TRAVEL: BUSKING TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Our charity trombonist receives a warm welcome from French families, even though he has to sing a victory hymn to an English defeat in 1705 - compensation for the bog at the end of the Roman road

9 May

After breakfast, a guided tour of the Moselle with my hosts, culminating in the newly restored chateau de Marlbrouck, scene of an English defeat in 1705. Campaign described by excessively enthusiastic guide, who dragoons us into singing victory hymns. Should I join in, or retaliate with Agincourt song? Cowardice prevails. I feign tone-deafness, and mime.

Set off after huge barbecue lunch, walk through tiny hamlets, past many abandoned farms. Suddenly, a squeal of brakes, and four festively clad French women surge on to the pavement. Youngest staggers over to me. "I've just been confirmed. Have some champagne." I drink. They applaud, then vanish into a house. Camp outside a farm. Family celebrating their daughter's confirmation. Invited to join the party: more champagne. I think I'm going to like France.

10 May

Family breakfast, walk all day, camp outside farm. Invited to eat with farmer and three beautiful daughters. Meal lasts an hour. Post-prandial drinks last until midnight. Yes, I like France.

11 May

Metz, another park-like city with huge walls. How do they do it? Also a long history. Founded by Romans, destroyed by Goths, re-founded, destroyed by Huns. Re-re-founded, fought over by France and Germany for a millennium. People here still feel mistrusted by Paris for being almost German. They dislike their neighbours in Alsace - for being almost German. Politics are complicated here, but they really believe in Europe.

Joined in the evening by the Three Beautiful Daughters and attendant boyfriends (curse). Taken out for a meal. We're in France, so what do we eat? Pizza.

13 May

Cross-country towards the Vosges, which are now looming on the horizon, four long days, march ahead. Beautiful countryside, oil-seed rape and rustling oaks, but sad. War cemeteries everywhere: Franco-Prussian war and two world wars. I count 20 on my map without even trying.

Camp outside a forest lodge. Invited in. "It's my daughter's birthday!" Cake and wine again. It's tough travelling here.

15 May

On towards the hills, past Bitche, one of the fortresses of the Maginot line. Follow the Roman road - straight into a bog. Slog through bush, briar and mud for three miles, emerge ragged and reeking. Wash off the worst in a stream, go shopping. Chemist's assistant gives me free bar of soap. Is this a hint?

Camp outside stately home, invited in. First stop: shower. A light meal follows: prawns, salad, steak and chips, three sorts of wine. Then the local speciality: schnapps. Home-distilled. More than 57 varieties. Sit up sampling until long after midnight. Now that's hospitality.

Vive la France!

For more information on the charity trombone walk, visit the website at www.netplaycafe.co.uk/bone

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor