Again, again, again, today has been another day that feels unreal. As most of our days have begun, we had so much hope for where we would find ourselves, but none of what we expected found its self to be. Nic and I had a late breakfast with the lovely French woman after she led us just up a few steps into the heart of her home. On the table she had laid different bread for us to try along with homemade confiture and freshly squeezed orange juice. The day before when we had arrived she had been preparing a cherry cake and on the table before us was the cake again waiting for us (half eaten by our Italian friend’s who had dined earlier). The day had a good beginning, but as time moved forward there was a sudden shift in the air and the people.
The castle we were originally going to stay at was no longer able to take us, and so we had decided to camp. Because my foot was also still in poor shape, we thought we would have a short day and stop in a fairly sizable town, Divion. Once we made it into this town we felt a heaviness set in around us. Up until this point there has been this softness, almost like the naivety that you expect and need in order to even begin a pilgrimage like this. Passing through Divion no one said kindly to us, “Bonjour.” We were greeted instead with eyes of mistrust and callus edges. This foul air also created tension between my travel partner and I. Sitting in a grey park in Divion we could not even speak to each other, there was just silence between us and silence between the rest of the world.
After stopping for groceries we decided it was best to not stay in Divion because we both felt very unsettled and so we pushed on. There was another campsite that was just a little ways on. After arriving at the next spot we had high hopes for (our bodies exhausted, our feet tired) we discovered dogs everywhere. Apparently someone had rented out the entire campsite for a dog show and so they had no room for us. We had no other option but to leave. The challenge that we faced then: it was getting late and we were both tired and hungry and the nearest place we might find shelter was 11km away. Walking back the way that we had just come I felt delirium set in as I could not help but laugh at this entire situation. After recieving only warmth and open doors and easy lodging day after day we were finally facing a real problem. I remember sitting at a bus stop in some anonymous small town eating just a little bit of bread and peanut butter, feeling completely hopeless. I felt as if I could just sleep at that bus stop and be done with it. Eventually, we had to move on even still (with a deranged and desperate Jessica).
All day the sun was not with us and the fear of rain was constantly present. On our way to our last possible hope the rain started to come down upon us and we hurriedly put on our rain gear. After covering our shivering bodies and our backpacks, we started up a massive curling hill. The rain and the wind and the hill made us all the more miserable to look at. Nic stopped for a moment, however, as a car was about to pass us by so that it would not accidentally hit us, and instead of the car driving by (as all cars have) this car stopped. It was impossible, but the woman who had hosted us the night before and who had prepared us breakfast was sitting in the passenger seat with her husband driving. They offered to give us a lift to the place she had told us about the day before, and in our soggy states of being we climbed into the back of her car. On this grey day after wandering from place to place trying to find somewhere to just to rest, I felt overcome with joy sitting in the back of that car and I began to cry. These are the kinds of stories that I could never even imagine happening, but here I am in France and I am coming across kindness after kindness.
The place they first stopped at (the place that we were walking towards) was shut and if they had not found us, and if we had made it to the lodging, it would have been the third place that we would have been turned away from. Instead, the kindness of the woman and her husband extended further and they took us to Arras, the city we were going to walk to tomorrow. They dropped us off at a youth hostel that barely had room for us. The woman who works for the hostel showed us to our room and in the main living area who do we find but the Italians from the night before. They had beer and bread waiting for us as if they knew that we would come and need something to fill our bellies.
I am exhausted, but I wanted to say this much. I apologise for the low quality of this post. It felt important to tell this story though, and to tell it right away. I sleep now,