We were delighted to be joined by Tom’s friend Stuart who arrived last night from the USA via London and Paris. As we had a long day ahead of us we turned in early after a welcoming glass of wine (or two!) in the hotel bar. Annoyingly we were kept awake by people shouting in the street until well after midnight, but we still had to be up early to get going. After breakfast and a detour to the boulangerie to buy some filled rolls for lunch, we joined the VF on the riverbank and followed it around the curve in the river through a lovely park with lots of beautiful mature plane trees.

Gradually the fortifications on the adjacent hilltop came into view and we realised we were going to have to climb up there. The guide books suggest taking a bus or taxi to the top to avoid a difficult start to the day but we thought that would be cheating! In fact, the climb wasn’t too bad, and there were good views back over Besancon giving an excuse for regular pauses.

Towards the top we were greeted by a cyclist from London who said we were the fifth pilgrims he’d seen today and he’d like to take a photograph of us, so we duly posed for a picture. James was very encouraging about our pilgrimage, and generously suggested that we were doing it the proper way on foot. He, poor chap, was having to return to Besancon to get a broken cable repaired.

At the top of the hill is la Chapelle des Buis which was rebuilt in 1860. It is simple and has stunning stained glass windows in a style reminiscent of art nouveau. We were heartened to see a notice inviting pilgrims needing accommodation to call a number for assistance. Though we had pre-booked our lodgings, we were aware that other pilgrims rely on something turning up where they need it so it was good to see help being offered.

From this point the official VF route does a large loop eastwards but, as the day was going to be long anyway, we decided to take a more direct route southwards using country lanes and woodland tracks.

We first had to get across the busy N57 and walk through the village of La Veze, giving us good views of the extensive forest ahead of us. It has been one of the joys of our walk to spend so much time in forests which seem to be valued and cared for by their local communities, and teem with life, particularly birds and butterflies.

Coming upon a woodland shelter and picnic table was too tempting and we stopped for an early lunch. We’ve learned the hard way that some forests are so well kept that there are no fallen tree trunks or log piles to sit on when we want a rest or lunch, so it’s best to grab the opportunity to be comfortable whenever we find a proper seat.

The more direct route we’d opted for brought us out of forest into farmland before entering the village of Tarcenay in the early afternoon. On passing a gentleman working in his garden we asked if he could refill our water bottles for us, and he readily agreed, giving us refreshingly cold water and wishing us bonne route! Our bottles get quite warm during the day, especially the one on the sunny side, and drinking tepid water is somehow not as thirst quenching as cold water, though just getting hold of sufficient water is obviously the main concern.

Rather than take the road direct to Ornans, we decided instead to go over the hill to Foucherans and rejoin the official VF route. Foucherans used to be the end of the day’s walk but as we’d been unable to find accommodation there the plan was to walk on to Ornans, the next place with anywhere to stay. Ironically, as we walked into Foucherans we were accosted by a man in his car who stopped to ask if we needed accommodation and invited us to use his gite! As we had a hotel booked in Ornans we felt we had to turn down his offer and walk on.

Unfortunately we lost our way on the woodland tracks and ended up walking down into a valley, and then having to walk back uphill to rejoin the correct route. It was tiring, but the scenery became more and more spectacular, with limestone ridges giving way to further views along the valley.

Much of the last few kilometres into Ornans was along an old railway line, so it was easy level walking, giving us plenty of opportunity to marvel at the limestone escarpments around us.

As is often the way, our hotel was not on the edge of town and we had to slog our way along pavements with heavy traffic thundering past us to get into the centre. However, on arrival at the hotel we were relieved to be reassured that the owner had noted our request for a quiet room, and we were going to be at the back of the hotel away from the traffic.

View from our bedroom window

After a shower and changing into clean clothes we walked a few yards further down into town to find a bar and restaurant for supper. Ornans is delightful, with a pretty square shaded by trees and space for elderly gentlemen to play petanque, though sadly there were none to be seen!

The highlight of today was being able to share it with Stuart. We enjoyed discussing a wide range of topics, from politics and current affairs to history and morality, as well as gaining a better understanding of what life is like in the USA. It was also much cooler today than it has been, which made the long day easier than it might have been. But we were still very glad to arrive at our destination!

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