I woke at 4.00 a.m. this morning, and for some reason I couldn't get back to sleep. I lay there thinking about the many kindesses that have been shown to me along this journey. I can list some of them because I know peoples names, but there are many, many more who are nameless.
People like Michel who got up at 2.00 a.m. to take me to the dawn service at Villers Brettoneux, Alexia and Marjory from the tourist offices at Peronne and Saint Quentin, and William (I think that was his name) from the Hotel Florence in Saint Quentin who wrote a letter to the doctor for me. Then there are those nameless people who went out of there way to help me - the young man that took me up the hill to the Catheral at Laon (I am sure he had no intention of going there originally), the man who picked me up and took me to his home and then passed me over to his wife to get me to the final destination and the man today who went past me, turned around and blocked the road while he checked that I knew where I was going to name a few! I was obviously at the point where the path to Compostelle (as the French call the Camino) and the via Francigena seperate.
The latest to add to my list is what happened yesterday. I got lost! For those who are planning to travel the road take care with the Cicerone guide and the term KSO (keep straight on for those who aren't in the know) between Corbeil and Donnement. I thought I did - KSO that is - the only problem was that at some point the KSO also had a veer to the left in it as well, though I didn't know this! There were, at one stage a heap of different paths, and I "KSO" and ended up on the bitumen road, with no idea whether to turn left or right! I turned right, only to discover 2 1/2 kilometres later that it should have been left! (for those who need to know - IF you meet the D24 like this turn left, Donnement is still 5kms away!). I walked all the way down hill only to find I was in the wrong place and had to go back up. Because I was slowly limping my way along, I knew that I wasn't going to make it to the village in time to pick up the key for the Pilgrim gite so I decided I would have to hitch! The hour between making this decision and getting almost back to where I had made the wrong choice there was only one vehicle passed me, a van and vans don't usually stop - because they are people rushing to or from work. This van did, some 200 metres up the road, reversed back and took me all the way to where I had to go. The man was so kind I could have hugged him, but didn't think it was approriate!
When I got to Brienne-le Chateau I stopped at the Church for a sing as I mentioned I think last time. One of the woman cleaning in the church sent me off to get the key for the gite, and as I was walking down to the Tourist Office, a long way from the Church, she drove past. When I got the the office she was there to greet me and to drive me to the Gite, and show me how things worked.
After I had a shower I decided that I would then use a laundromat facility - which turned out to be a loooong way from the gite. As I was returning a young girl turned into a side street, crossed over to me and said she knew I was tired could she take me to the gite. She knew who I was, because this was another of those wonderful people from the Tourist office. Again, she went out of her way to help me (out of office hours what's more!), and she told me how people in France have the repuation for not being helpfull. I had to tell that in my experience it is a different story altogether!
Today I have been walking through Napoleon's Territory. As I crossed the bridge over the River Aube in a little village called Brienne-la-Vielle I read how Napoleon was loosing a battle here. He planned the retreat and when the last of his soldiers crossed the river (a very deep, and fast flowing one at the moment, though not always apparently) the last of the soldiers had instructions to destroy the bridge - nothings new is it?
Bar-sur-Aube is a lovely little village (I would call it a town), and tonight I will be sleeping in the Presbytere (I think it is something like a Church House).
The girl in the Toursit office here told me that there were 2 Australian woman walking the same route as me who came through on Wednesday, so there are pilgrims along the way though apart from Jaqui from NZ I have spent no time with any and am still on my own at most places.