top of page

Day 42: from Warmeriville to the abbey of Scourmont near Chimay (B), 105 km

At 6:45 I am already down the street from the B&B, towards Rethel, and I take a last picture of the monument of the dead with old cannons from WWI. I immediately drive through the endless fields of sugar beets. Another beautiful sunrise with all possible shades of red and orange. Around 8:30 am I enter Rethel, which is located on the Aisne river with a parallel canal next to it.

Warmeriville: the monument for the dead; Rethel: the church of Saint-Nicolas

Usually people don't stop in Rethel, which is a pity, because there is a beautiful Saint Nicolas church that is located on top of a hill and is visible from afar. It is a Gothic church with a southern entrance in Flaming Gothic. Saint Nicholas welcomes the visitor with at his feet the children who were murdered by an evil innkeeper and who were miraculously brought back to life by him. Inside there is a beautiful statue of Saint Margaret with the dragon that she crushes. On the south side there are also two beautiful rose windows with many blue tones, shimmering in the morning sun. I also notice a beautiful star vault. Everything is has also been well restored.

St Nicolas church in Rethel: southern portal with St. Nicolas, St. Margaret crushing the dragon and star vault

I ask the pub owner which route he advises me to cycle easily and still making good progress and he advises me to ride north via Sorbon, Sery and Wasigny. When I later ask a farmer how to proceed, he confirms that and adds to continue cycling via Liart, Aouste and Rumigny to finally end up in Auvillers-les-Forges. The farmer is Pierre Leroy who walks his dogs in a typical French way. He drives his car with the door open on a small road and his dogs run past it: when they are tired they jump into the car. He comes from Wallonia and moved here a long time ago with his wife who comes from Deinze. He raises cattle and sheep and also plants all kinds of grain crops. He's clearly having a good time here.

Pierre Leroy who drives through the fields with his dogs

All great suggestions for cycling through those villages, because that brings me to part of the “route des églises fortifiées de la Thiérache” which is the name of this part of the French Ardennes where we now end up. Known for its Maroilles cheese, for its cider and its tartiflette. They put the Maroilles cheese in all sauces, in mashed potatoes and in Lille, where the big annual fair took place last weekend, even with mussels. However, I must also add that the smaller roads require a bit more effort, because they rise and descend more than the major roads, which are uncomfortable because they are too busy. I am used to going up and descending after more than 40 days in France, especially after the Pyrenees and the Massif Central.

Eglise fortifiée of Liart

Thus, I can visit the églises fortifiée of the town of Liart, a very good example of such a fortified church, mostly built between the 14th and 16th centuries. In the next village of Aouste there is another good example of such a church. They both clearly resemble a church-fortress. In summary, they were built for three reasons expressed with FFF: Frontière, Fronde and Féodalité. they were located in a border area between different countries or counties, they were part of a feudal defense system and also served to protect the people during frondes or internal revolts and wars.

Eglise fortifiée of Aouste

Near Rumigny there is even a “maison fortifiée” called La cour des Près, with a moat with water around it. This route of fortified churches is really worth a week's vacation. I have done that with Magda at least twice in the past and it has the advantage that it is close to Belgium and is located in the Parc Naturel of the French Ardennes. This route stretches from east to west below the Belgian border. Such visits to churches take time but no money because all churches are free to enter and are all open here.

Rumigny: Maison forte

Around 1.30 pm I reach Auvillers-les-Forges where I find out that by starting very early I only have to cycle 21 km. In the village square I go and have my lunch under the trees in the shade: my last half baguette with Spanish ham on top and some emmentaler lait cru cheese on top of the ham. I have another bottle of Pelforth brune, a beer from the north of France, which is fresh enough and goes well with my last lunch of this pilgrimage in France. I always find lunch outside super nice and I really enjoy it.

Cycling through the woods near Auvillers-les-Forges

At 2 pm I am on my bike and on the advice of a lady I meet nearby I take the D 20 which, she says, takes me straight to Scourmont Abbey, the brewers of Chimay beer. She is right, the D20 is very small and in poor condition with many pits and boulders, but it runs partly through a large forest and is super quiet and cool. After 18 km I come out of the forest and there is a small house along the road with DF on it, the former Douane Française and next to it an official border stone that shows where the border is exactly. I cycle a little further and now I also see Belgian number plates. Around the next bend I see the beautiful abbey of Scourmont in the distance where I will spend the night as I did on the first day of my trip on July 16 with Floky.

House of the former French customs, border stone and in the distance the abbey of Scourmont

I don't go there immediately, but drive 500 meters past the abbey where there is an inn-restaurant of the abbey that sells all their products. I sit on the terrace and first order a blonde Chimay and then a brown Chimay and it tastes great. Then I cycle to the abbey. I am welcomed by an older man, but younger than me, who assigns me one of the new rooms with shower and toilet so that I can have a good rest after my long journey; He tells me he remembers my email from June when I asked if I could stay here as a pilgrim and why. He adds that the accommodation, the room, the evening meal and the breakfast are offered free of charge for the Rinus Pini fund: a nice gesture that I really appreciate and for which I am very grateful to the abbey.

Enjoying a fresh Chimay beer

The bike is inside and charging. I'm going to take a shower, write my blog and quickly walk to the church to experience the last part of vespers. Then, at 6:50 p.m. sharp, it's dinner, but in complete silence: a tasty vegetarian vegetable dish with Chimay blonde dorée and Chimay cheese for dessert. After doing the dishes and setting the table for breakfast together with the other guests, we are 7 in total, we can have another coffee or tea and a piece of fruit if anyone wishes. It is now allowed to talk over coffee. I sit down with an older lady, Mia, from Riemst who comes here regularly. She wants to know how my pilgrimage went and whether the two grandchildren liked it. A quarter of an hour later I go to my room, I call Magda and around 8 pm I am in bed. Tomorrow morning I want to go to Lauds at 6.30 am, have breakfast at 7 am and leave the house at 7.45 am to cycle the last 130 km. It was a nice day through the French Ardennes. I hope I get home safely tomorrow.

1 view0 comments


bottom of page