I miss hiking, and big trees, and nature, and crisp fall air mixed with North Country sunshine. It turns out there are some things I really liked about living in upstate New York. Like being able to volunteer on farms, and having the Adirondacks so close. When the academia is closing in, or I’ve been living in boxes for too long, there’s always a hike, or a lake, or a summit.
Not so much here in Rouen. As much as I adore the city (and trust me, I do adore it), there simply isn’t a ton of wild space. I live near the center of the city, so while bars and shops and restaurants abound, finding a small park is harder than one might think. Thank goodness there’s the lush grounds of a nearby Cathedral to comfort me. But the grounds are still landscaped, and take approximately five minutes to traverse.
However, after scouring the internet, and learning quite a few new french words, I found a short hike to the top of a nearby hill, that’s supposed to offer an incredible view of Rouen. Fortunately we had a sunny patch earlier in the week, and on Monday after class I set out with one of my classmates, Adam. The plan was simple: walk out to the hill, hike the hill, eat lunch at the top whilst basking in sunshine. Failproof, right?
Er, not so much. This is me we’re talking about.
For all my research, I only had a vague idea of where the flights of stone stairs began. But I figured if it was this popular of a spot, there would be signs and other tourists milling about. I also chose to willfully ignore the fact that most visitors get to the bottom of the hill by car. This is a little strange for me, since I’m usually very controlling, and a Planner. But I just…wasn’t that worried.
So you can imagine the outcome. To make a long and exhausting story neat and short, Adam and I walked about 5 miles uphill, and never found the panoramic view. I rather stubbornly insisted on on-wards and upwards, while the sun slowly sank in the sky, casting long but chilly shadows, and my hands turned purple with cold. I figured the hike would keep me warm and left my jacket at home, opting for a light blouse and an even lighter cardigan. It was 45 degrees (F) out.
We searched, and asked in French, and walked a lot of streets (experiencing very little nature), but could not find the Cote-de-Catherine for anything. This sounds really bad, but was exactly the oppposite.
I had a ball. We got lost, and turned around, but got a ton of fresh air, and saw an entire section of Rouen that I doubt I would have seen otherwise. We stumbled upon a suspicious nightclub, a giant brick building with chefs smoking out the back (still puzzled as to what it was), and an old hunting path behind a brick arch grown over with vines. And though we may have never found THE Panorama, we found A Panorama (when we finally reached the top of this hill). We were on the wrong side of the hill, but the view was spectacular, and was from the top of a monument for Jeanne D’Arc (or Joan of Arc), that looked over the seine, and was flanked by a majestic church and a strangely beautiful cemetery. We were completely alone, and I ate my lunch with shaking, now blue fingers. The wind was strong, and my body felt like a sac of ice, and it was utterly wonderful.
There are some real benefits to getting lost. One of them might be opening up to experiences you haven’t planned.