In which the weltschmerz is more keenly felt than usual, where modern alienation becomes mere kitsch and loneliness is just a way of being, and where majesty crumbles

Paul Holder August 6 at 12:45pm

Hello people of earth,

I am in Lyon right now. Took about five days to walk here, and am now a bit over 435 miles into my trek.

Lyon looks like it could be pretty ace. Mind you, I’ve spent most of my time since arriving here at lunchtime in a laundromat (had to sit in nothing but a towel, because everything needed a clean), and this here internet cafe. Still, I figure that if I get all the bits and pieces done today, I can have a proper day off tomorrow for the first time in over three weeks. I realised this morning as I was walking into the city that in twenty three days, there has only been one day on which I have done no walking with my kit. I am probably made from adamantium by now.

So yeah, Lyon is tres belle. Loads and loads of bridges and water (the rivers Saone and Rhone converge in the middle of the city). Also it is the gastronomical capital of France, so I aim to find something unusual for dinner tonight, like moon rock sorbet. Going to do some proper sight seeing tomorrow. There are Roman remains, amphitheatres etc, plus I really want to go to the Lumiere Museum, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery was born here, so hoping to see some original Little Prince drawings.
This past week has been a bit of a tough one to be honest. This is largely because I had to walk on road the whole way here from Clermont-Ferrand. Often they were busy A-road style affairs, and the first two days was pretty much one long and torrential thunderstorm, so I spent it getting soaked and dodging cars. Longed for the peace of the forest again. Kind of takes the romance out of it. Also, I got quite lonely this week. I think this came from being in civilised areas a lot. It’s strange; when I’m completely alone in the woods or up a mountain, I feel fine. It’s only when I come down into the towns and cities and stop walking that I begin to get anxious, lonely and feel a bit ridiculous. My energy level has started to dip, and I had a couple of really rough days, where I was running on nothing but determination. Having to put a second new notch on my belt was a bit demoralising. But for all this, I know that there are better times ahead, and I’ll be leaving Lyon at least partially recharged.
So what can I say about the landscape of the past week? Well, to be honest, because I’ve been following the roads, which almost always follow the path of least resistance, it has been pretty bland. I passed over two low mountain ranges (Monts du Forez and Monts du Lyonnais), crossed the Loire, and went through a few picturesque little towns (Thiers especially is worth a mention, though it felt a bit like The Prisoner – I couldn’t find the road out!).

I suppose there’s only two incidences of particular interest. The first was on Wednesday evening (4th August). I got to a village called Ste-Foy-L’Argentiere and really had no energy left, so searched around for somewhere to camp. Found a park and was about to pitch when I noticed two guys watching me. Instantly knew that something was amiss. They came over and asked if I was going to sleep there, I said yes and they got pretty vocal about it. They then went and sat on a bench in front of me and just stared at me. I didn’t want to give up my ground, so I decided to sit there for twenty minutes to see if they’d go away and also to give myself time to think about my next move if they didn’t. I thought if it got nasty, my walking stick Balderic would even up the numbers. However, I didn’t know my exits and whether they’d call in more people if a confrontation arose, so in the end I decided I’d have to leave. It was getting dark by now and there really wasn’t anywhere else to pitch in the village, so I went to a nearby bar and asked if there was a hotel in the area. Turned out the only place with rooms was a run-down bar on the other side of the village. When I got there it was closed, but I saw a light on so I knocked on the door and an incredibly fat, incredibly hairy man opened the door. He showed me up to a room with no lock, there were wires hanging out the wall, and the neon light outside my window flickered. It was a bit like staying in a Tom Waits song. Still, in three weeks that was the first problem I’ve had finding a place to put up the tent, so that’s pretty good going. Things like that are bound to happen. There will be difficult situations, but in a way, I enjoy the challenge. And increasingly, I’m adopting the Billy Pilgrim maxim: so it goes.


The second thing is pretty hard to explain. Yesterday after lunch, I was walking along a pretty remote country road when I happened to look up and see a bird flying really unsteadily towards me. I ducked out of the way and it landed with a thump in the middle of the road. It was an owl. I don’t know much about owls, but it was definitely from the gigantic side of the family. Seriously, its wingspan was about the same as my arms. It just sat there and I just stood there, and we were staring at each other, probably both unsure what to do next. I took a step forward and he started hopping away, trying to take flight. I realised he was injured, but didn’t know what to do. Do the French have something like the RSPCA? I couldn’t just leave him there. A car came whizzing around the corner and I waved it round frantically. And all the time, the owl sat there, his neck twisted around in that hideous way they are capable of, with those huge unblinking orange eyes fixed on me. He kept on trying to fly, until he hopped off the road into the thick undergrowth of the embankment. He was completely stuck. Every time he moved, he just dropped further down the steep embankment, until soon he was beyond my reach.

But still, he looked at me. I felt dumb and useless, like when you’re making stupid noises at a baby and its just looking at you, and you suddenly realise that you are making stupid noises and start to feel a bit of a plum. In the end I just turned and left. The whole incident probably only lasted five minutes, but for the next couple of hours my head was thick with blue fog. Seeing such a majestic creature hobbling along like that was so pathetically comic, and knowing there was nothing that I could do, well I don’t think there have been too many events that have sucked the joy of life out of me so rapidly. Last night I dreamt that the owl laid eggs in my hat.
Sorry if this all sounds miserable. I am still really happy and definitely know I have the Right Idea (cheers D-Rob). In a week I should be in Geneva, though the small matter of the Jura Mountains stands between me and Switzerland. I can’t believe that I’ve nearly walked across the whole of France!!! It’s a real buzz in the base of my pants just to think of it. Also, please chip in a few quid when you get the chance. I’ve nearly raised a grand so far, which is close to halfway to my target. And please do send me messages, on here and by text. It makes more difference than you’ll ever know. Sorry for the tone of this message, I’m sure I’ll be full of it again next time I get in touch.

Paul x

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Paul Holder August 6 at 12:45pm

Hello people of earth,

I am in Lyon right now. Took about five days to walk here, and am now a bit over 435 miles into my trek. Lyon looks like it could be pretty ace. Mind you, I’ve spent most of my time since arriving here at lunchtime in a laundromat (had to sit in nothing but a towel, because everything needed a clean), and this here internet cafe. Still, I figure that if I get all the bits and pieces done today, I can have a proper day off tomorrow for the first time in over three weeks. I realised this morning as I was walking into the city that in twenty three days, there has only been one day on which I have done no walking with my kit. I am probably made from adamantium by now.
So yeah, Lyon is tres belle. Loads and loads of bridges and water (the rivers Saone and Rhone converge in the middle of the city). Also it is the gastronomical capital of France, so I aim to find something unusual for dinner tonight, like moon rock sorbet. Going to do some proper sight seeing tomorrow. There are Roman remains, amphitheatres etc, plus I really want to go to the Lumiere Museum, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery was born here, so hoping to see some original Little Prince drawings.


This past week has been a bit of a tough one to be honest. This is largely because I had to walk on road the whole way here from Clermont-Ferrand. Often they were busy A-road style affairs, and the first two days was pretty much one long and torrential thunderstorm, so I spent it getting soaked and dodging cars. Longed for the peace of the forest again. Kind of takes the romance out of it. Also, I got quite lonely this week. I think this came from being in civilised areas a lot. It’s strange; when I’m completely alone in the woods or up a mountain, I feel fine. It’s only when I come down into the towns and cities and stop walking that I begin to get anxious, lonely and feel a bit ridiculous. My energy level has started to dip, and I had a couple of really rough days, where I was running on nothing but determination. Having to put a second new notch on my belt was a bit demoralising. But for all this, I know that there are better times ahead, and I’ll be leaving Lyon at least partially recharged.


So what can I say about the landscape of the past week? Well, to be honest, because I’ve been following the roads, which almost always follow the path of least resistance, it has been pretty bland. I passed over two low mountain ranges (Monts du Forez and Monts du Lyonnais), crossed the Loire, and went through a few picturesque little towns (Thiers especially is worth a mention, though it felt a bit like The Prisoner – I couldn’t find the road out!). I suppose there’s only two incidences of particular interest. The first was on Wednesday evening (4th August). I got to a village called Ste-Foy-L’Argentiere and really had no energy left, so searched around for somewhere to camp. Found a park and was about to pitch when I noticed two guys watching me. Instantly knew that something was amiss. They came over and asked if I was going to sleep there, I said yes and they got pretty vocal about it. They then went and sat on a bench in front of me and just stared at me. I didn’t want to give up my ground, so I decided to sit there for twenty minutes to see if they’d go away and also to give myself time to think about my next move if they didn’t. I thought if it got nasty, my walking stick Balderic would even up the numbers. However, I didn’t know my exits and whether they’d call in more people if a confrontation arose, so in the end I decided I’d have to leave. It was getting dark by now and there really wasn’t anywhere else to pitch in the village, so I went to a nearby bar and asked if there was a hotel in the area. Turned out the only place with rooms was a run-down bar on the other side of the village. When I got there it was closed, but I saw a light on so I knocked on the door and an incredibly fat, incredibly hairy man opened the door. He showed me up to a room with no lock, there were wires hanging out the wall, and the neon light outside my window flickered. It was a bit like staying in a Tom Waits song. Still, in three weeks that was the first problem I’ve had finding a place to put up the tent, so that’s pretty good going. Things like that are bound to happen. There will be difficult situations, but in a way, I enjoy the challenge. And increasingly, I’m adopting the Billy Pilgrim maxim: so it goes.


The second thing is pretty hard to explain. Yesterday after lunch, I was walking along a pretty remote country road when I happened to look up and see a bird flying really unsteadily towards me. I ducked out of the way and it landed with a thump in the middle of the road. It was an owl. I don’t know much about owls, but it was definitely from the gigantic side of the family. Seriously, its wingspan was about the same as my arms. It just sat there and I just stood there, and we were staring at each other, probably both unsure what to do next. I took a step forward and he started hopping away, trying to take flight. I realised he was injured, but didn’t know what to do. Do the French have something like the RSPCA? I couldn’t just leave him there. A car came whizzing around the corner and I waved it round frantically. And all the time, the owl sat there, his neck twisted around in that hideous way they are capable of, with those huge unblinking orange eyes fixed on me. He kept on trying to fly, until he hopped off the road into the thick undergrowth of the embankment. He was completely stuck. Every time he moved, he just dropped further down the steep embankment, until soon he was beyond my reach. But still, he looked at me. I felt dumb and useless, like when you’re making stupid noises at a baby and its just looking at you, and you suddenly realise that you are making stupid noises and start to feel a bit of a plum. In the end I just turned and left. The whole incident probably only lasted five minutes, but for the next couple of hours my head was thick with blue fog. Seeing such a majestic creature hobbling along like that was so pathetically comic, and knowing there was nothing that I could do, well I don’t think there have been too many events that have sucked the joy of life out of me so rapidly. Last night I dreamt that the owl laid eggs in my hat.


Sorry if this all sounds miserable. I am still really happy and definitely know I have the Right Idea (cheers D-Rob). In a week I should be in Geneva, though the small matter of the Jura Mountains stands between me and Switzerland. I can’t believe that I’ve nearly walked across the whole of France!!! It’s a real buzz in the base of my pants just to think of it. Also, please chip in a few quid when you get the chance. I’ve nearly raised a grand so far, which is close to halfway to my target. And please do send me messages, on here and by text. It makes more difference than you’ll ever know. Sorry for the tone of this message, I’m sure I’ll be full of it again next time I get in touch

Paul x

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In which the tired and footsore English Paul reaches Limoges, France, and expostulates on the value dichotomy of physical stress

Paul Holder July 24 at 7:44am

Hey Y’all,

After eight solid days of walking I reached Limoges yesterday morning, notching up 195.71 miles in the process, which I am amazed by ! Aside from a few cuts and a million stings I am faring pretty well and really happy . I went south from La Rochelle to Rochefort, from there heading east through towns of Saintes, Cognac (where, as we all know, milk comes from), Angouleme, Rochechouart, and about a million sleepy villages.

The weather for the most part has been sweltering, cloudless skies and unremitting sunshine, which made it really hard work given that for the first few days I was crossing open countryside (sick of sunflowers and hay). Then on Wednesday I had to walk in the most torrential storm I’ve ever experienced. Thunder was literally shaking the ground ! Last couple of days have started getting hilly and east of Limoges it gets higher as I enter the northern foothills of the Massif Central. Anyways, a brief summary of the goods and not-so-goods so far:

Goods :

  • Feeling of complete unbounded freedom
  • The immense calmness that comes over me every time I enter a forest
  • Flat open countryside as far as the eye can see making me feel like my mind goes on forever
  • Sleeping under a tree not even in a sleeping bag in a churchyard, looking up at clear night sky and feeling closer to the MAGIC then I ever have before
  • The River Charente and my love/hate relationship with it
  • My new found love of the morning
  • My new found fondness for insects (my only companions)
  • Washing under one of those massive water jet things in a cornfield
  • Seeing loads of wild deer
  • Creeping into the grounds of a castle at night and pitching the tent next to it

  • Staying in a Gites (B and B) that was stupendously gorgeous and having supper made for me by a sympathetic proprietor, who also charged me much less than the going rate
  • Lying next to a lake in the evening sun and feeling awesome
  • Singing ‘All By Myself’ at the top of my lungs
  • The bread – nobody does it better than the French


Not-so-goods :

  • Sweating/dehydration – I’m drinking on average 6 litres of water a day and still thirsty ALL THE TIME
  • Loneliness – only sometimes
  • Having to take 10 mile detour because the bridge gondola thing I needed to cross was shut
  • Losing my self inflating ultra lightweight very expensive sleeping mat on the third day
  • The lousy footpath markers – sometimes all you get to follow is a faded red mark on a tree surrounded by thick foliage
  • Getting lost and having to hack my way through dense foliage that went over my head for 2 hours
  • Getting barked at by every dog – strangely demoralising after a while
  • Having to sleep in a bus shelter with a hedgehog trying to get at my food
  • The lumbago – oh the lumbago

I’m all good. I think I pushed it too hard this first week or so. Realised I’m being too goal-oriented and not giving myself time to enjoy. Will slow down once I hit the mountains for sure. Trying to not think of home so much too. I keep having imaginary conversations with some of you.

Sorry I’m crap at describing stuff. Please send me messages and texts and whatnot because it gets real lonesome at times. About to upload some pics. Sorry for quality, or lack of. Oh and people of Wales, your brothers and sisters in France need your assistance. So far I have seen only 7 sheep in the whole country. Act now before I have to get Geldof involved .

AND PLEASE DONATE www.charitygiving.co.uk/paulholder – was very saddened today to see no one else has chipped in since I left La Rochelle. Seriously, when I’m walking and it gets real hard, thinking that some good will come out of this ridiculousness keeps me going. Even just a couple of quid each will spur me on.

Love you all, except those I don’t

Paul x

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In which Paul, having safely arrived in France, embarks on the physical portion of this largely introspective journey in search of the Self; and where he discusses injuries and physical malady whilst the French, as they are wont, celebrate Bastille Day

Paul Holder, July 15 at 3:03am

So I’m off! In about an hour I will be taking my first steps. I spent all day yesterday stomping around La Rochelle looking for butane canisters, which I could not take on the Eurostar. But alas there was none ANYWHERE. After seven hours I saw some in a dark corner of an out of town supermarket I had walked to, but it was the wrong size for my primus. Furthermore I did this all day all over town march in flip flops and they have rubbed away the skin under the straps. Wounded before I’ve began! So I’ll be starting without the ability to cook. Hopefully I’ll find some en route. If not my foraging skills will come into play a lot sooner than anticipated!

Aside from the above kafuffle, La Rochelle has been ace. Yesterday was Bastille Day, so everyone was in the mood for getting pissed and having a good time. There is a massive music festival going on in La Rochelle right now. By that I mean that literally every bar, square, street corner and promenade has music and dance on/in/nearby. It’s truly amazing and really infectious. I wish I could stay a bit longer, especially as Charlotte Gainsbourg is here on Friday. Yum. They definitely know how to throw a party here, though I have stayed devoutly sober throughout. Kind of. You’d probably like it here if you’re not a dick.


I’ve uploaded some pictures tho they’re crap because I have never really taken any photos in my life, it always seems to strike me as an afterthought. I’ll try not to miss the good stuff.
Today I will be walking southeast about 20 miles to Rochefort. IT will be the only time I walk beside the sea, which saddens me right to the bottom of me boots. All inland from here. I hope they have butane in Rochefort, though I doubt it. It would melt the cheese.

Will be in less lengthy touch when I can.

I am one very enthralled

Paul x

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In which Paul prepares to travel to London by coach, and expresses regret at the consequences of recent lifestyle choices

Paul Holder, July 11 at 9:25pm

Hey,

Just a quick shout to say thank you to all of you again for all the support, be it monetary, wisdom or just a hearty back pat. I leave for London in a few hours. Staying overnight then Eurostar first thing Tuesday. I don’t know if spending two days at a beer festival, refusing to sleep and living off a diet of rum and bad pork was the best way to go about preparing, but nonetheless that is what happened and now I am on the cusp and will just have to go with what I have. So that’s a heavy rucksack and a hangover.
Please don’t make me do this a thousand times:

http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/paulholder

£630 so far, which is 25.2%. Good work. Please give what you can, else I shall throw myself into a ravine in despair.
Anyway, thank you and take good care of yourselves. Everything has been amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing about anything that has happened, or is about to happen.
I will be in touch when my overinflated ego tells me that you are missing me too damn much.

Love and Wonder

Paul xxx

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In which Paul readies himself for the trip, and ties up some loose ends

Paul Holder, July 6 at 7:47pm

Hey y’all,

I’m back in Taunton now, preparing for the trip and also my local beer festival this coming weekend. I had an amazing last couple of days in Cardiff, and want to say a big thank you to those who made it so. Tonight I will be spending my first night in my new tent…in my parents’ back garden. Tomorrow night going to take it up to the Quantocks near where my folks live to break it in proper in the wild.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of those who have already donated to the Marine Conservation Society via my charity giving page. To those of you who have of yet not done so, pooh pooh. Get on it

http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/paulholder

Also, I would like to thank everyone for the support and encouragement you have given. It may sound like a cliche to say that it really boosts my determination, but then I spin cliches like a lazy susan. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.
Finally, if anyone knows of a way I can attach some kind of map to the facebook group, so that I can show where I’ve been, please lemme know.
Tomorrow’s another busy day of route planning, flip flop purchasing, and book selecting, so I must away to the garden. Today I learnt that it is worth simultaneously buying half a dozen packs of laxatives and half a dozen packs of Immodium in Boots just to see the look on the counter girl’s face after declaring that “my bottom gets confused”.

Take care

Paul x

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English Paul’s Transcendental Trans-European Trek

My dear and handsome friend English Paul has recently taken it upon himself to journey across the Dark Continent, Europe, by foot—an arduous and thoroughly badass 1000 mile trek from La Rochelle, France, to Prague, Czech Republic, in about two and a half months. This is awesome, needless to say, and is not merely the internal journey of self-discovery the way you might think. Paul is accepting donations (here) on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society, a UK-based charity for the protection of its shores and wildlife.

From Paul’s donation site:

“It would greatly warm my belly if you would consider sponsoring me in this undertaking. It doesn’t need to be much; as little as £10 will go a long long way towards protecting our coastal ecosystems, cleaning up our beaches, and encouraging more sensible fishing practices. I will be doing somewhere between 1000-1200 miles, so think of it as approximately £1 per 100 miles, or about 5pence per blister! Needless to say, if you want to give more then that is most welcome.”

Hear, here. This is a tremendous undertaking, a throwback to the quests of the Icelandic Sagas,  the search for the Holy Grail, the Beat Generation’s exploration of the self in the context of one’s milieu. Please join The Anti Tourist as we support Paul’s efforts wholeheartedly.

At the time of this writing, Paul has so far “managed to cross France in 30 days, covering 555.82 miles. Mental.” He is documenting this on Facebook, mainly through letters written periodically to members of the Facebook Group founded for this purpose. He gave me permission to post his updates on The Anti Tourist; they will be updated here as soon as he sends them out. They will appear exactly as he writes them. He is a fantastic writer and I have thus far enjoyed his updates, even though I am kicking myself for not accepting his invitation to join him.

Learn more about the Marine Conservation Society.

Give donations here.

So far:

In which Paul readies himself for the trip, and ties up some loose ends

In which Paul prepares to travel to London by coach, and expresses regret at the consequences of recent lifestyle choices

In which Paul, having safely arrived in France, embarks on the physical portion of this largely introspective journey in search of the Self; and where he discusses injuries and physical malady whilst the French, as they are wont, celebrate Bastille Day

In which the tired and footsore English Paul reaches Limoges, France, and expostulates on the value dichotomy of physical stress

In which half of France is conquered, though not without sacrifice

In which the weltschmerz is more keenly felt than usual, where modern alienation becomes mere kitsch and loneliness is just a way of being, and where majesty crumbles

In which a short break in the relentless march toward the Bohemian lands allows Paul to take in a bit of sport, and to convalesce slightly from physical and spiritual maladies

In which the varied topography of mountainous Switzerland aptly mirrors the oscillating emotional environment; and in which Paul is joined by a dear friend

By: Ben Britz

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My dear and handsome friend English Paul has recently taken it upon himself to journey across the Dark Continent, Europe, by foot—an arduous and thoroughly badass 1000 mile trek from La Rochelle, France, to Prague, Czech Republic, in about two and a half months. This is awesome, needless to say, and is not merely the internal journey of self-discovery the way you might think. Paul is accepting donations (here) on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society, a UK-based charity for the protection of its shores and wildlife.

From Paul’s donation site:

It would greatly warm my belly if you would consider sponsoring me in this undertaking. It doesn’t need to be much; as little as £10 will go a long long way towards protecting our coastal ecosystems, cleaning up our beaches, and encouraging more sensible fishing practices. I will be doing somewhere between 1000-1200 miles, so think of it as approximately £1 per 100 miles, or about 5pence per blister! Needless to say, if you want to give more then that is most welcome.

Hear, here. This is a tremendous undertaking, a throwback to the quests of the Icelandic Sagas,  the search for the Holy Grail, the Beat Generation’s exploration of the self in the context of one’s milieu. Please join The Anti Tourist as we support Paul’s efforts wholeheartedly.

At the time of this writing, Paul has so far “managed to cross France in 30 days, covering 555.82 miles. Mental.” He is documenting this on Facebook, mainly through letters written periodically to members of the Facebook Group founded for this purpose. He gave me permission to post his updates on The Anti Tourist; they will be updated here as soon as he sends them out. They will appear exactly as he writes them. He is a fantastic writer and I have thus far enjoyed his updates, even though I am kicking myself for not accepting his invitation to join him.

Learn more about the Marine Conservation Society.

Give donations here.

So far: