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DAY 40: from MONTFEY to SEZANNE, 100 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

I leave my gîte in Montfey around 7 am. First I drive past the 12th – 16th century chapel. The chapel of St Léger has been thoroughly renovated in recent decades and the glass stained windows have also been restored. There is no bell tower, but nearby in the cemetery is a belfry with a wooden top in which the bell of the church hangs. Monfey is located on top of a hill and there is another beautiful sunrise to admire.

Around 9 o'clock Magda calls me to let me know that the apartment in Fère Champenoise is not available. At AirB & B you have to ask if they want you and there they suddenly claimed to have no place for pilgrims. Magda immediately started looking again and after four hours of searching she found an apartment in Sézanne in the old part of town. That's fine because I've never been to Sézanne.

Montfey: sunrise, the church dedicated to saint Peter and the belfry with the bell of the church in the cemetry

I cycle through the middle of the department of the Aube: quiet rolling landscapes with a lot of agriculture and also some cattle. Lots of corn and sunflowers ready to be harvested. I ride to the Canal de la Haute-Seine. This is a French artificial watercourse that crosses the departments of Aube and Marne between the confluence of the Aube and the Seine, near Romilly-sur-Seine, and Troyes. the canal was already planned in the 18th century but it was built in the Empire period and was only inaugurated in 1846. It has been completely closed to freight traffic since 1968 and has only a recreational function.

The landscape underway at some time futuristic with all the satellite dishes

In France there is a wonderful network of canals along which you can cycle, spread all over the country. Some are busy with tourists, others like this canal de Haute Seine are a lot quieter. I drive about 10 kilometers along the canal to Méry-sur-Seine. There I have lunch with delicious French bread with cheese and some terrine de campagne. Around 1 pm I cycle to Sézanne, which is only about 30 km from there. It is hot and there is a lot of headwind and it takes me almost two hours to cover this last stretch.

Views of the Seine and the Canal de La Haute Seine

Once I have arrived, I call the owner of the flat who gives me the code for the box containing the keys. It is in an old house on the 3rd floor and is neat and tidy but a bit on the expensive side, but everything is provided for breakfast and even for dinner with pasta and that is a bonus. We have found that flats in and around the Champagne region can be very expensive, sometimes overly expensive. A night in a B&B in the middle of the best Champagne vineyards can easily cost you 250 euros for a flat for 2 people. You don't get a glass of Champagne, that's for an even more expensive class of apartments.

Sézanne: the Saint-Denis church

Once my luggage is in the flat and the batteries of the bicycle are charging, I go to the church nearby. The church of St-Denis, in Flamboyant Gothic style has a beautiful square tower of 42 m. In the Middle Ages, the current church was part of a double church (St-Denis / St-Julien) served by Cluny monks. After the demolition of the St-Julien church, the church of St-Denis was rebuilt from 1520 onwards. From July 2003 to February 2006, the church underwent its first major restoration and consolidation works; and much remains to be restored. Nets have been stretched everywhere inside and outside the church to protect the people from the falling debris. The southern main entrance is no longer in use.

Sézanne, Saint-Denis church: the nets to protect the churchgoers, the nave and a pièta

Nevertheless, there are some beautiful works of art to see in the church: such as the nave, the church itself which is very slender and the Renaissance stained glass windows. They were taken away during the Second World War but not put back in the right order afterwards. The fresco in the choir depicting the Transfiguration of Christ is curious. Nearby is the high altar from the 18th century. After a walk through the old streets I walk to do my shopping in the Casino store. I buy eggs, a tomato, two slices of ham and some grated cheese to make a nice omelette. At the bakery I still find fresh baguettes and even fresh pains au chocolat for my breakfast. Everything is provided in the apartment for breakfast except bread and petits pains.

Sézanne, Saint-Denis church: the main altar, a glass stained window and the South portal

Back at the apartment I quickly write an email to the brother hotelier of the abbey ND de Scourmont (the brewers of the delicious Chimay beer) to ask if I can stay there the day after tomorrow evening before I drive to Leuven on Tuesday because I forgot to write to them. The brother personally calls me back almost immediately to say that it is OK. He asks me why Floris won't be there… and I say he's already home and at school.

For the rest of the evening I stay in my room and write my blog as usual, and go to bed early. Tomorrow will be a long cycling day because Magda has found accommodation in Warmeriville, a town a little above Reims. I will not ride through the Montagne de Reims nor through the city of Reims itself because I am much too tired for that. I will be riding on a 15-20 km east of the city where it is relatively flat and where I can go faster, but that is still about 120 km. Then I have to drive 90 km from Warmeriville to reach the abbey of Scourmont, which should work. The last day I still have a ride of 130 km waiting for me, but I also did that on the first day, so that should be OK. I call Magda for a while and then put on the news on FR 2 for the first time and fall asleep almost immediately.

Sézanne, Saint-Denis church: gargoyle

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