Paul Holder July 24 at 7:44am
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:
- 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
- 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 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 Holder, July 11 at 9:25pm
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:
£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
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Paul Holder, July 6 at 7:47pm
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
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”.
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.
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