The official route of the Via Francigena takes pilgrims along the coast from Calais to the port of Wissant, which is where Sigeric, the tenth century Archbishop of Canterbury landed. Since I’m not obsessed with complete adherence to Sigeric’s itinerary, I took a direct route to Guînes with the added advantage that it allowed me to view Rodin’s sculpture of the Burghers of Calais – Six citizens who surrendered themselves to Edward III with nooses around their necks to end the 11 month siege of Calais in 1346. Thanks to the intervention of Edward’s wife, Philippa of Hainault, their lives were spared. History might have taken a different course if he had been married to Tracy of Theydon Bois.
Despite an unpromising drizzle at the start of the day, it was a mostly dry walk along a pleasant canal path. At one point i walked with a young man smoking a pipe. He was on his way to see his grandfather. We discussed a graphic novel that he’s drawing – a story of a friendship between two men in a dystopian future.
In Guînes I found a wall mural to commemorate the field of the cloth of gold – a grand summit between Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France. The two kings spent three weeks impressing each other with elaborate entertainments, fine banquets, and extravagant clothes before signing a treaty. Today they would probably just have tweeted “My button is bigger and it works.”
I’m regretting some schoolboy errors that I made in the equipment that I packed for this trip. As a result I can’t camp and my bag is too heavy. Never mind. I’m at a lovely farmhouse hotel tonight and I have an airbnb booked for tomorrow. Forecast is for rain in the afternoon so I’ll try to get an early start.