Sunday, November 15, 2015 – Dozulé to Lisieux
It’s an absolute perfect day for walking. Good thing, because at 16 miles, we face our longest day yet.
The temperature hovers around 60, and the wind is negligible. Throughout the day, the sun warms us from its low perch in the southern sky. Yesterday I wore my flannel shirt, goose down jacket and raincoat. Today, a t-shirt is all I need.
Best of all, Steve and I have company. His wife, Pat, and daughter, Kate, join us. Our route takes us along occasionally busy roads, but mostly bucolic, one-lane byways with breath-taking scenery and quaint little villages.
We enter the village of Saint-Jouin and I strike up a lively conversation with two women walking a dog. There’s no traffic, so we gab in the middle of the narrow street. They offer us food and water, but I decline because the hotel owner in Dozulé assured us we would find shops selling food along the way.
A bit further down the road, we meet a gentleman walking a Black Retriever that reminds Steve and Pat of their dog, Rex. The man also offers us food and water, and again I decline.
Our path takes us up a long, gradual incline into some beautiful, rolling downs that remind me of parts of southern Ireland. Unfortunately, we hardly see anyone after our first two encounters, and the prediction of ample venues for food turns out to be false.
As the miles stretch on, we nibble on a few things my companions brought, but with little satisfaction. I decide it’s time to test my foraging skills. I eat some dandelion greens and find a few wild blackberries still clinging to their canes. An oak tree offers acorns, and I eat one, but it’s too bitter. A bruised apple that had fallen off a truck provides the most nourishing discovery. Nonetheless, my walking companions declare my attempt at foraging a failure.
We settle for hunger and quicken our pace. I fantasize about the incredible farmers market we had seen a few days ago. So many local offerings! The place was bustling, as the French truly appreciate the superior flavor of fresh, local food – and I presume also because the French value self reliance.
We finally arrive in the town of Lisieux and secure a hotel room. As we’re preparing to go out for dinner, a couple thousand people are gathering in the central plaza for a march and vigil to pay homage to those killed in the terrorist attacks. We join in as the somber procession makes its way through the darkened streets of Lisieux.
“We are very, very, very sad, and I feel I must be with people,” Majli tells me. She points out that one of the signs people hold proclaim that the French will continue to enjoy life, despite what has happened.
I ask her about the wisdom of a military response, and Majli days, “I think that is the easy answer, but I’m not sure it is the right one.” She added that helping children and building schools in Iraq and Syria would be better.
As I’m leaving the vigil, the local tv station asks me for an interview – my first ever on French tv! I hope I was able to make a small contribution to an event that did so much to help me better understand how the French are dealing with last Friday’s traumatic experience that shook not only all of France but the whole world as well.