ramsbury, in an emotion-filled and unforgettable meeting.  The Cathedral and KM 0 stone!  Early in the morning of the 30th we left Canterbury, following the trail signage and once arrived in Dover we got a ferry to Calais.  Once arrived in Calais in the evening we saw the GR 145 signage right away! On the 31st August we visited the city: the bellower and gardens of the town hall, and the "bourgeois of the city".  We followed the GR 145 route for the entire day, well signed, but quite long, what with the marked routes not being the shortest.  We skirted along the seafront, the Opal Coast, to arrive in Wissant.  Thomas Becket stayed there and Sigeric made a stop there.  Following this we crossed the French countryside and farms, the true gardens of the country! 

The Via Francigena is the discovery of French heritage and history, because there are not only marvellous monuments in the Hauts de France and the Grand Est, but vestiges of the world wars can also be found, the English, Canadian, German, American and Australian military cemeteries.  Here, more than any other place, the European cultural route makes us aware of the values Europe could have.

The cities and villages crossed will leave an indelible footprint on our memories: an open church, an abbey which hosts pilgrims, curious and chatty citizens which quiz us on our aim and motivation for this journey.  In the Marne and Aube, the route crossed the vines of the prestigious grands crus of Champagne and the crossing in Reims between the Cammino de Santiago and the Via Francigena, bearing witness to the history of the city.  

In Châlons en Champagne, we decided to walk along Sigeric's historic route, the Coole Valley, and a few days later we reached Langres, and after that, our home.  

620km and 23 days of discovering the heritage and environment, experiencing exchanges, meeting new people.  With some difficulties of lack of accommodation and changeable weather, our achievement of our aim was much desired.  

As for my next adventure: the Via Francigena of the South! When do we begin?"

Martine Gautheron

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