Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Fought the Loire and the Loire Won

There are two rivers in Tours: to the North, the Loire; to the South, the Cher. The Cher is apparently navigable in canoes, as several students in the group made plans to canoe it last weekend. The Loire is another matter. My host family gave me one of the few safety warnings I have received for Tours on its dangers: the Loire has whirlpools, quicksand, and the ghosts of sailors to ensnare unaware travelers. OK, so the last one is maybe not true, but the other two are definitely accurate.

When my host dad told me the ways to escape whirlpools and quicksand, I nodded attentively, thanked him, and filed the information in the “interesting, but will probably never be needed” compartment. I have absolutely no desire to swim in the Loire; the presence of surface scum and various large rocks somewhat diminishes any need to explore it hands-on.

So. I am a proponent of the Long Walk. One of the best parts of the Long Walk is peaceful thinking, with or without musical accompaniment. The contemplation of natural settings is also required. The Loire is an ideal place for a walk for two main reasons:
1. It’s beautiful.
2. You can’t get lost. If you are following a river on your walk, when you are done, you simply turn around and return the way you came. Genius!

Today I was walking east alongside the Loire, enjoying a fine mix from the iPod, when the path stopped being as solid and gravely and started becoming more muddy and indistinct. At this point, there was an optional, higher-up cement sidewalk (atop wall). Did I take that path? Of course not. I am all about being close to nature! I can’t just take the cement path!

As I walked, I saw some people further out on the bank – there was a wide expanse of sand – and I decided to troop out there. I avoided the particularly damp areas and walked onto the sand, where I concluded that it was too unstable to stand on for very long and thus I marched back to the path.

Well. There was a patch of fairly solid looking ground in front of me and I trusted it. I trusted to be solid and not to – very very suddenly, like hitting a wall – stop being solid.

I sank into thick mud up to my knees in less than half a second. Just to clarify, I am not wearing “play in the mud” clothes. I’m wearing my beloved black boots, a black skirt, a nice shirt, and carrying a new purse and another bag. My first reaction (after a brief moment of panic) was determination that I was not going to die stuck in mud. I quickly identified a patch of grass and pulled on it, dragging my legs out of the mud.

I’m covered in mud from my feet to my knees, with several sizeable patches of mud on my skirt, on my hands where I caught my fall, on my new purse, and on my other bag.

The second thought that came after, “I am so glad to no longer be stuck in that patch of mud” was, “Oh man, I have to blog about this.” So I did what any intrepid blogger would do: I stopped and took pictures of myself.

Then I walked back along the path carefully and took the first secure path that I found, whereupon I made my way to a nice little restaurant for lunch.

I must say, walking through Tours covered in mud made for a fascinating cultural study. No one had visibly shocked reactions. There I was, looking like the Creature from the Mud Patch, and the most anyone reacted was allowing a slight, subtle backward glance downward to see whether I really was dripping in mud (I was). The only person who asked what had happened was the man at the kebab restaurant who took my order.

The boots are drying in the garden after their bath. My clothes will probably recover after a nice hot wash. My dignity, while slightly wounded, remains in stable condition.


Tina said...

!Oh Caroline! What a riot! And how gross. Did it smell? Remember you were raised clean :}
But what a relief that you're okay and didn't drown in French quicksand. Riverside walking is good but cement is safer. Maybe you can show me your place of adventure in Jan?
Love, Mom

Mel said...

Poor clothes! Is the iPod okay?

Caroline said...

Heh, great question, Mel. In truth, the iPod is already quite ill. The LCD screen is kaput, so to play music, I have to just press the center button until it plays the first song on the first playlist. I set it up so the first playlist is a nice selection of current favourites, but seriously. It's a pain.

Caroline said...

Yeah, to clarify that comment, the iPod was already ill. It was hurt not a whit in this adventure.

Cameron said...

OMG, I love it. What a grand story. Please continue to share more ridiculous adventures. Two back-to-back posts, unheard of! ;)

Love, Cameron xoxoxoxo

christine/kerlaine said...

Poor Caroline!I hope you feel better now

Lauren said...

Caro! This reminds me of my Long Walking adventure in a town near Edinburgh...I thought climbing up what I thought was a grassy hill would give me a nice view of the river. It was not a grassy hill; it was a muddy hill, and I was very muddy too by the time I made it back down (in a sliding fashion, without having gained the top). I hope your boots turned out okay!

Moriah said...

Dear Caroline,
I do hope your adventures don't continue to turn out so poorly, but you must continue writing so colorfully. This is amazing. Way to tramp around all muddy! I would have run home - with a scarf over my head so nobody would know who I was.