Sunday, 30 June 2013
Friday, 28 June 2013
Thursday, 27 June 2013
Towns in France are ripping themselves apart in their hurry to regenerate, part of this is the reintroduction of trams. If anything is going to kill me it will be a tram. The Silent Killer. Crossing the rails I feel vulnerable, lost. I never know which way to look, A mistake and that's it, the quick way to Zurich.
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Monday, 24 June 2013
When the Seine disappeared so too did the Grand Randonnee Two. GR2. The footpath from Le Havre along the Seine almost to Dijon. I have transferred my affections to the Canal de Bourgogne, the River Saone, and from today, the Rhone to Rhine link canal. Walking along canals, though simpler is mentally longer. Relative charms, 1km on a river feels like two on a canal.
The mountains I have been predicting have not materialised. Poor geography studies. Wonderfully flat. Rain storms become visible as cross hatching on the horizon an hour away. Giving time for avoidance, I managed to scrounge a lift on a barge just as a heavy downpour began. Got me past a restricted zone, no towpath due to a chemical factory.
Saturday, 22 June 2013
Friday, 21 June 2013
That peaches can be flat and courgettes round.
Overhead power cables go CRICK and then again CRICK when you are enjoying the silence.
Overhead power cables go CRICK and then again CRICK when you are enjoying the silence.
Horses itch lying down. They roll around on the ground. (of course).
That growing corn is a very precise process. (of course). Farm workers measure the fields out and place markers for planting accuracy and harvesting efficiency.
That constant whirr, the grating whirr of forestry workers, sawmills, humble carvers is the collective sound of council employees and local residents strimming back nature.
That blackbird is spoken in all the places I have been to.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:48
Thursday, 20 June 2013
Going in the opposite direction to Louis Philippe was Frederich Engels. At the height of the February revolution Engels lost his grip and went for a long walk to Burgundy. It was here that he discovered Chateau Margaux 1848, the classic Bordeaux.
Four white butterflies around a striking blue flower (not budlea). A billowing priest on a 12speed drop handlebar bicycle. Bonjour. Made me jump.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 13:46
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Awoke wolf whistling to the view over the forest. Must be happy. This area is the source of many rivers, inc. the Seine and the St Seine, which adds to the confusion. It also the source of much bottled water, accounting for the rigorous security fencing and large scale tankers rattling down country lanes. If anywhere in France should be kept moist, this is the spot.
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Monday, 17 June 2013
Sunday, 16 June 2013
Saturday, 15 June 2013
Friday, 14 June 2013
Thursday, 13 June 2013
A newly dedicated pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela from North Western Europe. Via Paris, along the Seine, river Yonne and Sens. Not exactly direct but got the thumbs up and broad smiles from the cafe owner and a group of pilgrims returning to Holland from Santiago in their vintage Jaguars.
When I tell people of my journey, they nod wisely about the GR2, the long distance east to west path. Switzerland, Suisse yes, yes, no problem. But why are you going to Dijon? Followed by a mime of a lump and more wise noddings.
There are several interlocking graphs of compromise in this pilgrimage thing. The direct route. Noise, fumes, endless lorries versus country roads, river banks and lanes is one. Cost and personal autonomy: hotel Ibis vs small village gites is another. Internet connection, wifi available, another? And possibly style? Solitary walker; sprightly, shorts, chunky boots, mini rucksack, weather shielded map ready to go on one end of the scale and this group of five course bon vivants on the other.
Chaucer (plus Powell&Pressburger and Pasolini) were so accurate in their descriptions. Timeless. A cockerel crowing in the next field says it is time to leave.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 10:26
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
The man with a van who took me out of the cement works and put me back on track told me that he had walked to Paris, took him three days.
Woman kicking a dryer in the laudrette, I offered kicking advice, she asked if I was English. Pause. The dryer started to spin. We laughed. She'd been made redundant. She was going to New York State to walk. To think, she said.
Alain, in the place I stayed last night, told me Schuberts song cycle Winterreise worked for him. It goes round and comes back to itself, he said.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:16
Sunday, 9 June 2013
By default I have stayed in several Hotel Ibis. They serve my needs perfectly. Similar set up in most locations. Simple rooms, comfy bed, working shower, free wifi, standard breakfast with pleasant staff who seem to be multilingual. Best is that Ibis Budgets are less expensive than most chambre d'hote and gites. Usually on the outskirts of town, they appear like an oasis on the horizon, just as I'm heading for despair. There seems no limit to Ibis expansion into France.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 18:08
Friday, 7 June 2013
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 12:19
Thursday, 6 June 2013
Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Concluded that pied wagtails, actually not just pied, all wagtails are what makes me happy. Their size, they way they jump about, the way they fly, that they are so determined, work in groups and yet seem so independent. They are the cat of the bird world.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:49
Previously the places I have got lost in have been ornamental gardens and gravel pits. Until I spent a whole morning wandering around the well charted Bois de Boulogne. My frustration eventually relieved by dramatic, and noisy, police intervention against a long row of family 4x4 vehicles tamely parked on a cute leafy lane. The road was blocked by police cars, flashing lights, sirens etc. In seconds all the parked cars were ticketed then roughly bounced then lifted onto tow away trucks. Whole families, joggers, people eating ice creams emerged from the wooded glades screaming, crying, shouting, some clinging to their cars. One man climbing onto the back of a towtruck trying to uncouple his car. I was warned not to take photographs. It was a nasty business, done with military precision. No lives were lost but prisoners were taken. I had discovered the back streets of Roland Garros, a major tennis tournament was in play,
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 10:18
Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 11:29
Monday, 3 June 2013
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 21:06
The McDonalds are getting closer together, the yapping dogs smaller and it's more difficult to find a quiet spot to have lunch without bothersome pigeons. The Seine is overfull. It flows over the ornamental bushes and the quaint paths that line the river. The queue in the boulangerie this morning was full of it. What will happen? No rain but the river is definitely rising.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 13:50
Sunday, 2 June 2013
Your emotions are on the outside. Walking longer distances than usual exhausts you energies. Decisions get made on gut feeling. I left one town and walked seven miles to the next because it was cloudy, the place looked gloomy. The right decision. All the time you are on the look out for clues. The sight of a suburban tower block in the distance lifted me. The ugly bridge over the Seine at Rouen made me gushingly happy. The first sight of Paris...
I've become aware of my body, too aware, particularly my feet. Slight pains or aches could mean the end of the journey. These niggle as you walk. My mind thought I had a blood clot in my ankle, it was a bit of plastic from a price tag in my sock. A real nuisance. My sun tan lotion is waterproof, it makes me sweat in an odd way.
When I have sorted out the end of my day, take off my rucksac, I want to go for a walk. It is difficult to stop. I have been having to deliberately time out, to go nowhere. To sit down, take pressure off my feet. To listen?
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 23:36
"A walk is a series of questions"
Thank you Jane.
Each day someone in a car has drawn up next to me to ask directions. Personally, the last person I would flag down is a man in sunglasses lugging an embarrassingly large rucsac. Obviously not local. Any conversation only lasts till they realise I am British and sweating heavily.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 09:56
Saturday, 1 June 2013
I have never walked so far.
Brighton: Newhaven: Dieppe: Totes: Rouen: Poses: Les Andelys: Vernon: Mantes la Jolie.
I seem to have been following two contradictory routes. One taken by ex-king Louis Philippe and his family as they fled Paris for Surrey during the 1848 revolution. His name and image keep cropping up. I passed directions to a museum/ stately home dedicated to the Orleans legitimacy over the French crown. One night I stayed in an olde inn that had his picture on the wall. Freaky or kitsch?
In the opposite direction, I seem to have been following the off-road berghaus route of the Canadian army as it moved en masse into Europe in 1944. Every ultra long suburban avenue in Normandy is named after them, which must be confusing for the postal service. Not much mention of the US or British, perhaps they landed elsewhere or maybe some of the Canadians spoke French and get a better press as a result?.
Posted by Jonathan Swain at 21:51