The perfume

Following in the traces of the book "The Perfume" by Patrick Süskind.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The End

That concludes the voyage in the trace of the perfume. True, the main figure also walks from Grasse to Paris, following a different itinerary, but that will have to wait, at least for my part!

All in all, the "expedition" has been a great experience. Not knowing what is going to turn up around the next corner is a great feeling.

After Pierrefort, the town where the walking stopped, there has been a lot of sitting. We sat in the local petanque team car from Pierrefort to St. Flour. We sat on the train from St. Flour to Millau. We sat in a bus from Millau to Montpellier. We sat in a train from Montpellier to Cannes. We sat in a train from Cannes to Grasse and back. We sat in the airport bus from Cannes to Nice. We sat on the plane from Nice to Oslo. We sat on the airport bus from Oslo airport to Oslo.

Now I am sitting where it all started. In the sofa. It seems we are sitting through our lives. At least if your working at a desk.

I noticed that once the walking was over and I was back in cities, I started yawning. I don't think I yawned a single time when I was walking. I guess I think cities are boring. Also, I really noticed the immense amount of noise there are in the cities. There is some noise in the nature to. Small rivers running through the woods. Trees moving in the wind. Birds.

Thanks for keeping me with company during my trip, by reading this blog.

Bye bye.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


When the main person in the perfume arrived in Cannes, he continued directly to Grasse. What means of transportation did he use? He walked of course. So, we went to have a look on the map covering the region.

The map showed an immense density of houses, all the way from Cannes to Grasse. There were absolutely no signs of any nice tracks we could walk. It was clear we needed to improvise.

We wanted to follow a track. The french word for track is "chemin". The closest thing to "chemin" we could find on the map were the french words "chemin de fer", meaning "iron track" or more commonly "rail road". So, we took the train to Grasse.

As always, when travelling with a destination in mind, it's on the way to the destination you have the best experiences. This is true for this expedition as well. If you want new impulses - go to the deep and forgotten France.

Monday, June 13, 2005


We managed to get to Montpelier yesterday. Unfortunately, the french have started replacing trains with buses some places. Trains are so much more comfortable.

We're continuing to Cannes today. In the book, the main figure takes the boat there. But, if you use the right transformation on the word "boat", i.e. you add 18 to the first letter, 3 to the second letter, subtract 11 from the fourth letter and finally add the letter 'n' to the end of the word; you actually get the word "train". Just a coincidence? I don't think so.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


As we descended towards Pierrefort yesterday, a town a bit east of Aurillac, I suddenly felt a strain in the muscle supporting the knee in my left thigh. We were maybe 12 km from Pierrefort. So, we entered the town with me leaning on a stick. Luckily, it seems that I just needed some rest. I've never walked continuously for such a long period of time in my life, so I guess I am experiencing what the professional athletes do, when they train more than the body can take.

My GPS tells me I have walked approximately 600 km the last 30 days. But we are close to the end now. From Pierrefort, the main figure in the perfume went by horse and carriage to Montpelier. We are going by train due to the scarce availability of horses and carriages.

Yesterday, in Pierrefort, we found a very nice hotel in the center of town. It had a restaurant, and the meal was just like you can expect from the french. Perfect.

Most hikers in this region do not go to Pierrefort. Partly because there are no tracks going there and partly because there is no or few public transportation possibilities. This morning we told the bartender in the cafe, where we had breakfast, that we were going to Montpelier, but that we did not know how.

He told us the local petanque team was going to St. Flour half an hour later, where we could take the train to Montpelier. Maybe they would have space for us?

As the petanque team gathered, we noticed one of the team members. A beautiful french woman, a bit younger than us, in a fancy renault scenic off road car.

10 minutes later, we were sitting in a Fiat Panda, belonging to the oldest man in the team.

Anyway, that's how it works here. You tell people what your problem is, and they help you out.

We're waiting for the train to Montpelier now.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Plomb du Cantal

After Sully sur Loire, the next mentioned geographic place in the perfume is Plomb du Cantal. The main figure in the perfume stayed in a cave here for seven years. We're staying just enough time to eat a sandwich. The book also describes it as the most deserted place in France.

Not so any more. Several ski lifts, including a telepherique can bring you within 200 meters from the top. Then, wooden stairs lead you on the last part to the summit. Also, ironically, it's the place where we've met the most people on the tour, and where the GSM signals have been the best.

But, the view is nice, and it feels good to finally be here after having seen the peak in the horizon for seven days, not to talk about the three weeks where I didn't see it.

A couple of things have happened lately. First of all, we realized yesterday that the dotted lines we have tried to follow from time to time, are not tracks, but rather marks the border between two communities. This explains why we've had problems finding these (nonexisting) tracks in the terrain.

Secondly, my 10€ inflateable mattress from Carrefour has started to leak air at a rate, just slow enough so it is impossible to locate the hole, but sufficiently fast requiring me to inflate it at least once during the night. So, I was happy when we slept in a gite with proper beds tonight. A joy shared only partly by Ole, who banged his head in the overhead bed during the night, after having been to the loo, with his face being covered in blood as the result. Luckily, the bleeding stopped quickly, and sewing seems unnecessary. We think women are impressed by scars, but he will have to come up with another story.

We're now descending to Pierrefort, a place also mentioned in the book. We should be there by dinner time.

Friday, June 10, 2005


We did not have net yesterday evening. Here comes yesterdays blog.

This morning, we worked our way down to Condat, which lies in the bottom of a valley next to a river. We found a small restaurant were we ordered coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat and orange juice. On the walls, a lot of beautiful black and white photos caught our attention. It turned out, the world famous photographer, Albert Monier was from town.

There were also several pictures of Georges Pompidou. On one, he had written "You never forget the place where you have grown up." He might have added "even if it is in the forgotten France."

The town also had a cheese factory. It was called Wähsli. A swiss had come to town in 1928 and started producing the cheeses St. Nectaire and Cantal. We bought some of the first mentioned at the factory outlet, before we continued to the next town, Lugard.

When we arrived in Lugard, it was lunch time. We found the towns only bar, and installed ourselves there. The only guy in the bar turned out to work the morning shift in Condat. We prepared a baguette with St. Nectaire, and let everybody taste, all agreeing it was very good. It was so good, we had to replenish our cheese reservoir with some local fromage de chevre, which we've had for dinner now!

In Lugard, we had noticed on the map, there was a velo rail (see previous blogs). Unfortunately, it went through two different communities, and the people in the bar told us the politicians were not able to agree on who should pay for the maintenance after the major who had taken the initiative to build it had lost the election. So, even in the forgotten/deep France, life is not much different from that in Norway.

We've now put up the tent and savoured the fromage de chevre as mentioned above. Tomorrow, we're going to Puy Mary, a mountain 1783 meters high. On the top there is a gite where we're planning to stay.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

More walking...

For each foot step now, we are approaching plomb de cantal, or at least what we think is plomb de cantal.

Earlier, after I crossed the Loire river, people would tell me, without any incentive from me, that I was in what they called "the forgotten France." Today, when we stopped for refreshments, a gentleman told us we were in "the deep France".

In the perfume, plomb de cantal is described as the most desert place in France.

We've entered an area of France which is so remote that there are not even flies or churches here (without other comparison). It is the kind of place you only end up if you are lost.

We've put our tent up next to the town Condat, where we will go to have our pain au chocolat and coffee in the morning. So, we're not completely in the wilderness yet after all. Good night!

Puy de Sancy

Yesterday was a day with a lot of impressions. When we left the raclette place, the weather was gray and it was extremely humid. As we started to climb uphill towards 1400m, the mist was blowing forcefully in batches in front of us. The landscape and weather reminded us of that in Scotland even if we've never been there (thank you TV).

I finally made use of my mountain shoes which had lost quite a bit of credibility after having caused blisters and sore heels and toes in the beginning of the walk. It had to take 36 years to understand that mountain shoes are only useful if you are walking in difficult terrain. Walking down here has been like walking in a garden so far. But, yesterday we climbed the highest mountain in mid-France, puy de Sancy.

Before we started the climb, we were looking at the map down in the town Mont Dore, which is at the bottom of the mountain. A woman asked if we needed advise, and we told her that we were okay, showing her where we were going. She looked shocked, and said it was impossible to climb it, which would normally have made us feel real macho, except this time the woman was probably 80 years old, which took away some of the effect.

We have to admit the climb was really easy. But the view was wonderful. On all sides, as far as the eye could see, there was flat land, which made you feel on top of the world. The sky had gotten completely blue during the day, and the wind was blowing strongly, making the impressions even more intense. In the faint distance, we could see the contours of Plomb de Cantal, which is where the main figure in the perfume spent 7 years.

We climbed down the lush mountains on the other side, down to Chareire. The food was really as good as we had been told. You really enjoy it when you have been walking the whole day.

We've just finished breakfast. Ole commented that the french had a strange way of calling the waiters attention. It turned out they were calling for the dog.

We're now going to Egliseneuve d'Entraigues and then on towards Condat.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


We're workin our way towards the south. The weather was terrible this morning, but now the sky is blue. We spent a night in a gite called cafe du lac yesterday, and was served a nice raclette. The hosts were very nice and recommended the next place to go, where the food is supposed to be excellente. It is in the village Chareire.

We're now in Mont Dore, but we came here at least 40 years too early when it comes to the age of the other tourists here.

Monday, June 06, 2005


The weather is bad here now! It rained a lot this night. We're on our way to Pessade.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


After two days in the hospitable Auberge de Hulotte, I was driven to Clermont Ferrand by the local support team (thanks Jean Mark).

I have now set up basecamp here in Clermont Ferrand, and am waiting for the rest of the team before we start traversing the wild Auvergne.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Here are some useful hints if you want to bicycle/walk in France, following the GR's.

-if you are bicycling you need a mountain bike'ish bike.
-if you are walking, you might want at least two pair of shoes. One for rain and mountain terrain and one for nice weather easy terrain. Both should have good air circulation to avoid blisters and dampening in front and back to avoid chronic fatigue in your heels and toes.
-when walking, it seems like 35 km is about max what the feet can take in one day.A thumb of rule is that the distance between your index finger and your thumb on a 1:100 000 map, is what you want to walk in a day, assuming that the track is more or less on a straight line between the two fingers.
-it is difficult to find accomodation along many GR's, so unless you really plan carefully and reserve upfront, a tent and a sleeping bag is compulsory.
-you can put your tent up in most places as long as the ground is not cultivated and as long as you put it up in the evening and take it down in the morning and leave no garbage.
-camp sites charge around 6€ for a tent and one person.
-the tent should have two layers such that the inner tent stays dry and it should be big enough for one person more than you are to have some comfort.
-A 2 person tent should not weigh more than 2.5 kg. It seems the norwegian brand Helsport is one of the best. I met an englishman who was very satisfied with his Vengo tent bought of the internet. I bought a 2.5 kg, 40€ tent of carrefour which works fine in good weather.
the sleeping bag should be comfortable down 5 degrees more than you expect. A comfort level of -5 and you should be safe.
-a nice mattress is important to sleep well. Air inflateable bought of Carrefour for 10€ worked fine for me.
-Decathlon is a french sport shop chain with shops all over france and good quality/price. Check them on internet for exact locations.
-Au vieux campeur, 6, rue Thénard,75005 Paris is a very good sport shop in Paris close to the latin quarter. They also have a web page.
-IGN makes the GR maps. 903 is the map to get to see all the tracks in France. They had this map in the Nomaden shop in Oslo (they are also on the internet). You should be able to buy it off or Both these organisations have shops in Paris.
-for on the ground maps and detailed planning, I have used the blue series 1:100 000 maps. There are 74 of these maps that cover domestic france.
-if you want to swim in a swimming pool in France, you need a tight swim suit/short. The reasons are hygienic. A normal short is often used for other activities and hence become dirty. It is very frustrating to be stopped from swimming on a hot sunday without possibility to buy a swim short.
-fewer and fewer villages have grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants.Ask people and have emergency food with you.
-people fill up your water bottles when you ask.
-bring dryfit clothes or similar. They stay dry and are light weight. Fleece is good for colder days.
-you can get special towels that dry quickly and weigh little in travel shops.

Auberge de Hulotte

After lunch in Miremont yesterday, the track continued along the artificial lake Besserve. A big poster showed how the lake was divided in sections for sailing, motor boats, fishing etc. At one point I arrived at a nice beach. There was even a big lawn above it. I decided to stay there for the night.

Even if the water held probably something like 22 degrees and the sun was shining from a clear blue sky, there was nearly noone there. I jumped in the water and had a refreshing swim. On the other side of the water there seemed to be some kind of sailing school, profiting from the breeze from the north.

I sun dried my skin and then made a sandwich from the food I had bought in Miremont. As the sun was starting to set, I realized that it was going to be a cold night. Also, being next to the water meant it would be even colder, and since I was deep down in a valley, the sun wouldn't access my camp spot until late next morning. So, I decided to continue to the next hill, St.Jaques d'Ambur. Then, the sun would heat my tent up first thing in the morning.

As I crossed through the center of the town, I suddenly saw a sign 'Auberge 500 m'. I decided to check it out. A bed felt like a good idea.

When I reached the Auberge, it looked closed, but I rang the bell next door to have it confirmed. A man opened the door and said the auberge was closed, but that the owners had a farm 700 m further on where they also had rooms. I considered it the engineering way. If it was a dead end, the whole thing would make me walk an extra 2x500m + 2x700m = 2400m in total, for nothing. But it felt plausibel that the owners would be there, so I decided to give it a go.

I arrived at the farm. Two cats waiting outside looked hopefully up at me as I knocked on the door. Was two knocks on the door going to succeed where hours of miaowing had failed? No. Noone answered the door.

I found it a bit strange there was noone home, as there were three cars parked around the house. I decided to shout 'Allo' with a loud voice.

From a house on the opposite side of the square I immediately heard an answer: 'Bææh'.

Being an engineer you never take anything for granted, so I went to check. But statistics were against me. It was indeed a sheep, and not the owner pretending to be a sheep, that had answered my call.

Constructively, I started on my way back, thinking about where to put the tent. But, as I left the square, I suddenly noticed a small house retracted from the others. Luck was with me this time. The daughter of the farm and her husband lived there, and they were home. They gave me a room to 15€ per night and invited me in for a cup of coffee.
Ole, the long one, is joining me in Clermont Ferrand on saturday. I was planning to take the train there from the railway station, which is only 10 km en route from here. But, it turned out during the coffee break, that the husband was working in the center of Clermont Ferrand, and I can ride with him on friday. So I've decided to stay two days here on the farm.

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it's time to have some breakfast.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


It's been two days now since my last update.

Monday evening, I walked a short distance from Evaux les bains to a small river where I put my tent up. The next morning, I got up early and continued walking. The sun was rising as I strolled along the small country roads. Since all the dogs in the farms starts barking when a foreigner pass, the locals got an early morning too.

I have had big problems finding the red and white stripes that marks the track GR41 from Evaux les bains and on. Since my map isn't very detailed (1:100 000), it was sometimes difficult to choose the right path. But, I gradually worked my way in the right direction. Seeing traces from red and white stripes once in a while felt good...

I chatted a bit with an old couple that filled up my water bottles on the way. They said it was the community that was responsible for the marking. Which explained the quality difference of the tracks in the different regions I have traversed.

I didn't plan to walk very far yesterday, but the sandals working so well (thanks mum), I ended up doing the longest bit so far. 40 km. The GPS actually stopped working because I had been on the road for 14 hours (max battery capacity). So, the pace was piano, and I had long breaks.

One of the reasons I pressed on as far as 40 km, was that the old couple had told me there was a restaurant at the lake Etange de Chancelade. Actually, I think the word Etange is a word for a lake with rivers coming in only, i.e. the water goes into the ground. At least I can't see any rivers coming out from it on the map. Anyone knows a similar word in english and norwegian?

On my way to the lake, I stopped at a house to ask for directions. The couple there told me that the GR41 was no longer maintained, hence the bad marking. They were very helpful and called the restaurant to check if it was open. Unfortunately it was closed on tuesdays. Instead, the couple made me a nice sandwich and gave me an apple. A nice change to the cereal bars (carbohydrates and vitamines) and peanuts (proteins) which is my emergency food.

The couple told me it was nice to camp next to the lake, so I went the last 3 km, put my tent up, and had a swim as the sun was setting.

Right now, I am relaxing after having found a small restaurant in Miremont, where I had a nice lunch. I am continuing to St.Jaques d'Ambur, Montfermy and le Bouchet today and tomorrow.

The weather is still nice, but due to the wind coming from the north right now, it gets quite cold in the morning. This morning a farmer told me it was only 7 degrees celsius. I have to start the day with warm, long underwear, then switch to long pants and a sweater only, and finally around 10 o'clock I can put my short and T-shirt on.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Evaux les bains

Yesterday, I went to St.Amand Montrond. I camped there and went to see the city. They had a book festival on, which meant that a lot of authors, known and unknown, presented their books. I bought very few books. None actually. I didn't want to add more weight to my backpack.

It rained tonight, and the temperature has fallen to 20 degrees. It feels ice cold after having had 35 degrees for some days now, but it will be good for walking. I am on my way to Evaux les bains now, to do just that. Walk. I stopped in Montlucon to buy sandals. Most shops are closed here on mondays, but luckily Decathlon, a big french sport shop, was open.

They had sandals. There was even a special poster advertising for a good offer on randonne (hiking) sandals. The poster listed all the fabulous characteristics. And the price? 16.90€ It was too good to be true. Literally. Seconds after I had put a pair in my basket, a man came and asked if I needed help. I said I was buying hiking sandals. He called up their shoe expert,and she looked shocked when I told her I was planning to use the 'special offer sandals' for hiking. Instead, she said, I should rather buy a pair of these, and showed me a page in their catalogue with shoes with especially good air flow.

I agreed with her that they looked really good.

"So, do you have those?", I asked.

"No, we do not have any of those.", she replied.

I ended up buying a pair of sandals four times more expensive than the ones I had originally picked out.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


So, the plan was to follow in the steps of the main figure of the perfume. At least what concerns the travelling. My cousin warned me that I should not talk to loudly about following in the footsteps of the book, since he argued that the book had its darker sides. Luckily, my polish friend in Etampes consolated me that people tended to read the book in three different ways. Either as a criminal novel, i.e. with focus on the murders in the book. Or as a roman with focus on the perfumes. Or, finally, as a roman with focus on the voyage.

Anyway, since I hitch hiked the other day, and am sitting in the train now, people might argue that I am not following the plan 100%

And I guess they are right. But who cares?

I will try a new move tomorrow. Listening to my mother.

She said I should walk with sandals to give the feet more air and thus avoid blisters.

Hmmm.Travelling by train is really comfortable.

To be continued.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


If you compare my expedition with one of, lets say, Lars Monsens expeditions, you could say I have some slight advantages. Regular bakeries where I can buy fresh baguettes and pain au chocolat (which I've just eaten three of by the way). Frequent restaurants where I can get cheap four course meals. Etc. Etc.

But! Lars Monsen has one important advantage. He can stink. And no one will notice. So he can bring less clothes. Therefore, to even out things, I just sent most of my clothes home by mail. After all, I am in a farmers region, and I hope the local population will take me for a farmer should things get to bad.

On the camping spot yesterday, there was an englishman next to me (btw. I've changed subject now, i.e. I am not talking about stinking anymore). He was bicycling through large parts of France. I told him about my blisters and how people had told me to rather bicycle instead of walking. He said he had got problems with his knees on his way, so he wasn't so sure about that. That helped!

Luckily I have a tent now. The good thing about having a tent is that you can stop for some days, healing your wounds without being ruined. I pay 6.50€ a day at the camp site, whereas the cheapest hotel I have seen has been 27€.

If anyone feels like walking in France is something they would like to do, I will soon post an article giving you the basic information you need. Meanwhile, the best advise is to start walking to make your feet accustomed!

Friday, May 27, 2005


As I walked down from the camping and crossed the road that lead to Bourges, I could see a blue car approaching from the city centre.

I put my thumb out, and the car stopped. What luck! The driver turned out to be a lawyer on his way to Bourges. And, since he was going to Palais de la justice, which is always in the city centre, I could not have asked for more. I also have to add an additional chapter to 'the world is small' book. His brother was married to a norwegian, and had been living in Oslo for 30 years.

When we arrived in Bourges, he took me through the palais de la justice, to show me the right direction onwards.

Bourges is sizzling with life. I think I will stay here a night or two.

Maps should be able to find the small villages!

I am now a little bit north of the towns Vierzon and Bourges.

In an unknown version of the perfume, the main character at this point takes the bus to Bourges and then the train past the flat wooden areas. This is especially suprising, since neither buses or trains existed at the time the action took place.

When the camping responsible arrived this morning to get paid, I asked him whether the bus strike was over(I read in the news there had been a bus strike). He said he thought so.

"Is there a bus from here to Bourges?", I asked him.

"Oh no!", he answered. "You have to go to Bourges to find any buses."

To be continued...

Thursday, May 26, 2005


It was really hot today, around 30 degrees celsius. I carried 3 l of water with me, since both the part before and the part after lunch went through unhabitated areas. It mainly went through pinewood. It's incredible how pinewood seems to heat the air even more.

I started in Aubigny and stopped in Ménétréol-sur-Sauldre to have lunch. I was lucky, there was a small restaurant with the usual menu. Then I continued on to Neuvy-sur-Barangeon. Normally, when a town is called 'sur' something, it is because the town is lying beside a river. So, both Sauldre and Barangeon are rivers.

It's paradise for insects where I've ended up. Hot, no wind, humid. And the masks in the mostiquo net on my tent seems to be big enough to let the smallest ones in. I know these guys. They are going to eat my skin! I've closed the main net now. Hopefully that will stop most of them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Today summer arrived in France. The bad news for me is that my backpack will be even heavier, as all my clothes will be in it, and because I will have to carry more water. However, I am not expecting much sympathy...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mystery solved

I am in Aubigny now. When I went to the tourist office, what was gleaming at me? The "velo rail" brochure! It even has its own web site,, and there are twenty two different trajectories to be done in different regions all over France. But the receptionist in Argent was right, it can only be done in the weekends, at least the one that goes between Argent and Aubigny.

Aubigny seems to have an interesting story. They call it the scottish town because it was on scottish hands for many years! I just asked the bar man, and he told me the french gave the area to the scottish, so they could protect it against the english during the 100 year war. I will look closer into this the next hours. It looks like a beautiful town, well worth spending a night in!

Aubigny not Aubagne

As I checked out of the hotel on my way to Aubigny, not Aubagne as I wrote previously, which is in Provence, I thought I might as well throw the "velo rail" question on the receptionist. After all, it would be fun to try a cyclo dressin. The receptionist knew about it. I had to check with the town hall, he said, for details. I went to the town hall, and as I entered the reception there, I could feel the excitement rise. Would this be the end of the "velo rail" quest? I asked my usual question, telling her (the receptionist) I had been sent there by the hotel to get the details about velo rail. As I observed the face of the person behind the counter, I suddenly realized where the designer of the question mark had found his or her inspiration.

When you work in an information counter, I am sure you take some pride into being able to answer any question. And here, not only a stranger asked about something she obviously felt she should know about, someone in town had told me to go there, meaning the town expected her to know about it.

After some seconds, she asked me vaguely "do you mean the cyclo dressin?"

Boy, not only was it clear the velo rail brand marking had failed. Two middle managers had obviously ridden their horses to the bitter end. The map makers and the people on the ground clearly had a communication problem.

As I nodded affirmatively to her, she said I had to go to the railway station on sundays.

"So, you can only do cyclo dressin on sundays?", I asked.

"And saturdays.", she answered...

I suddenly felt like a criminal investigator. As I had repeated the subjects answer to her, she changed her explanation.

"What about wednesdays?", I asked, telling her about the strange noise the old ladies heard every wednesday. The receptionist shook her head, obviously on solid ground now. It was only open on saturdays and sundays.

As I was leaving the town hall, I nearly felt like leaving my card, for her to call, if she should feel like changing her explanation, or any new information should turn up.

I have decided to double check her story in Aubigny.

Argent update

I think I must have been a bit tired yesterday, when writing that nothing special had happened... A good nights sleep has refreshed my memory. Even though we are equipped with two legs, we are maybe not supposed to use them that much? After all, they do fit quite well in the sofa too.

Anyway, here are some details on what happened yesterday. As I approached Argent, I did what I had said the day before I would never do. I took a shortcut. The thing is, a sign suddenly turned up saying "this way to Argent". It was not indicated on my map, where the route I was following did a wide turn in the woods. So I decided to take my chances on the mysterious route. It worked out quite well, except it ended up three kilometers from town, on an asphalt road, which turned out to be the main road into Argent. So, I decided to take my chances again. This time going off track, using my compass. Of course, on the way there had to be an obstacle. It was not the kind of obstacle you would see in one of Lars Monsens (norwegian explorer) films, i.e. a huge river you have to swim over with your dogs in -60 degrees, with wolfes waiting on the other side. No, this was a one meter wide ditch, just wide enough so I couldn't jump over with a backpack. But when your biggest adventure normally is crossing the street in Oslo, this was one huge leap on the adventure scale. So I did like I've read and seen so many times in books and movies, I put a rotten tree over the ditch. And, I have to disappoint you. It worked, and I didn't fall in! I finally found what I was looking for. The old closed down (I hoped) rail road. I had seen this rail road on the map since several days. Next to it was written in bold "velo rail". 'velo' is one french word for bicycle, so I immediately thought it was possible to cycle on the rail road in some kind of dressin. So, several days ago, I started asking people if they could confirm this. Most people just shook their heads. They had never heard about that rail road, and at least not about "velo rail". The tourist offices were no better. It was somewhat clear that no matter what "velo rail" was, the brand making had gone seriously wrong. My last hope was in Sully sur Loire. This was really close to the "velo rail" text on the map, and also where the path I followed took of in another direction, to come back to the rail road here in Argent. I asked the reception of the camping in Sully. "Yes, yes" they said and started running around collecting brochures. You could bicycle along the rail road. "So it's not some kind of bicycle on the rail road itself" I asked. To this question they paused for a moment, looked at me, looked at each other, and then we all started laughing together. The joke of the day, bicycle on rail road, ha ha. Well, that was several days ago. Now I was on the rail road in the middle of the wood and walked along it. I was thinking to myself it would be possible to cycle along it with a heavy duty off road bike. A bit further on, a small sign which must have been destined for the bikers said: "1 km to Argent". And then a bit further on, a new sign read "cyclo dressin stop". I got this mixed feeling of being right, but that it didn't do me much good. A bit like what it must feel like when you are overrun by a truck, but you had the right of way.

When I arrived in Argent, I asked two old ladies whether they could recommend me a hotel. I also, of course, asked them about the "velo rail". "A-ha", one of them said "that must be the sound we hear every wednesday!". They thought it had to be some kind of dressin they said, but they weren't sure. In any case the rail road station in Argent was shutdown. But the rail road started in Aubagne, so that was probably the starting point of the dressin too, they meant! The two old ladies turned out to be 83 and 85 years old. I asked what the secret of staying so fit was. The answer was "When we feel like walking we walk, when we feel like sitting down we sit down, and our husbands are in the churchyard, so we only have to worry about ourselves."

I am going to Aubagne now, to solve the "velo rail" mystery.

Monday, May 23, 2005


I have left the Loire for good now. The path today went through Coullons to Argent sur Sauldre. The weather is quite nice now, and its announced to be good the rest of the week! I found a local restaurant in Coullons where they served a menu I am starting to get used to. Four dishes with wine for 11€. Otherwise, nothing special has happened today...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Private camping

Yesterday, I crossed over the river, to see she Sully castle. I have to admit it is the most beautiful castle I have ever seen. There was a tour in the castle in the evening, only lit by candles, which I was able to catch. It gave an idea of how the life in the castle was in the evening. But the castle was still most impressive from the outside. I wouldn't be suprised if Walt Disney has used it as model in some of his cartoons.

Afterwards, I bumped into two french walkers that I had met the same morning. We had walked together for a few miles that morning, and during the walk they thought me the names of several of the trees and plants on the way! It was nice to see them again, as it turned out we had a lot in common!

Today I have walked south eastly through the towns St.Florent and St.Gondon. These towns do not really lie on the shortest path to my destination, so I was in doubt whether I should rather take a shortcut to gain time, instead of following the marked path. Luckily I didn't. First, in St.Florent, when I asked some people for water, it turned out they were cleaning up after a childrens party they had held the night before, in the town hall. Since there was plenty of leftovers, I was offered a delicious piece of cake which I could enjoy in the sun under a tree in the adjacent park. The rich cake was exactly what I needed after 20 km walking, and I enjoyed it, and the sun, for about an hour. Then, I continued on to St.Gondon. This is one of the few towns I have seen in this area that lies on a hilltop. Basicly because hills are rare around here. The town was really beautiful. I hoped they had a restaurant since I was quite hungry, and indeed they had a small bistro. They only served croque monsieur, but they tasted good, and most importantly, this was the kind of bar I've only seen in the french books I had at school. Everybody in town seemed to pop in after work, and I really enjoyed myself observing them, and talking to them. The oldest one, 79 years old, had been in Norway, and told how impressed he had been by the fish he had been served. Finally, when the bar closed, one of the guests invited me to put my tent up in his garden. It turned out his garden was no less than a huge piece of land next to the river. It had used to be covered by an impenetrable layer of bushes, he told me, which he had used four years to turn into what it was today. And the result is impressive. I am now lying in what must be characterized as a high class golf green. Next time I will not even consider making a shortcut!

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Todays walk went from Ch.neuf sur Loire to Sully sur Loire. On the way, I past through St.Benoit sur Loire. Unfortunately, the ambiance and the perles I have found so far seem to be inversely related to the size of the church or castle in town. So, I went through St.Benoit sur Loire faster than the time it takes to pronounce the word St.Benoit. Sully sur Loire has a big castle, so I expect the worse. For the moment, I've settled down in the camping site on the other side of the river. The camping prices have varied between 5.60€ and 6.16€ for a tent and one person so far.

On the way through a nature reserve not far from here, suddenly a crow was jumping on the path in front of me. After a closer look, I could see that one of it's feet was entangled in a piece of wire. I first thought the crow, being intelligent as it is, tried to show me the wire, asking for me to remove it. But when I approached it, it started screaming more like what sounded like "stay away" to me. It seemed to me I had several options. 1.Leave it alone and let nature play its role. 2.Kill it. 3.Torture it, and then kill it. 4.Help it. I chose the last option. Finally, years of television watching was going to bear fruits. I first broke of a branch shaped as a V in the end from one of the trees in the protected forest. With this, I immobilized the crow. Then, I used my Carrefour raincoat as padding, keeping it still with my elbow. I have to admit I was afraid of making things worse, the birds leg looking quite sensitive compared to the stiff wire. But, I got it of in the end (the wire that is). I put the crow back on the path, and for a moment I thought I could read in it's eyes:"Why didn't you just kill me?" But a few minutes later, it flew of, and lived happily ever after. Hopefully it won't be overrun by a car to soon, so my valiant efforts have not been in complete vain. Well, that was todays sunshine story. It's dinner time now, and I will go over on the other side of the river and see if I can find myself some chicken...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Chateauneuf sur Loire

As I arrived Mardié yesterday, a small town on the outskirts of Orléans, I decided to continue further. The Loire river was maybe just a kilometer away. It contains so much history, it has been put on the UNESCO's world heritage list. The river did not seem to notice my arrival. From the width of the river's path, it was clear that the level of water could vary quite a lot. Right now it was possible to walk down from the side of the river and down in the flat area where traces from water could clearly be seen. The water was so silent it could barely be heard, even though it went by quite fast. I sat down on a small area of gras and made a baguette from my newly refreshed food supplies.With the sun setting on my right side, I leaned back and enjoyed the fantastic scenery in what seemed like a magic moment. Further down the river a man kneeled down in what must have been the direction of Mecca. At least it was clear that he was not worshipping the sun.

I continued up the river, past St. Denis de l' Hôtel and further on to Châteauneuf sur Loire. No property went down to the river, so I could follow the river all the way. The politicians in Oslo might have something to learn from this area when it comes to protect the right of way to the shore line.

At ten o'clock in the evening, I arrived at the camp spot just next to Ch.neuf sur Loire. Feeling the nice hot water glide down my back in the complete new premisses, I felt like kneeling down worshipping the shower inventor. Afterwards, when putting up the tent in the dark, I was so exhausted I kept mixing up the poles that holds the tent! Tomorrow I will mark them...

I am sitting in a small restaurant in Ch.Neuf sur Loire now. The mousse au chocolat, fait a la maison, was just put on my table. Life has been worse.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fay aux loges

I was lying under the trees. Having finished breakfast, next to the small church in Sully la Chapelle, I realized I had to hurry up if I was going to be in time for lunch in Fay aux Loges. Having eaten self made baguettes the three last meals, not only was I starting to miss the kind of meals I got at Malesherbes, hotel de la gare, I was running out of baguettes! I quickly got up, put the backpack on and started in a fast pace along the well marked path. I knew I would have to be there well before two in the afternoon to be in time. A quarter past one, I entered the village, and just in front of me I could see a small restaurant. Inside the whole population of the surrounding countryside seemed to be seated. But luckily there was space for me too! Was it any good? Excellent! Paté, porc with french fries, cheese plate and mousse au chocolat. Wine included. And the price was 10.80€. I think I will be able to walk until dinner now. If I can catch it.

Foret de Orleans

Tonight I slept in the forest of Orleans. It was a quite cold night, probably because of the clear sky. I did a few kilometres yesterday too. Around 27. Stopped every 5 km and enjoyed the sun.The weather was real good yesterday, and it looks good today too. Tomorrow though, I've heard a thunderstorm is coming in. The path yesterday was Pithiviers-Escrennes-Mareau aux bois-Chateau de Chamerolles-Foret dom. d'Orleans. The latter place is the forest outside Orleans.I put my tent up next to a small lake there.

On the way yesterday I passed by a farm. The owner was working alongside the path, and we started talking.It turned out one of their sons had moved to Oslo three weeks ago to finish his studies at the "chambre de commerce" there. They invited me in and offered me refreshments and food. Afterwards they showed me pictures they had received from their son from the 17th of may celebration in Oslo! The world is indeed getting smaller and smaller (unless you are walking...)! They also showed me around the farm. A nice break in the walking. Thankyou for your hospitality!

It felt nice to come out of the forest.The trees were so high and so interconnected that no sun could come through. Only on the roads, that were made for the purpose of getting wood out of there, could I stop for a sparse moment to let the sunrays warm my cold skin from the night. Once I finally got out to Sully la Chapelle, I could imagine how it must have been in the old times, when the wood was even bigger, and open populated fields were rare.Not to talk about the possibility of getting lost!

Today is an important day. Although I want to take my time and not press on too much, I can feel that it is satisfactory everytime I can make a new fold in the map... I just entered the bottom of the map! But don't worry, the story is not over yet - there are more maps in my backpack...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pithiviers and further

I am sitting in front of a brasserie, place la martroi, Pithiviers.The sun is shining from a clear, blue sky.The bells from the cathedral just rang three times, probably to tell me its three quarters past eight. It might also indicate that I just finished my pain au chocolat number three, although I hold that as more unlikely. The square is mainly used as a car park now, it looks like, probably to support the shops that surrounds it.

Today I will be walking towards the woods outside Orleans.In a couple of days the plan is to be in Chateauneuf sur loire and then to continue to Sully sur loire.The latter is where Grenouille (main figure in the perfume) crossed the loire.

When it comes to the further route, I didn't remember much from the first time I read the perfume, except that he (Grenouille) started in Paris and ended up in Grasse. I've read the book a second time now, and it turns out that I am going to Pierrefort, just south of Clermont Ferrand. From there he went by horse and carriage to Montpelier. I am unsure about the horse and carriage availability in Pierrefort nowadays, but I will worry about that when I get there. From Montpelier, Grenouille took a boat to Cannes, and walked the last bit from there. A small detail on the way, which I will modify, is that he spent 7 years in a cave at plomb cantal, the highest mountain in Auvergne. I've decided to spend approximately 7 minutes there, if I find a cave.

But first I have to get there. Sitting in the sun eating pain au chocolat is only a start.The church bells just rang once.It's a quarter past nine.Time to order a new coffee.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Shoe laces

This morning I did a well placed investment. Shoe laces. I realized I had neglected this important part of equipment...With the new laces, my feet were held tight in place, avoiding more blisters.The devil is in the details... Otherwise, today I clocked in 37 km on my gps in 9h50m worth of walking including breaks.I have passed by numerous churches, farms and huge estate houses, as well as small old houses.A nice walk all in all,except for a couple of kilometres that were badly marked and on asphalt!For once,two of the villages I went through had open cafes! I am now in Pithivier, which looks like a beautiful town. I am looking forward to see it tomorrow...

Hotel de la gare, Malesherbes

Never have I slept as well and eaten as good as at the hotel de la gare in Malesherbes. You should come quickly because the prices will not stay like this once people discover it! I had four course lunch, four course dinner, breakfast and a room with shower for 38€ or 300 NOK. The meals were excellent, first course was a delicious salad buffet, second course you could choose between five different meat/fish types combined with the choice of five different vegetables, third course was fromage blanc or a cheese plate where you could choose between an abundance of different cheeses, and in the fourth course you could choose between something like nine different desserts. And wine? Included of course:) The staff working here has been very nice to me. I think I must have found the original France!

Monday, May 16, 2005


Yesterday I walked from Etampes to Ornoy la Riviere and then to Valpuiseaux. The day before, I had bought a tent and an inflateable mattress at Carrefour Etampes, which I put up now in a beautiful field only accompanied by she sound of grasshoppers and the sun, setting over the fields I had just walked through. After a small evening meal, I fell asleep. Later in the night, I was awaken again, by the sound of the rain hitting my tent! It didn't look good for the next day walking. However, in the morning the rain stopped, and it hasn't rained all day. I am now in Malesherbes, after having passed through Champmotteux and Boigneville. I decided to try to find a room here, to dry my shoes which are quite wet after walking in wet grass from yesterdays rain. However, both the hotels in town were full! Disappointed, I decided to at least have a nice warm lunch at the Hotel de la gare, which had been recommended to me. A four meal lunch that tasted perfect with wine included for 10,10€ is incredible! And, as things turned out, there had been a double booking, which means I now can go upstairs to have a shower in a room, which will be appreciated by me and the other guests in the restaurant I think!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Jaques Boussard

It turned out the house I slept in tonight was the house of the french painter Jaques Boussard. The responsible of his art exhibition, who offered us to stay, was his daughter in law.Boussard was especially famous in the 50's she told, and she didn't want him to be forgotten. Hence, she worked hard to exhibit his paintings. I liked the paintings I saw,and was especially fascinated by the perspectives he had chosen,which were sometimes from above.

The world

Tonight I slept in an old library in the third floor of an old manor house.On the wall, an old map showed how the world was divided between France, US, UK, and a couple of other countries. Outside, in the big garden, only the sound of the cars remind me that I am not back in the good old medieval times:-) Today I will start walking towards Malesherbes.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


After lunch we went up to the tourist office again. On the way we went through the local market which crowded the streets. Up on the hill on the far end of the main street, we could see the french flag blowing in the wind on top of the tower of Guinette, part of the ancien castle. In this tower, we were told, king Philippe Auguste kept his wife, princess Ingeburge of Denmark as prisoner from the very day after the wedding. Women liberation had not come very far at that time it seems. When we arrived at the tourist office, they continued to help us with their best effort! Seldom have I been welcomed as well as I have been in this town! In the end, the responsible of the art exhibition next door offered us to stay at her house! Immediately the receptionist in the tourist office was so reliefed they had found something for us, she suggested we celebrate it with a bottle of champagne! We love Etampes!


Yesterday we ended up walking around 30 km. We had called a B&B the day before to be sure it had vacancies.It's a quite nice feeling to take the backpack of, take a hot shower and get dry clothes on and then lie down on a bed. Our Paris based support team had called us earlier that day. They wanted to pay us a visit. They couldn't have timed it better. The place we stayed was quite remote from anything that looked like somewhere you could eat, even shutdown restaurants like the one we had seen earlier that day.So, after some misguiding from me, they managed to find Boinville, which was where we stayed, and drive us to Etampes where we had a nice meal together. Today we walked to the same town through the woods and through rain. When we asked the tourist office for a place to stay, they really had to struggle. It turns out that not only is there a go cart competition here, it is the european go cart championship. They (the tourist office) called everywhere for us and served us cakes while we were waiting. I think it was even the mayor of the city that personally showed us the way to the tourist office when we asked for the way. We still haven't found a place to stay though. When we asked if there was a camping site, they checked, but it turned out they did not allow tents... So it looks like we're definitely not doing things the way we're supposed to-at least if we want a place to sleep. We're going back to the tourist office now (lunch is over) to see if they can help us out.The city is nice so we would like to stay!

Friday, May 13, 2005

No cafes

It's lunch time, and we hoped for a small cafe where we could grab an espresso or a cafe au lait. We found a building with an old sign showing that it used to be a bar. Not anymore though. While we stood in front of it realizing that the pictures we're used to see, with a crowd of old french men sitting around a table drinking pastisse and playing boule belongs to the touristic places in the south. A woman suddenly came out of the house next door, and she could confirm there was no bakeries, no cafes, no magazines, no nothing in town. We had to go to Etampes she said. She told us that the house she lived in used to be a restaurant and that they had erased the sign. The neighbours wanted to do the same with the bar sign. I said it was a pitty because the sign looked very nice. "People kept knocking on the door asking for food when we had the sign, so we had to erase it." she said. So if anyone feels like moving to france to open a restaurant/bar/hotel, there should definitely be a market for it!

When we walked out of town, a sign for "Carrefour Etampes" confirmed who the killer of the magazines was. Carrefour is one of the worlds largest super market chains and it is not unusual that they have 100 cashiers, thereby replacing 100 small shops! Carrefour is coming to Norway now.

Gray weather

Yesterday we made a short walk only, 5 km. Dourdan is a really beautiful castle with a relaxing lawn inside. There is a go cart competition going on in the region, causing the chambres de hôtes and the local hotel to be fully booked! Luckily there is a big vacation centre on the town limit with 225 rooms, so at least we got a bed!

We're continuing to Chalo Saint Mars today, a walk we think is approximately 20 km long.


Todays walk has been partly through woods and partly through immense fields like the one on the picture.We have not seen any trace of Jean Baptiste Grenouille (main figure in the perfume) for a while. We know he crossed the river at Sully sur Loire, but we are not there yet... The GPS tells us we are 645 km from Grasse.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

First day walking over...

We ended up walking 30 km through lush woods and small villages. However the villages did not have the small cafes and bars as we expected. Our route today was St. Remy les Chevreuse-les Molieres-Roussigny-Forges les Bains-Machery-le Marais-le Val St.Germain-St.Cyr sous Dourdan. Very few places to stay on the way, so we were quite happy when we ended up where we are now, a nice "gite". Actually, every time we asked someone where we could find a place to stay, they answered "the next village..."

Saint Remy les Chevreuse

We have now taken the train out from Paris to Saint Remy les Chevreuse (end station of RER B) and we finally start to walk!

On the move

Were we not supposed to walk?

Leaving Paris

We're now in Knut's apartment charging our own and diverse equipments batteries. We've bought 5 maps at IGN's office in Paris, 107 rue La Boetie. These covers the path down to Clermont Ferrand. ETD 0 min.



If we had read the "Da Vinci code" instead, we would have published this picture :-). But, that is another story.

The workplace

In his childhood, Jean Baptiste Grenouille started working in a small perfume factory lying on a bridge crossing the river Seine.

Rue de la Ferronerie

The birth place of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille.


We go to place d'Italie using the metro! We spend the night at a friends place living there, after a couple of nice fresh beer from the china quarter next door.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

We have landed in Paris!

We have now landed north of Paris. It is cold, 12 degrees, but it is sunny. We take the airport bus to Paris.
N & E

On the airport train...

Monday, May 09, 2005

On the road...

The Perfume

This posting is sent from my mobile. Hopefully it works. The attached image is the cover page of the book "The perfume" by Patrick Süskind. I read this book when I studied in France and I was fascinated by the walk the main figure in the book did, i.e. walking from Paris to Grasse.

Walking is living

There is not much more to say is there? The image above tells it all. Departure for Paris is tomorrow at 17h50. I am going to my brother Nils' place this afternoon to have a look at the map. He will go with me the first week.