Walking from Paris to Orléans was not the most fun I had but it revealed something to me. We set off from Paris, bright-eyed and optimistic. I remember how excited we were as we walked south on the rue St. Jacques. As we crossed one of the old walls we came across a church in St. James’ honor. I had stopped at Notre Dame to get a stamp in my Pilgrim’s passport and it was unremarkable; this to say the least surprised me. St. Jacques de Paris on the other hand had a beautiful stamp.
I came to Europe to walk but as soon as I made progress and got used to it I drove around France and ended up in Maastricht with friends then lazed about in Paris for a couple of weeks. Though I may have been a bit disappointed in myself at the time, I don’t regret a moment now. Isn’t that funny. My friend Eddie (my traveling companion for the last 3 months of the 5 month trip) seems to live in those moments most of the time. But even he is susceptible to being disappointed from time to time. I guess this makes him human. I know we disappointed one another a few times along the walk but in the end we became much closer because we realized that we’re both, only human.
The road, the old pilgrim’s way out of Paris, is mostly unremarkable. It isn’t the ugliest way but you are walking through urban areas and then finally you are on the outskirts and suddenly in the suburbs and a châteaux pops up out of nowhere. We had our lunch on the grounds of Châteaux Sceaux. Tuna fish sandwich made from Tuna that Eddie brought from the states, Tuna that I think lasted him the entire 3 months, and the man knows how to save from spending money.
The first night we stayed at a hotel, Ibis. You see these all over France; they are a kind of low rate chain, it was a dismal first start, we only walked 17k.
To compensate, the next day we walked 30k. About half way I got distracted and lost my footing on a transition from sidewalk to asphalt. Over 60 pounds of stuff on my back ensured that my knee (or just under it to be more precise) would have a small but very painful gash, in the same place as the first time when I injured it in Italy. I sat in the grass near a school and patched it up using wound stuff I’d packed. I didn’t really have a proper bandage though and a nice woman to whom I showed my injury, gave me some first aid gauze and bandages to take with me.
We continued and reached a town that we found out had no hotel, or hostel. Eddie was determined to find lodgings. This was one of those moments that annoyed me about him, but while he went off and did his thing, I did mine.
I started a conversation with a man who was hanging around outside a grocer’s and I began inquiring about lodgings etc. He spoke fairly decent English and explained that there was no hotel in this little town. In fact not one place for guests to stay, no one comes to this town to visit. That was kind of strange but then he offered us a place at his apartment.
Eddie was a bit cautious but we took him up on the offer and it actually turned out to be great. Its funny, I wouldn’t likely accept the same offer from a stranger back home in Miami, somehow this little town in the middle of nowhere south of Paris made me trusting. The man was strange but in a good way. He gave up his own bed, and my knee felt better the next morning. We said goodbye to our new friend.
That night we camped. It was my first time camping and it was pretty much as horrible an experience as I thought it would be. Fortunately the investment I made in my tent paid off, a palace next to Eddie’s little one-person tent. Aches and pains and the shower was cold, I was completely out of my element and comfort zone and didn’t love it yet. I don’t remember complaining though, at least not much. Eddie had a bag of beef jerky and we shared it while watching some event at the Cannes Film Festival on television in the camping place’s common recreation room.
We woke up and just about everything had a film of wet. I think you are supposed to wait till the sun dries everything up but of course we had a long way to go and had to wake up early. We walked through fields and talked about the possibility of our descendants choosing to walk the Camino together to honour us, walking the same roads we were discovering. A large hound decided it loved Eddie and we had a terrible time loosing it and finally my knee just wouldn’t take anymore and I ended up cabbing it the rest of the way while Eddie chose to walk it.
The next day Eddie carried my heavy pack and I carried his that was considerably lighter. It was one of the best things anyone has done for me. We walked into Orléans together and I was extremely satisfied and happy. 5 days and 100 some odd kilometers later we traversed the same distance it would take someone roughly 3 hours to drive. We were planning to go back to Paris so I could recover, Eddie was heading to a music festival and we wanted to meet again in Tours. But for now we were in reward mode, we had escargot, his first time, and drank wine and watched the trendy locals.
We never made it to Tours; we discovered something better through a series of mishaps, all mine and I discovered that I don’t give up easily.