I misled you yesterday, when I wrote about the Marne Canal. I left that behind the day before – yesterday’s canal was the descriptively named “Canal between Champagne and Bourgogne”. And there is a bit more of it today. But the path is not very good, and after a few miles I revert to the road, which is twice as fast.
And a member of the church in Chaumont kindly pointed out that I misled you a little about that, too. Oh dear, never believe anything you read in the press. I called it the Evangelical Church, when properly it is known as the Protestant Church of France. I apologise to the good people of the Protestant Church, who welcomed me so warmly, and deserve better reporting.
I hadn’t gone more than thirty miles on the road, through a litany of beautiful but not over-active villages – Cohons, Heuilley-Cotton, Villegusien, Danmarien, Cusey, Sacquenay, and the best of them all, Chazeuil, where my front wheel fell off – when I began to miss the canal.
It wasn’t the hills. They were gentle, and just as much down as up. It was the absence of water. It’s getting hot again, and a little dip would be just the thing.
As though the landscape is reading my mind, suddenly there’s water. A beautiful lake, the Perte de la Venelle, right beside the D28. It must be a weekend spot – there are organised trees, a couple of picnic tables, and a lone camping fisherman on the far side.
The willow-clad island in the middle is perfect for swimming round, far enough from the fisherman not to disturb. Perhaps I’ll even lie in the sun for a while (it turns out to be a very short while – it’s very hot) and then swim again…
The miles go quickly by. By lunch time I’ve reached St. Julien. There’s a very shady bench, with a view of the church – unusually not old in any way – and a war memorial, and a little parade of children going home from school.
There’s also a restaurant, with a very new-looking marquee over its very new-looking asphalt. It’s packed, with a happy mix of – I’m guessing – local retirees and hi-vis workers (presumably from the businesslike plant parked up on the green).
It looks a perfect place for a pop-up performance, but the Patron says she doesn’t have a licence, and it wouldn’t be allowed. Ths is France, and there are rules.
Like the rules of the road, which are scrupulously observed here now. Not like I remember Paris when I came to see the Renoirs at the Tuilleries as a student. Cars actually stop when instructed by road markings to do so, even if it’s clear there’s no other vehicle within a mile.
And they don’t try to push past bicycles when there isn’t quite enough room. They’re polite, and sober, with very few exceptions, mostly open-topped. I’ve seen one 2CV – it looked as though its current driver had had it from new, and was driving with the discretion appropriate to its age, and his.
So it’s not until I’m parking up by the cathedral, and being greeted by the cyclists I met near Essoyes the other day, now strolling around with ice cream, as though it were nearly the weekend, that Libre comes out of her case.
Actually that’s not quite true. I forgot the ten minutes outside the Musee des Beaux Arts, before I was driven out by a punjabi Bhangra band doing a wedding.
Bademba is playing the kora here, very nicely, but without attracting much attention. He says he’s just packing up, so maybe I’ll play here, in the shadow of the cathedral, rather than further down, among the sunny crowds.
It’s a very relaxing hour, and cycling with the expensive brace has left the bow arm in much better shape.
Then it’s on to my Warmshowers hosts (have I told you about Warmshowers? Another time) a couple of miles out of town. They’ve left a message that they’ll be back at 8.00, and I should make myself at home, the house being open…