12 August 2011
Since leaving Innsbruck, it’s been over the mountains, through the woods, and then some. I’ve fallen asleep to the roar of ice falling on the north side of the Jungfrau, to the whirling of wild boar in the forests of Alsace, and to the growl of combines coursing wheat fields well into the night; I’ve felt a mighty drum repeating in my head beneath the north face of the Eiger and the west wall of Strasbourg Cathedral; I’ve walked highways, byways, Roman stone roads and the Santiago trail, gotten tangled in thistles, hopped barbed-wire fences, and found myself standing by accident on the Rue Nicolas Flamel; I got an umbrella, because for two months straight it’s rained almost every day, sometimes long and pensively, sometimes with a five-minute fury that’s left roads steaming through the afternoon. I’ve felt as though the calendar has suddenly leapt forward; a minute ago I was setting out from Beyoğlu in Istanbul; only a moment past, I left Germany on a race against my Schengen clock, doing a marathon or more each day across the fields of France.
Last night I finished reading Dreams from My Father at 6:00 in the morning, so yet again I’m lurching on two hours of sleep with a whole lot of walking to do. Yesterday I saw Paris on the outside, all by foot; today I’ll see the same, but on the inside, much though I dread the thought of standing stock-still for hours in the August sun until the line advances far enough to get me in the Louvre, the Sainte-Chapelle, the Centre Pompidou – whatever time allows. A moveable feast is one thing, and fast food, another.
From Paris I head through Amiens to Calais, and then to Dover on August 19. I’m still not sure how to cross the Channel, but I suspect I won’t be walking; I just know that once I land in England, I’ll be very, very glad to take on each day a little less ferociously; will be very happy if there’s any chance to meet old friends along the way; and will be much relieved both for my friends and for the country as a whole if England itself is living less ferociously in the weeks to come.
Hoping everyone is all right,