I find myself in the heat of France. Yes it is hot, hot, hot, and my route has been slightly altered so as to escape the afternoon asphalt melt fest. By about 10:30 am, the tar on the road begins to get tacky and stick to the bottoms of my shoes. Already by this time, the sweat is dripping off my forehead… and what happened to the breeze? But I am not here to write about the heat.
I have completed my first week on the trail. WOOT!! And it has been incredible: little sleepy french villages, rolling hills, flowers and gardens galore. I actually feel like I am on a very long garden tour, passing through backyards… I now know four different ways to set up poles for beans, and one day when I have land and a garden, I shall try them all and decide which I like best. I set forth on the trail with vigour and determination, ready for big long days covering many miles. Little did I know that the trail had other plans, being very much in charge, and offering challenge without hesitation.
On my second day, I encountered my greatest fear, a wild dog. Ok, well, it wasn’t wild, but it was certainly angry and was not hesitant to prove it had sharp teeth and would have been very happy to sink them into my leg. Luckily, my leg was not a morning snack, and said dog eventually tired of me standing there like a trembling fool and sat in the shade, watching so that I dared not advance. Not really having the resorces or experience to solve this problem, I did the next best thing I could think of, I found a male escort. Yes, how very damsel-in-distress of me, but I didn’t much feel like waiting the whole day for someone to pass or the dog to go home. Regardless, my escort felt very special, I am sure, and also told me I could throw rocks, which is apparently a good deterrent. Though having not actually seen it in action, I am skeptical of the tactic and cross my fingers that I won’t have to test it. I have since encountered many delightful tail wagging pups who have restored my faith in European dogs. They’re not all bad.
I would say that has been the most challenging thing I have encountered thus far. The days continue to go well and I am figuring out a daily routine. The French don’t know what the word stress is, as their lifestyle is incredibly laid back, which makes it difficult to plan things like meals. Their hours are very mixed, taking the afternoon off despite a sign in the window that says what time they open in the afternoon. It’s no longer surprising if the store remains closed the rest of the day. Lodging, too, has been interesting, a good lesson to research guidebooks more thoroughly beforehand. Though there are places listed, there are no addresses, making it a challenge to find a place to stay, except for campgrounds, which have become my norm.
Here I have found some of the kindest folks who inquire about my journey, sharing tid bits of the local history and little windows into their own lives. Last night, due to it being Monday (and in villages, things aren’t typically open on Mondays), the couple who ran the campground made me a delicious dinner and gave me the opportunity to get to know a few locals. I am grateful for the little French I know. It has helped tremendously, though I feel the strain of my limited vocabulary. And yet somehow most of what I say is understood to some degree (I think).
The trail is very interesting, mostly old cart roads winding through the countryside. I’ve gone up a few steep mountainous hills that seem to go on forever and ever, and when I think I have reached a plateau, I turn a corner and up the trail goes. The scramble is well worth it, for there is always a captivating view of the valley waiting at the top and often times a nice shady tree to stop and stretch my legs while catching my breath.
One highlight I have been greatly enjoying is eating Brie and Camembert cheese every day. It is one of the least expensive things, and I am quite certain I have begun to sweat in the smell of stinky cheese. And now when I open my bag, I get a waft of cheese…not sure if this is the most pleasant of things to be greeted with, but my belly is happy nonetheless. French campers are very luxurious in comparison to home as well. They have modest sized campers, to which they add these large tents on the back to make an outdoor patio. However, I have noticed they prefer to take their plastic chairs and sit under a tree, rendering the whole tent portion pointless. There does not appear to be any camping with campfires, which is also interesting. I am still getting used to the differences here.
In five days, I anticipate arriving in Le Puy, which will mark the completion of section 1 (of 3) along the trail. Looking ahead at the days to come, the landscape is about to change to mountains and with fewer villages, and hopefully more shade.
For now, I shall wrap this up, as it’s time to go in search of a food store and maybe some ice cream. Lots of love and happy thoughts….pictures soon to be posted and more adventures and stories to come.
Until then, happy trails and hugs!