Thursday, 3 September
With sore feet, we set out before breakfast Thursday morning, eager to catch our first glimpse of the cathedral and buoyed by the fact that we only had to walk 12 miles that day. Only 12 miles! Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would utter those words.
Breakfast was fruit and a fresh baguette, eaten as we walked out of Maintenon, a charming village. Seeing our packs and scallop shells, an old woman rolled down her car window to call out Bon Journee, an act of true encouragement. At the edge of the village, we saw the first signpost to Chartres as we prepared to follow the road out across the fields. The wind was blowing hard — another natural element I had naively not anticipated.
Apparently a pilgrim’s lessons on the road are quick… I would have thought that walking into a headwind would have drained the fun out of the walk, especially when combined with sore feet. But discomfort just melted away into a non-issue. What mattered was the next step, and the next. That’s all. It was that simple. I became acutely aware of my body’s signals. Hunger meant a need to pause to refuel. Because I didn’t want to dehydrate or suffer from sun, I paid attention to the little signals reminding me to drink and apply lip balm and sunscreen regularly. For once, my scheming monkey mind was absorbed into the Now, and it was an amazing experience. I learned not to look too far down the road because the appearance of distance could be a disheartening illusion; the reality was that I would arrive when I arrived.
But that being said, it was a breathtaking and emotional moment when we first glimpsed the far-off spires of our destination… the Chartres cathedral seemed to float out on the horizon, and every step was bringing us closer and closer.
We stopped one last time for coffee just before walking into Chartres, a chance to sit together to reflect on our walking and anticipate our arrival. Then finally, we began recognizing familiar roads as we navigated our way across the River Eure and up the narrow streets leading to the Cathedral. We turned on last corner, and there in front of us was the North Porch..
We had arrived!