Number of kilometres today: 29.2
Total kilometres walked from Canterbury: 566.23
Total steps since Canterbury: 802,361
The house below (see photo) is what I will now think of as the House of Horror. I think it looks a little sinister with the two deer heads stuck on it as decoration. In reality is the Hebergement Pelerine in Brienne-le-Chateau, a house provided by the town for pilgrims to stay for a small fee. Except, it appears, when there is a big festival on in town and they will let anyone stay there.
It so happened that I arrived in Brienne-le-Chateau on Saturday afternoon in the middle of a weekend festival, Fete de la Choucroute. The narrow streets were crowded with stalls and people shuffling along to look at everything. At the pilgrim house, I saw that one other person had laid out their sleeping bag and left a bag in a room on the second floor. I was excited at the prospect of meeting another pilgrim. I never did meet him. Just before midnight I was woken by male voices speaking French loudly coming into the house and then trying to get into my room. I had bolted the door closed before I went to bed and it could only be opened from the inside. When they kept trying to open the door, I unwisely got out of bed and opened it, saw two guys reeking of strong tobacco and alcohol, pushed the door closed against the first guy who wanted to come and sleep in my room and bolted it closed again.
Fight or flight mode kicked in. My body automatically tensed itself like it was a giant fist ready to punch someone. My heart pounded my chest like it was trying to escape a cage. I was terrified and very alone and vulnerable. I had no idea who they were or what they were doing and if I was safe. They went upstairs and were dragging furniture around and talking loudly. One guy took a phone call. Ten minues later another car arrived and someone else came in and went upstairs. Thirty minutes later the house fell quiet as they went to sleep. Except me. It took me a few hours to fall asleep again. In the meantime I planned my escape at first light, to quietly leave the house so I would never have to see them. I wasn't going to brush my teeth or use the toilet which was upstairs, or even fill my camelbak with water for the day. I just wanted to get out of there. In the end they beat me to it, all leaving the house before 7am.
I was happy to leave the house behind too at 7.30am as I headed into town to find coffee, breakfast and my supplies for the day. The morning was crisp, the sun just rising and sofly lighting the town that was surrounded by light fog. Its beauty softened my heart and I started to let go of the memory of the night before. I walked across the field to Brienne-la-Vielle mesmerised by the beauty of sun on fresh dew. And then I cried. My sobs releasing the nervous tension locked in my body. Then it was gone. The night had passed. I was safe and back out walking in this beautiful countryside, just a little more discerning about where I will choose to stay.
View from Brienne-le-Chateau
Path to Brienne-la-Vielle
Woodlands near Brienne-la-Vielle
Bridge and church in Unienville
Church in Dolancourt.I ate my lunch on the third bench seat then lay down in the sunshine and watched the swallows swoop.