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? 

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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. 

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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