Day fourteen: Laon to Pontavert

The usual night stop is Corbeny, but we had to creative using booking.com to find an alternative as the one and only hotel in Corbeny was full. It actually worked out ok as this was the last day of pre-planned diversions to battle sites of WW1. Today we diverted along a Section of the Chemin des dames, which was the front line between the French and German armies, and witnessed intense fighting at different times during the war. It was also the location of the failed French offensive in 1915 which led directly to widespread mutinies in the French army. There is a great museum at the Cavern of the dragons – a massive underground complex of caves and tunnels used by both sides (apparently at the same time, briefly), but unfortunately we just missed the english tour (and not sure if they’d let us in with backpacks anyway.) We did spend time looking at the informative displays, complete with movie footage taken during a battle. Not sure how they did that with the equipment available to them in those days.

The same area was conquered by Julius Caesar (I just read that chapter of his book “The Conquest of Gaul”) and there was a major battle in 1814 between Napoleon’ French army and the armies of Prussia and Russia.

Based on past experience, we stocked up on food at the Carrefour in Laon to provision us for the weekend. Afternoons on Saturday and all day Sunday, everything in rural and small town France “c’est ferme”. And to date, the number of cafes we have seen in villages we have passed through can be counted with your thumbs. Today was the exception – every village had at least one cafe, and we saw one fruit & vege store and three boulangeries. While the day old sandwiches were good, nothing compares to a fresh baguette.

Daily km: 28.4

Memorable moment: the blown call on likelihood of cafes enroute.

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