w i s q u e - a r r a s

everyday on the via francigena is a different story, today was decidedly different from the rest, and maybe even controversial.

i am writing from a hotel in arras.  if you are familiar with the path, you can see right away that I traveled today what would take at least  2-3 days of solid effort walking.  what happened? 


well, this morning I woke up after sleeping about four hours at the abbey last night. it has been by far my favorite accommodation, but I could not fall asleep until 3 or 4. All okay though, there was strong strong coffee waiting at the breakfast table. all good. I set out at about 9:30 to my usual pace. Keep moving forward, no stopping except to maybe photo a cow or search for a stamp. 


I’m getting used to it, but it’s a lonely road. Today’s path was a little more industrialized, a touch of grey in my walking world which up until now has mostly been green. 

about 4 miles into the morning, with cars occasionally passing me on the country roads, a little Perrot honked its horn. 

Rosemary, a retired teacher from Paris who I met at the Abbey, was driving the two other pilgrims I had been traveling alongside since Licques, a mother and child, who did a combination each day of walking/driving each day meet their husband/Dad who was walking the whole way. I planned on walking the whole way too, but the good luck that their attempt to find a taxi in St. Omer failed, and then they took the wrong turn onto the country road to meet me, was too much to let go.

Sure, I’ll take a lift! I was very happy to see my friends and eat lunch with some company !

And we made the most of the little frite stand where we stopped, taking pictures, getting stamps, and generally merry making like any group on a bon adventure.


I thought I might continue on from there, but after lunch, I was less in the mood for the lonely road I chose, so stayed driving with Rosemary for a tour of the countryside, all in French.

l’abbeye at mount saint elois, a French lookout point destroyed during WWI, right outside Arras

l’abbeye at mount saint elois, a French lookout point destroyed during WWI, right outside Arras

In truth, it was a great gift, a friendship, and carried out in a second language for me, and practically, saving me 2 nights of my 90-day visa and 2 nights of hotels in the small cities we passed through, cities I would have to stop and stay in traveling on foot.

On the other hand, because of my marathon  background, where “course cutting” is the paramount dishonor, I felt guilty.

On the other other hand, in the spirit of traveling, friendship, and spontaneity, I was having a great time!


Maybe I even banked a day of rest for when I’m really going to need it. Maybe because of my restless sleep I needed it today. Part of traveling solo for me has been learning to accept help as well as give help when I can; kindness is an international currency. 

On the other hand, maybe I should try to press on past Rome to honor my promise of 1800 kilometers on foot, and I would have liked to thoroughly blogged about the cities we sped through. 


Would love to hear other’s thoughts on this issue, so feel free to comment below if you have an opinion on cars on the Via