I apologise for the long radio silence! In case you are wondering, I am still here and I am still alive 😂. I have gone through several villages and met plenty of friendly people along the way. I enjoyed French crepes in Arras and walked through its colourful main square at night, ate a kebab in Péronne 😅 and finally enjoyed some sunny blue sky in Saint-Quentin after so much rain I was under during the previous days. I have a few anecdotes that happened during the last few legs of my journey so far 😊.
One day I entered a bar to buy some water and started up a conversation with a guy at the counter. It was a matter of minutes before everybody in the bar started getting so excited to know about my trip and became eager to give me directions. The guy I initially met pulled out a piece of paper and started drawing a map while the barista invited me to the other side of the counter to look at a map on a computer screen. After at least half hour (or maybe more) I ended up asking for two bottles of water I meant to ask for in the beginning and the bar owner insisted that I didn't have to pay for them. Hence, I left the place following a collective goodbye from the people inside the bar and after a few minutes I heard whistling behind me. The main guy I had met in the bar had come out to tell me "that's the wrong way. You should go that way" pointing towards the North. He thought I was trying to get to London (rather than coming from London) 😂. So, I said "I am going towards Rome" and he smiled back "Oh ok. That's the right way then!". A few moments later here it comes the whistle again and the guy running towards me with a water bottle I forgot inside the bar. After a couple of friendly hugs I was back on my way. Those people gave me so much energy to keep going!
Here is another peculiar episode that happened a few days ago. It was raining and I was going through a village. At some point, I saw a park and decided to rest on a bench and get a little bit of shelter under a tree. There was nobody else in the park except for this French girl who was sitting on another bench. I felt she kept staring at me but maybe it was just an impression. While I was checking emails and sending texts on my phone, this girl started walking by my bench at intervals of five minutes (at least 4 or 5 times) 😂. At some point, she walked away and I didn't see her anymore for a while. Ten minutes passed and she suddenly reappeared under the rain hugging lots of French baguettes and plastic bags containing bakery products. She came over to my bench, really wanted me to eat chocolate croissants (why don't these things happen when I am very hungry?? I had just found a place to do my grocery shopping that day ...) and asked me to sit next to me. We talked for a while using Google translate before I left again for my next destination.
In these past few days I had two people stopping along the road and tried to offer me a lift. One guy was very concerned as it was raining and I was not close to inhabited places. He stopped the car in front of me, got out of the car and tried to convince me to get into his car and give me a lift for the remaining 10km I had to walk. I thanked him for his kindness and told him about my pledge of not getting into any vehicles over the course of my trip. I really hope Google translate worked well in that instance ... 😥
A couple of days ago I was going through a village and started talking to an older lady who spoke a little bit of English. I took a walk with her and saw her drop birthday cards at her grandchildren's house's mailbox. Then she taught me a few French words before I kept going on my hike.
I hope to make many more interesting experiences with local people during the remainder of my journey. I feel I could write a lot about the past few days but it's really late and I need to get some sleep as I need to wake up early. I really wanted to publish something after so long. So, this is better than nothing :)