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French, Sunsets, Hernias… and a Cat

The Wonderweg has gone (and still is going) through some massive changes. It has always been just as much of an internal than an external journey. Two months of hiking have brought me from Brugg in Switzerland to Montpellier in France. A city I immediately clicked with on so many levels. Which is why, as most of you know, I decided to stay a while in the beautiful Occitanie region to learn French. Then the second lockdown hit us, and my little temporary home above the rooftops became ever more a sanctuary filled with thoughts and sunsets.

This is for the best in more ways than I thought. Hiking with heavy backpacks is cancelled until further notice. For weeks now, I’ve been in pain every time I lifted my right leg to put on my pants or socks. I thought it was just a twisted muscle. Or me getting old. Or muscle fatigue due to not moving enough with all the Covid restrictions. But it wasn’t getting better. Rather, gradually, it got worse.
It turns out, somewhere along the line of jumping over rocks like a gazella whilst carrying a twelve kilogram backpack, I’ve given myself a hernia, or possibly two, on my right side. I’ll have to be careful with this since I can’t currently afford an operation. I have no social security or health insurance. Hopefully, the hernia(s) will not get acute before I find a job and have a chance to get insured… fingers crossed, this should happen some time within the next 1-3 months.

My industry being dead in the water, plus all the personal upheavals that started long before Covid, got me thinking a lot of where to go from here professionally as well as personally. In which direction am I going to point this new life I am forced to start from scratch? I have quite a few thoughts and ideas of complete changes which I’ll gradually share with you here…

I’d also like to introduce you to my new partner in crime: JoJo. A twelve year old street cat who was found starving in an alley with severe gum infections four weeks ago. After a few weeks at the vet’s and after getting all of his teeth pulled, he slowly got better. I’ve decided to take him in. JoJo has been with me for a week now and is getting attached to me incredibly fast. In this short a time he has gone from hiding under the bed and only slinking out to quickly eat a bite, to lounging on his new cat tree, watching pigeons, and suffocating me at night by snuggling close and pressing his entire body onto my face. What can I say, I love the little rascal to bits already. From here on out we are partners on this journey.

Keep following us, if you’re interested in a more internal, South of France-based journey. Less mountains, but lots of palm trees, sunshine, and change. Lots and lots and lots of change. There will also still be hiking in the future. I’ve tasted how great it is to walk long distance and will surely do more trips. At some point, I definitely want to do the final leg of the journey I had planned: from the Strait of Gibraltar to Odemira in Portugal. But, for the moment, there will be no physical exercise for my legs beyond walking and swimming until I get this hernia taken care of.

Also, first on the agenda for JoJo and me is to find a place to live for ourselves in Montpellier. Because this little haunt is only ours until the middle of January 2021. What a year. The journey through it and beyond it definitely warrants to be called a Wonderweg. A journey full of developments, changes, and wonder… on an exponential scale.

Lockdown And Surprisingly Delicious Donuts

The latest lockdown here in France began in the night between 29th and 30ieth of October. Like many, I went for one last, long stroll on the 29th. The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. A clear, warm night with sparkling stars.

It was hilarious as well as disturbing when I came across a demonstration of anti-lockdown and anti-mask protesters. There, they were, all bundled close together, none of them wearing masks, shouting “Liberté!” over and over again and making quite the racket. I wondered if it occured to any of them that trough their irresponsible actions they were actually taking the risk of depriving their fellow protesters of the ‘Liberté’ of health? Thankfully, it was only a group of about 50 Covidiots which gave me hope for the overall sanity of the French populace. Most onlookers were as puzzled as I was, kept sitting at their tables in roadside cafes, kept sipping their wine, and had an amused smile playing on their lips.

I shook my head and ambled on… enjoyed the warm yellow lights in the old town, and the purplish sky due to a full moon. It was close to curfew. So, many stores and businesses were already preparing to shut down for an indefinite amount of weeks. Five minutes before curfew, I came upon ‘My Donut’ and couldn’t believe it. Two months ago, I had found this cute little gem by accident and had savored one of their home-made donuts. Probably, and surprisingly, one of the best desserts I had ever come across. In the weeks after, I had tried to find the tiny cafe again, but there were so many alleys, I just couldn’t remember which alley it had been in. But now… here it was. As it turned out the incredibly short distance of two minutes away from my home!

Something to look forward to for when the lockdown restrictions will be lifted. I shall then visit ‘My Donut’ at least once a week and take the time to sit down for a strong espresso and a round, fattening delicacy!

Weekend Wanderings and Wonderings

The streets were immensely busy last night as all of Montpellier seemed to have decided to enjoy one more lovely and long night out before entering into yet another lockdown. I keep being astounded by the atmosphere in this town. The relaxedness, the joie de vivre, the golden sun, the dramatic clouds…

As I wander, I wonder, could Montpellier possibly be the place I have been looking for all my life? Essentially, home is everywhere on the planet for me, where I have good people who care for me and I for them. What I have always missed and looked for though is an actual home base. A place I enjoy to return to over and over again. And, so far, I have never really discovered anywhere that seemed a good fit. For a while, I thought Zurich might become my base. Yet it somehow felt too clean, too structured, and restricted. Plus the climate sucks. Brrr. Malta crossed my mind for its proximity to the ocean, its perfect climate, and its lovely people. Yet it does not offer the rich and diverse international cultural life I crave. Macau also made it to the top of my list for its fascinating cultural melange, its awesome location in the midst of all Asian destinations I love, and its invigorating and often inspiring expat community.

To be fair, many places can possibly fit the bill, yet none have so far ticked as many boxes for me as Montpellier has. It has almost the same climate as Malta, which means a very short and mostly sunny winter and a long, lovely, hot, and sunny summer. Palm trees are everywhere. The Mediterranean Sea is right at the doorstep. Art and culture are everywhere. Opera, ballet, dance, theatre, painting, sculpture, and photography exhibitions, movie theatres, book stores with English and French books, street art… you name it. Food and drink are excellent, too. And for a nature lover like me, the Occitanie region offers almost too many trails to explore in one lifetime. Looking just a little bit further, the Pyrenees, Provence, and Camargue are only a stone’s throw away as well. Plus, it is easy to quickly get anywhere from here for international job contracts.

Yes, I can really imagine Montpellier to become my home base. The place I return to, to come home and rest a bit before venturing out again to roam the planet for work and travel. Now, to just figure out a way to actually make a home here… I do lack the resources at the moment, but only just the fact that I have discovered a potential geographical harbor to stave my uprootedness is amazing. Something to possibly look forward to and grow into…

Montpellier

Weekend steps… this time I’m just leisurely exploring around the neighborhood. So many cozy corners. Art and the memory of art can be found everywhere. Buildings, streets, and alleys are stunning. Good food and drink is available on every corner (No Liam. Don’t look. Keep walking). Street artists are doing their makeup, getting ready for a day of enlivening the streets. Everyone is out and about. Every seat in every street cafe and restaurant is taken. People are celebrating life, meeting friends, breathing the still comfortably hot autumn air.

I wonder if they know how lucky they are to be living here? This must be my favorite town to date. And it’s not just the place itself but its immediate surroundings as well. Everything is only a short drive away: the ocean, the Camargue, the Pyrenees, the Provence, the border to Spain… ☀️

From Smoking Feet To Smoking Brain

Sooo… I will stay in Montpellier for one month. And this morning is my first day of school… uuuaaahhhh… but let me start from the beginning…

I’ve made the spontaneous decision to replace smoking feet with a smoking brain. I am taking a 4-week intensive French course at the Alliance Francaise to finally be able to speak the language better. And, to hopefully also better my chances in the future when I apply to circus companies and shows that prefer that you speak French as well.

Et voila, school starts in one hour and I am a bit nervous because the class I’m joining has already done 50 lessons, and my French is, quite frankly, tres horrible! (Sorry, no accents on this little iPad).

I’ve also quite spontaneously rented a little rooftop apartment for a month. It’s in the center of town, old, cozy, super quiet with a view over the rooftops. I can’t even describe my absolute delight when I settled into my little temporary sanctuary last night. Ever since last October, when I lost my home, I haven’t had a space of my own. I couldn’t retreat anywhere where I can just be me. All those things we ususally take for granted… eating breakfast when and for as long as I want, listening to the music I like without earphones, binge-watching a series for as long as I want without earphones, stretching on my couch, hopping around naked (singing and screaming if I like), leaving things lying around, opening the window when I want, and shopping for my own little fridge, choosing my favorite foods, trying new ones, and just feeling home.

Last night, I did all that (except the binge-watching). And it was pure happiness. Being able to unpack my bag and hang my two t-shirts into the bedroom. Being able to cook (!!!) and enjoy a meal of my favorite spaghetti and a good glass of wine in my (almost own) home.

So yeah, I’ll enjoy this little haven for the next 4 weeks. I’ll also spend time at the beach which is only a stone’s throw away. I’ll find a favorite cafe to sit and write in, and I’ll work hard on Le Francais.

Check out my place as well. The house is awesome on the outside. If you look closer, you’ll see that the entire front isn’t real. It’s a street art mural. It looks even better in real life. The apartment is simple but has everything I could possibly need.

As for hiking, the Wonderweg is still on! It will just see me blabbering more confidently in French after the course is finished on September 26. The idea is still to head further West through France, Spain, to the Street of Gibraltar and then onwards to Portugal. I still have about 2’500 km ahead of me.

For this next month, I’ll most likely post a little less since my brain will be fried. But, I’ll still keep you posted about my adventures wandering and wondering around Montpellier. Probably every second day.

Bonne journee! Et un gros bisou a tous x

Villa Stella

I’ve arrived in Montpellier. This bustling city is quite the contrast to the quietness and natural beauty I experienced in the Camargue during the last four days. However, albeit different, Montpellier has abundant charm and beauty of its own. I am quickly falling in love with this old town. Every street is rich in history, flowers, and an international mix of humanity.

I got lucky with my accomodation as well. For three nights, I am staying at this private villa in the middle of town. Upon arrival, Evelyne, a former journalist and the owner of this lovely jumble of rooms, provided me with a unicorn key, a street map, and great off-the-beaten-path advice.

Everything in this old building has such a welcoming atmosphere. Over the last few weeks, I’ve mostly had restless nights. In the tent – always – because it’s just truly far more uncomfortable than romantic. In the hotel rooms I take once a week, I don’t seem to feel comfortable enough to sleep deeply either. My mind is racing and seems to never quite calm down. Here, in this old villa however, it’s so comfortable and homy, I’m actually resting.

The Greatest Painter Of All

The Southern sunlight and olive trees. For me a near irresistible combination.

Since yesterday, I am close to Avignon, staying with friends.

The landscape and flora have changed. I have longed for this for weeks. To be out of the cold Central European forests. To escape the chilly, heavy dampness at night, that permeates your body through to your very bones. Now, there is a gentle warmth at night. And scorching heat during the day.

Olive trees are shimmering silver, like beings from another planet. Tough and delicate all at the same time.

The light has changed, making all colors so much more intense. As Antoni Gaudi once said, “The Sun is the greatest painter of all.”

The Last Odds And Ends

boo boo

Boo is helping me pack the last odds and ends. So tempting to pack her too while we’re at it… But it’ll mean an additional 4 kg, so I guess I better not 😉 I’ll miss her to bits but, gladly, my dad is taking great care of her.

Aromat

aromat

What do you crave when you are far away from home? For me (don’t laugh) it’s Aromat. It’s a Swiss-ism. A quite unhealthy, artificial salt thingy. Most Swiss can’t live without it. Neither can I. And I’m not even Swiss. I’ve only lived there, off and on, for 17 years. Wherever else I went during the last 30 years, an Aromat was always with me. Making hard-boiled eggs and not having Aromat to go with it is a major emergency. Very sad.
So, even though I need to keep my backpack weight as low as possible, this Aromat shaker WILL have to come with me 😂☀️

Make the Best of It

boo on bed ready for more snuggling

Update from the Lake Constance Writing Front:
Over the last few months, I’ve had so much to process, learn, and overcome, I ended up being not by far as productive as I’d have liked to be. Still, I alternated writing short stories and articles for various platforms, worked on my blog, kept developing the story of my 2nd book, watched stage management webinars, and sent application emails out into the world. All this whilst sharing this comfy couch with little Boo who always faithfully waited for me to return and get back to work whenever I left our shared living space for a moment.
As a stage manager, like so many of my peers, I’m out of luck at this time. Nobody is hiring… yet. But I’ll keep writing emails, just to remind people I exist… in the great hope that one of these days, this year, or next year, when shows open up again, I’ll get an email saying, “Hey, are you still available. We want you!”
In the meantime, now that European borders are slowly opening, I am planning a long-distance hike.
There is the idea of a final destination, but I want to keep my options wide open. I’ll most likely start walking beginning of July. If the pitch for my new book gets accepted, I’ll write on the road to meet deadlines. I’ll take walking breaks when I find cozy, affordable shelter and will keep working on that book. Even if my manuscript does not get accepted at this time, I want to keep writing whilst on the road. Continue with my articles for TheaterArtLife, continue with my second book…
A travel blog comes to mind as well…
Plus, I am wondering if I can combine doing something good for myself with doing something good for others… maybe do some crowd funding and donate money to performing arts organizations around the globe who really need it. “Walk for the performing arts” or something like that… (let me know if any of you have any practical suggestions and ideas for this. Please PM me).
What I will definitely keep doing as well is to keep writing applications to shows worldwide whilst I am exploring the great unknown.
And thus the duration of my hike will largely depend on when a backstage job will become available to me. I might walk for only a month, then get an offer, and head to wherever it is I am needed. Or I’ll be walking for four months, five, six… who knows. It really isn’t so much about reaching the final destination as it is about letting those feet and thoughts roam freely, as it is to knock something off my bucket list (a long-distance hike has been on my mind for decades), as it is to stay active and creative.
At the moment, everything is so greatly uncertain and even more unpredictable than usual. Many of us have no idea when we’ll be able to get back to work. Some of us, like me, are homeless on top of it and have been couchsurfing for many months. I’ll embrace that homelessness and make the best of it… and in case I get injured or I’m just not up for it, I can stop walking at any time, and get back to couchsurfing somewhere… Continue from there…
Everything is possible.
I’ll do the only thing I can at this time, and do it with vigor:
I’ll go with the flow.