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Trip Report “… I fear’d to set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek” - Anselm in northern France

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“Bonjour monsieur, vous avez bien dormi?” The owner of the Auberge de la Vallée in Bourg-et-Comin smiled. There had been a mix-up with my reservation and I had ended up with the large semi-circular room at the front of the hotel. Yes, I had slept well. I told him that I had eaten well, too, forgetting for a moment the cold cheese I had been served the evening before. He told me to drive carefully, there was a lot of frost on the road. Was I going to Chemin des Dames? No, I’d been the day before. He gestured northwards and remarked that it was just as well, it was going to be freezing up there today.

I used an Eddie Bauer card to scrape the windshield and drove into the rising sun, east towards Reims. On my left was the steep wooded slope of Chemin des Dames; on the right, the flat fields bordering the Aisne River. Everything was white and gold in frost and sun.

Between Cuiry-les-Chaudards and Pontavert, the road turned northeastwards. There, suddenly, I saw my last cemetery: perfect rows of white crosses, a tricouleur overhead. Backs to the sun, the markers threw long shadows towards me across frosted grass.

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