Via Francigena

Day 18 – Laon to Reims: from one thunderstorm to another

The stage

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🚲 70 km by bike – Sunday 4 July
Before departure we knew that this second day of cycling was going to be a bit challenging: the weather forecast announced plenty of thunderstorms on our way from Laon to Reims. And indeed, upon departure from Laon the sky didn’t predict anything good. But optimistic as we are, we started pedalling full of energy. Unfortunately for us, this didn’t last very long. We managed to cycle approximately 1 kilometer before the meteorologic situation decided we had to stop. This could however have happened in less appealing places: we had just arrived at the Porte d’Ardon, a characteristic gate from the 13th century. This is also where we met Vincent, a young pilgrim from Laon who had just started his walking adventure along the Via Francigena.
Together we took shelter from the rain underneath the gate, and after an hour or so finally the skies cleared up and we were able to continue our slow travel to Reims.

Between one light rain shower and another, we made it through the first kms without getting completely wet, and we decided to stop for our half meter of baguette in the small town of Berry-au-Bac. Our baguettes had gotten a tad bit soggy from the rain, but our hunger was stronger than our pickiness, so we dug in enthusiastically. But believe it or not (we almost couldn’t): the moment our butts hit the bench we were sitting on, the sky turned grey again and thunder was audible in the distance. Yet another thunderstorm decided to rain upon us, and after only a couple of bites from our baguette all hell broke loose again! But in these kinds of situations, often a solution presents itself entirely unexpectedly: Annie, a lady living in this little town, took pity on us and let us put our bicycles in her garage. She invited us in for coffee, tea, and some chocolate. We were incredibly grateful for the kindness of this total stranger, and when the skies cleared up again we set off for our final kms.

A short stop at Hermonville was planned at 14:00, but the various thunderstorms delayed our arrival with 2 hours. The mayor of the town however understood perfectly the reason of this delay, and she invited us into the town hall for some refreshments and some champagne. Because yes, today is the day that we have entered our second French region this summer: the Grand Est! And this is where champagne is being made. The mayor even gifted us each a small bottle of champagne which we transported carefully with us for the remaining 15kms to Reims.

Arrival in Reims was as impressive as one could imagine: turning the final corner and finding ourselves cycling straight to the Notre-Dame Cathedral was truly an amazing experience. This church is actually higher and bigger than the Notre-Dame in Paris, and this is certainly something you feel when standing in front of this massive medieval masterpiece.

Tired but satisfied that we made it to the final destination of today, despite the thunderstorms, we had our dinner and turned in for the night. Reims will be the place where we have our second rest day, after which we will continue our journey to Chalons-en-Champagne.

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Being hosted by Annie in Berry-au-Bac
Visiting the Vauclair Abbey, which was bombed during WWI
Arrival at Reims Cathedral
Having dinner with Massimo and Alessio, two Italians who are walking all the way from Calais to Santa Maria di Leuca without a single day of stop. Alessio suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and with their walk they are trying to raise more awareness about this terrible disease.

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Myra Stals, Social Media Manager (EAVF)
Edgar Le Bras, intern (EAVF)
Pietro Franzese, RTR Ambassador
Nicola Cagol, videomaker

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