I arrived in Paris around 1pm, groggy. Since customs had been done in Iceland, arriving in Charles de Gaul was not difficult, except for the 50 pound bag on my back.
The rucksack I have is rather great, actually. It’s heavy by itself, and incredibly heavy with everything I’ve got packed into it, but once you wear it, it’s nearly weightless. That is, of course, until you’re on a bus which suddenly stops and you find you’ve got much more mass than you remember.
From Paris, I took a train to Rennes. The train station is within part of the terminal (something which cannot happen in the united states, as everyone wants to blow us up and trains are socialist, right?). Not difficult to reach, not difficult to negotiate, but all liquids for sale cost roughly 3 american dollars. A pain au chocalat is still the correct price, as France has a long history of bread riots, so price gougers know better.
Arrived in Rennes around 6pm. The first thing which hit me was the air. I cannot describe it, nor could I possibly take a photo of it, but I can maybe tell you how it made me feel:
Like I’d breathed it before, in some other world for years, decades, perhaps an entire lifetime.
The campground I’m staying in is quite good. It’s nothing like an american camping ground–France has public, city-run campgrounds in almost every decent-sized city, and they’re both plain and perfectly useful. This one happens to be in a wooded park, near several ponds…one could almost spend one’s entire time within the park and the campground and feel one has fully vacationed, except, of course, for there being a city nearby.
And the city’s quite excellent. After setting up my tent, I all but ran back to it (jet-lag is for losers), except on a bus. There’s a bus directly from the campground to the centre-ville, and it takes about 20 minutes or so to get there.
I wandered for a few hours, purposefully without a map, turning corners into sudden explosions of ancient architecture (though most of what’s here is no older than the 1600’s) and streets thronged with people.
I got some street food (I’m sort of embarassed by its name, but it was good), took it to a square where punks were playing with their dogs and fashionably drest students were playing a Breton version of horse-shoes and ate, suddenly aware of something I hadn’t quite experienced in a long time:
I was here, in a place which has called (back) to me for years, and had nothing to do but live.
When I returned to the campground, I hung out with an Irish couple who drank me a bit too much and regaled me with stories of their homeland (New Grange–I must go)m their occasional ice-cream shop (guinness ice-cream, it seems), their hopes to move to France. Maybe the most absurdly hospitable people I’ve met in quite some time, I had a significant time attempting to persuade them that I really didn’t need to smoke all of their cigarettes and drink all of their wine. Also, I couldn’t find camping fuel the first night, and the next day was a sunday, so they let me borrow their cooking stove to make tea in the morning.
I slept maybe the first very deep, very restful slumber in months. Woke cold, the stars still out, rabbits everywhere. Felt damn good.
I saw Ian and Emily off (the aforementioned irish folk) with some tea that I’d brought with me from Seattle, as the french tend towards weak tea. Even as I write this, a day later, I’ve still got Ian’s irish accent in my head, a funny thing to have remain but also quite welcome.
Spent maybe four hours in Rennes after this, exploring more, eating more pain au chocolat (this will be a recurring theme), and sitting in random places with fountains and well of strange and wondrous design. This one’s my favorite so far:
I’m actually quite proud I got the reflection of the face, as I’m not generally a very good photographer. And I’ve got all sorts of other photos already, but only a few will have to suffice for now, as the computers in this internet cafe are hit or miss (some shut down immediately when i plug in a camera, some work perfectly well) and I’m currently on one towards the side of “miss.” I like not having constant access to a computer. I like that I don’t see many smartphones around here. I like that people are talking to each other–everywhere.
I dislike that I have to travel to another country to see this again.
No bitterness, though. Seattle’s rather far away at the moment. I did a quick check on Facebook and confirmed that, yes, everyone is still posting pictures of what they had for dinner and yes, complaining about waiting a couple of minutes for a bus and yes, narrating their lives through tiny witticisms that sometimes land utterly flat.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, particularly. Narrating one’s life is quite crucial and I think probably universal. However, I’ve noticed there’s plenty of times that I experience something and immediately wonder how to describe it to someone else. This–this is probably not good. Not everything is meaningful, not everything can be re-inscribed into the world of others (who really cares what you had for dinner?) or should be thus re-inscribed.
But obviously, some things can be and should be. Why tell story in the first place? Why write any of this at all, or read what others say?
Maybe we’ve gotten lazy, or maybe more desperate for material. Maybe going to France was a very, very good idea for me.
Nah. It was fucking brilliant.
As far as druid stuff goes, there’s been plenty already. I found myself collecting crystalline cedar resin and had a woman stop and ask me, fascinated, what I was doing. Had my necklace shatter dramatically in front of a statue of a saint in a church (still not sure what that was about), and, last night, saw a toad hopping across my path and said hello to him. Not sure if it’s quite common for toads to stop when you greet them instead of fleeing, or if it’s quite common for them to let you pick them up after this. At the very least, he seemed a very, very nice toad.
More in a few days. There’s a transit strike tomorrow, which may affect my plans to go to Carnac, but may not.