Sometime in the afternoon we left Suisse and cycled into France. I haven't seen it yet but I get the impression, the feeling that Melbourne or Sydney could, quite possibly after a prolonged period of involution in the European chrysalis, come to resemble Paris or Rome, but I'm guessing it would take a long time. Longer than I've got anyway.
It's odd, being in France, having thought on, and about the place for so long, to be finally here, cycling up a mountain, observing the arbitrary splendor, the archaic beauty, and yet being observed by everyone, white blonde hair, scruffy beard. A detached observer who remains affianced as a human participant.
Trying to fathom what it is about France that continues to capture global hearts and minds, the country of course being the most visited realm in the world with over 80 million visitors per year, I can understand now that I/we are here. For many it must be Paris, the Louvre, the Eiffel tower, the Arc de Triomphe, for others the countryside, the castles, the architecture and history, yet still others the roads, the Tour de France, or the food, the cuisine, and then there might be those with romantic ideals of romance and old world chivalry, hopeful for love.
But for me, it's the sages, the God's of the literary world that for so many years have formed portraits in my mind that obtuse mortals like me can only dream of ever replicating.
Riding along, Shanna just behind me, these thoughts proliferate in my mind, as for a game, not out of boredom but rather to help ignore the pain in my legs and forget the ache in my stomach I try to remember some of them, but there are so many, and I'm soon confused amidst a world of names, philosophies, centuries and ideologies.
Roland Barthes, Emile Zola, Claude Levi-Strauss, Stendhal, Truffault, Sartre, Derrida, Camus, Balzac, Baudelaire, Maupassant, George Sand, Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, Delacroix, Hugo, Godard, Dumas, Gautier, Flaubert, the Goncourt brothers, Daudet, Mallarme. Verlaine, Rimbaud, Gide, Proust, Fournier, Foucault and Rivette.
Maybe you've heard of a few of these, if not I'll happily keep them to myself.
Oh and France was cold, really cold, but the food was deliciously cheap- this combination of words probably makes more sense to a touring cyclist...
When we found a Super Mache, just over the border we couldn't believe our eyes, we were expecting high prices, but I think, after studying the isles for an hour or so, and buying so much food, cakes, creme aux oeufs, riz au lait, fresh bread, chorizo, fruit, juice and yoghurt that I can probably say food is even cheaper here than what it is in Australia. If was Suisse maybe I'd do cross the border with a van every month or so...
Excitedly that night we had our first meal in a French restaurant. A contrasting affair of both great and bad. It wasn't what we expected, but maybe the beauty of traveling is that nothing ever is.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia