Saturday, August 13, 2005


How's that for a view from a balcony?

Staying in Paris is good for you.

Yay Genevieve.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Blisters and other ickyness


Due to popular demand, a few words on the condition of my feet.

At the end of the first day, I took off my socks with some apprehension as my feet were in a lot of pain. I looked forward to the surgery necessary for the use of the fancy blister plasters, which involves lancing the blister (using a sterilized needle, in my case a safety pin held over a lighter for a few seconds), then peeling off the loose skin to expose the burnt part. Then the plaster goes on top of that and stays for just under a week.

Lo, the sole of each foot had several white patches on it, most the size of 10p or 50p pieces (that's quarters or bigger for those of you on the other side). I wasn't about to operate on them without washing them first, but by the time I'd showered they weren't nearly as pronounced as before, so I let them be, and by morning my feet looked completely normal. I'll add here that the white patches were mostly on parts of my feet where the skin was a bit thicker (if not calloused) already--heels, outside of the big toe, balls of the feet.

It was more or less the same story every day until I left England. In Canterbury, however, I tried using one of those wet wipes to clean one spot to try to pop what I thought was surely a proper blister, right after getting my boots off. The needle caught nothing but skin making the surgery entirely useless.

Along the coast in France, the number and size of white patches shrank a bit; I was doing shorter days. Then, I slept in my boots in St-Riquier after a longish day and followed that with my longest yet. So I was certain I'd have something to operate on when I got up to my hostel room in Amiens. Sure enough, my feet were in a right state, with two tiny proper blisters a,idst the blotchiness. But by then I had only enough energy to take a picture (on my lomo, so you'll have to wait a while to see it), no concentration at all to surgerate, and went to sleep. By morning, there was still a trace of the blotchiness, but the blisters had disappeared.

To be honest, I'm not even sure if it's worth the bag space to carry the fancy plasters anymore.

For those of you who might be comforted by knowing that my choices have brought me suffering, let me offer this solace. Both my Achilles' tendons are about twice their regular size (Herzog only had that happen on one side, but he had blisters too so I think I win), and have been for a good week now. This makes getting into and out of my tiny tent kind of painful.

I have a minor rash on each shoulder where the bag rubs. I think this is because my bag is actually designed for someone a bit bigger than me. But this is under control by way of an anti-blister stick that reduces friction (No, Mum, I don't carry moleskine with me).

Also, it's been sunny hay-making time for the last week, so of course I have raging hay fever.

Was that graphic enough for you? Really, all that's left to say is a big thank you to the kind fellow at Black's near Chancery Lane station who helped me pick my boots. Even if they do bother the Achilles, being blister free for the first two weeks is a boon indeed.

Indoors and loving it

I'm in Paris, yes I am. Lots of factors made this happen sooner than it might have. First, the last two days before Amiens were ridiculously long, and made me hurt. Then, in the area south of Amiens, campsites are thin on the ground; I walked all the way to Chaussoy-Epagny where the map I picked up at tourist info in Amiens showed a camping, only to be told by some locals in a cafe that it was 6km back north and east of there. Grr to backtracking (even if a kindly old fellow interrupted the early part of his session of Ricards to give me a lift up there, narrated in the broken but remarkably solid English he picked up while in the French army 30 years ago). Then, I'm a bit behind schedule. While still having a fixed date to arrive in Geneva (as I'll have company going over the Alps), I don't want to be rushed as I cover the upper reaches of the Seine from Troyes to Dijon.

So yesterday I walked the 10km or so to get to the N1 route and hitched into the Paris suburbs, from where it was a quick bus/RER hop to get into the 14e arrondissement where I'm now holed up at my friend Genevieve's place. Warm bed, internet connection, bakery a few doors down. I'm a happy boy, and it doesn't matter for now that my right knee is acting up.

Bought some good maps from the IGN shop (like Stanford's but only selling their own stuff), so now I'll spend some time chilling out and planning the nitty-gritty of the next couple of weeks. And catching up on sleep.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

more war / signs

oops, i totally meant to mention that there have been many signs of note.

like the one to flandre. checked my map, and it shows up as a swamp, which makes sense i guess. didn't make the detour though, because i can only remember the first few lines of the poem and what else could i do there but recite it. plus, i can't let myself get too distracted by world war tourism or i'll end up hitching to caen, where my grandfather was briefly stationed and where his most often repeated war story is set.

also of note, at a level crossing with 2 tracks:
un train peut cacher un autre'
(danger, one train can hide another)
which is a fine proverb if ever i've heard one.

and finally,
'plage naturiste
baignade non-surveillée'
which is either generous or ironic, but definitely funny.
(and hard to translate. 'nude beach' and 'swimming' are clear, but the obvious 'unsupervised' isn't as amusing while 'non-surveyed' is daft, but i'm beating a dead horse here i guess)

Sand dunes and salty air (bis)

i'm in france now, of course, where they have azerty in stead of qwerty with punctuation in all sorts of wierd places, so there goes my touch typing and with it my willingness to use the shift key on a regular basis. typographical pedants, suck it up.

last comments on the english south-east:

the north downs way, which i covered parts of over every day except the first, is well signposted and passes through some really great spots, of which i only covered a few. on the second day, for example, i followed the way, even though it was a bit out of my way, because it took me to Buckland. peaceful, pastoral, picturesque. but no hobbits. i'd have smoked a pipe in their honour but hadn't made such provisions.

the pilgrim's way, another route i picked up for some distance, wasn't as obviously historically rich as you might expect. the physical stuff gets buried auicker in the countryside, maybe. but still, the trees along it have a stranger language than most, more suggestive by half.

was quite antsy to get to france quickly, but can't remember now any of the feeling associated with that. i can tell you that if you're a british mountaineering council member that sea france is much cheaper, and that a lucky rider of the Rodin ferry may have found the first moondog tag i dropped on it.

the history along the coast, from calais right around to berck where i turned inland, is very present, even if quite recent: concrete bunkers every few miles, some still hanging onto cliff tops, others well on their way to the sea floor. i think i took a lot of pictures of them.

a brief interjection, for the list lovers, of places i ate or slept:
cap du blanc nez
cap du gris nez
villers sur authie
foret montiers
st-riquier (a quaint little village if ever there was one, though i'm sure the song is more about opal coast places like the two W's above)

i've come across other war history spots by accident. like the morning i went inland a bit to get less gusty wind and less driving rain (but still got rather wet), and came across the commonwealth cemetery just north of étaples. couldn't actually get past the monumental entry as it's rather exposed and the rain was coming at me face on, but quite stiking. and i learned that the soldiers called the town 'eat apples' which amused me.

but it's only august and i was at the mouth of the canche, so instead of apples i ate mussels, yum. and lots of them, as the appetizer i ordered not knowing what it was (called l'étaplois) had them in along with a tasty fish that reminded me of smoked black cod. anyone want to google for me and find out what i ate? i'm running out of time here.

from berck i decided to head inland, slightly first, to villers-sur-authie, then through two enormous days (33 and 45km respectively) to amiens. i made the push as the somme area is pretty dry on campsites, so now i'm having a rest day, with very sore feet. on the plus side, i got to watch the bakery in the square in st-riquier open at 7am (after hearing their alarm clock ring out as i walked past a bit earlier!). i also camped rough for the first time (the reason i was up in st-riquier at stupid o'clock to begin with). won't be properly free til i master that art, but i can't say i'm eager to work on it; sleeping with my boots on wasn't fun.

that's all for now. sorry if there's qny confusion over zords zith w,q,a, or z in them.