The two ladies dished up eggs and toast. I lay in the bunk longer, but we had to be out by 8, so I walked on anyway. I talked to a guy from Belgium who walked two months from Belgium ‘because I am alone’. He preferred the French way because there were ‘less people’. Only later I thought, he may not have been contradicting himself. He is getting slower. Drank a cup of real wine from a free fountain. Said hello to the C— ladies, swapped reports on previous hostels. They laughed when I said I was worried I would get slower and said, Yeah, but how old was he. I said Maybe 60 and they laughed again. I didn’t know why. Stopped at V—. Sat in church like a vault. Read my book. The A— guy said Are you following me? I said Haha. The owner’s parents let me in early as it was cold, made me tea, and slowly folded the linen together. Got a key from a bar and walked uphill to a fortress. Lighter without a backpack. Met Dutch lady in square, she told me about a ‘meeting’ in her hostel. Made my lentils and rice. Went to meditation circle in a rugged room with a giant Ikea light ball—paper—and floor cushions. Afterwards they served peppermint tea and I looked around and thought, I am alone.
Ate breakfast, walked, very cold, my hands weak with cold. Undulating landscape, grain crops and some small tree crops, or vines. Today my feet sore from carrying weight, exhausted. Had mussels in bread in L—, and lay on a bench seat in the sun just out of town, in the wildflowers; dangled my legs off a drain. When I walk at my pace I recover better. Lay on my bunk bed and read The Manor. I remembered the time I felt such peace, looking at the church on the hill, but that is not now. B— told me he has 15 self-addressed envelopes and he sends a letter every few days to his wife. Dinner.
Clear, still, sunny morning. I felt I could take all day. More vineyards, some olives. I walked with the C— man, A—, and he talked about greed. Had a croissant and a cookie in V—. The trail was full of bikes. It feels more mundane now to be walking; the plain ordinariness of walking along when you want only one thing: to lie down. A lady at a table before L— stamped my passport, three dogs chained to kennels looked at everyone who passed. I washed my clothes, walked to town, bought fruit. The guy in S— said Have fun!
Last night I didn’t know what to do. I’d eaten early, and wrote a postcard outside, but it started raining. I read my book The Orphan Masters Son in bed, it was still light outside. Suddenly I had the peaceful feeling that things would soon be alright. In the night a man went to wake up a snorer. The snorer joked to his friends in the morning He was going to take up a collection for my hotel room. Started walk at 10, in the rain, met A— who taught me a walking technique. A— said she too would have liked a friend last night. In N— I had bread and cheese, the bread fresh, watery. Out of town it got very hot, a gang in a van arrived at one of the vineyards. I came to a main road and saw a different town to the left, not the one I’d thought I was walking towards. V— wasn’t to be seen and I had barely any water left. Decided eventually to add kms and get water. A cyclist gave me water from his bottle and said it was 3 km more. A farmer with stones on a tractor confirmed. The hostel has roses on the table. Went for a walk at dusk when the sun was making the hills green and paradisiacal, and young people were in the grass at the edge of town drinking red wine at a beaten up table and singing pop songs. The birds were still twittering, but everything was restful. A woman looked out her window, the street was empty.
Woke to the trickling sound of rain, tugs of fear at the new day. Ate my boiled egg with the watery bread at the kitchen table. Met Australian ladies. Woke A—. Ate my last boiled egg in a car park in N—. Rested on way to A—, eating orange. The yellow and whiteness of daisies, chamomile flowers. The stillness after walking. Yesterday at my rest stop, the birds were black and flying around the church tower. I thought how I’d never really said goodbye, but every time that last year had been like goodbye. The church, inside, smelt of flowers, the front ornate and gold. At the hostel I talked to my roommate from Holland. I said how I hadn’t expected the walk to reduce stress. This is not what I thought I wanted. We agreed to eat together.
Last night I— cooked pasta salad with salmon, and I made rice with mushroom, tuna, and we had bread and cheese and wine. Her recipe is:
cooked pasta / olive oil / verjuice / smoked salmon, chopped / lemon rind, cut in strips / tomatoes cubed (she takes the skin off usually) / capers (she made the mistake and bought canned peas instead) / thyme
Mix olive oil and verjuice to make a dressing. Mix remaining ingredients, pour dressing over.
This is the recipe she takes camping. She told me about her daughter’s grandmother, and I thought about companionship. Earlier, she said when you are exhausted, you only feel what you have, the essential. The church bell rang 7. The morning seemed the start of a bright day, sun shining beneath the clouds, fresh, quiet, people before me setting off down the road. More grain—wheat, barley—some vines. I bought a coffee in C— where a council worker clipping a hedge said Frio! to me, and I agreed. On the hill before N— I sat on a big clod and ate an orange and some chocolate. Out of town it really started to rain. I found the famous church tower, claimed a floor mat, showered and had a sandwich. The C— man started quietly strumming a guitar down by the fireplace, and singing a song softly in French. People resting in their sleeping bags started singing, and clapped when he’d finished. He played Blowin’ in the Wind, Road to Tipperary, and ‘we should laugh and love and live, because we might not be the young ones for very long’.