Grounded

Canterbury Cathedral, September 5 2019
Canterbury Cathedral, September 5 2019

 

15:00, March 30, 2020.

By now, Gail and I would have departed on our flight from Winnipeg to Paris, via Montreal. Tomorrow we would have walked the streets of Paris. The following day would have taken us by train to Laon. And, after a day there, a short train ride would have taken us to nearby Tergnier. 

Just six months ago, on September 26 2019, we had walked to that small city. It was the endpoint of our trek from London to Canterbury (following the Chaucer Way) and from Canterbury to Tergnier on the first leg of our Via Francigena pilgrimage to Rome. Our plans for this spring were to complete another stage of the journey, this time from Tergnier to Besançon—23 walking days and some 550 kilometres later.

As we all now know, an invisible threat has, with devastating fury, reshaped all of our day-to-day lives and, in one tiny corner of the globe—Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada—forced Gail and me to cancel our springtime walk across France.

Today, we will not board that flight. Instead, we will cocoon in our comfortable Wolseley home, barbecue a couple of steaks and open a good bottle of French wine.

And we will contemplate our return to France and the resumption of our two-footed mission to Rome. Soon. This Fall. Maybe. Hopefully.

We raise our glasses in a toast to Hope. 

 

 

Walking to Rome: Vimy

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As I write this, back in Winnipeg, I am aware that tomorrow is November 11, Remembrance Day. Tomorrow, Gail and I will attend, as we do every year, the Valour Road Memorial Day Service, a short walk away from our Wolseley home. Valour Road, formerly Pine Street, commemorates three recipients of the Victoria Cross for their acts of bravery during World War One. Remarkably, all three lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg before heading into battle in France and Belgium.

It is a matter of good fortune that today’s entry in my day-by-day photo diary of our Via Francigena pilgrimage takes us to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, just 10 kilometres north of Arras, where we are taking a rest day. Continue reading

Walking to Rome: Via Francigena Day 12

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Frévin-Capelle/La Grenouillère/Anna; Abbaye de Mont-Saint-Éloi; Église catholique; Saint-Martin d’Écoivres; Le Marais de Mareoeuil; Arras

Poor Mont-Saint-Éloi. 

Its abbey was established as far back as the 7th century. Over the next many hundreds of years, it rose to prominence as a major religious centre. That power sealed its fate in the late 1700’s with the French Revolution. The abbey was sacked and its stone walls dismantled, leaving just the west-facing porch and its two tall towers. 

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Walking to Rome: Via Francigena Day 11

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It’s November, 2019. Gail and I have been back in Winnipeg for six weeks. I’ve been occupied with a book project, just now completed. So it’s time to get back to our Via Francigena pilgrimage, starting where you last saw us. 

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CDMX: Night of the Dead

One of Mexico City’s sixteen boroughs, Xochimilco is, in some respects, the heart of the city. The vast lake that once covered the Valley of Mexico—including the entire site of today’s Mexico City—was tamed 1,000 years ago with a network of canals defined by artificial islands, called chinampas. Canals were once the main mode of transportation throughout the valley. Since colonization, that vast network has shrunk to what remains in Xochimilco. Today, it’s not more than a remnant, an endangered World Heritage Site. Yet what is left is a remarkable, enchanting place.

Today, Xochimilco is best known as a playground. This is where Mexicans come on Sundays and tourists come at all times for an entertaining afternoon ride along the canals on colourful trajinera boats. 

But, for Gail and me, the goals for our journey to Xochimilco have been deliciously disrupted. This is November 1, the first of two Days of the Dead.  Continue reading