In the end, my night was very relaxing. The hotel’s bed was as comfy as a fluffy cloud and the ladies at the reception desk made me smile this morning with their cheering. They seemed genuinely admirative of my journey and it feels good sometimes to remember why I got on my bike to travel Alsace (because 1. Why not? And because 2. I feel like doing quite a few little crazy things in my life before I die). I ate as much as I could at the hotel’s breakfast buffet and even put a few snacks in my pockets for lunch. I feel definitely more serene and energetic this morning to go back on the road.
After a yummy breakfast shared with my friend Christel with some chocolate cake left by Valentin the previous night, I’m back on the road! I cycle in Neudorf, my former neighbourhood, quite nostalgic, but with a strange feeling of not completely belonging there anymore. After all, that neighbourhood has changed a lot, it got a bit gentrified, and what once felt familiar is now mixed up with the foreign. Is it how it always goes with the places we used to cherish? The filters of the past can’t quite overlap the actual sceneries. We play the game of the 7 differences, with some eagerness, but also a bit of nostalgia, isn’t it? What’s left of our memories when the architecture is changing? Is there any memory set in stone?
Last year, end of September 2019, I cycled around my home region of Alsace (France) for a week. I started in Wissembourg, at the extreme north of the region, and cycled down to Basel in Switzerland. I cycled about 400km in total, on three different Eurovelo routes, I crossed two borders (Germany and Switzerland) and relaxed in three different spas along the way (because why not?) and, obviously, I experienced different weather conditions.
I came to realize I never stopped dreaming of that place. The building itself, the neighbourhood, the little square where we used to play with my cousins. I’m still wandering around this place quite often at night in my dreams.
One day, though, I got this postcard from Japan. My very first postcard from Japan. From Noriko, a Japanese mum. It was a Nausicaa postcard (if you never watched this Studio Ghibli anime, now you know what to do tonight). It was everything we needed to start an epistolary friendship between the poor 27 years old unemployed French girl that I was and this Japanese ukulele player housewife.
We tried to do the maths in the car. How many years had it been since I was here for the last time? 5 years? 7 years? Years are running fast. And the Anjou region is far from Alsace. At least, that’s how I used to consider it. How does it change your conception of time and space when you take a year time to travel around a whole country like New Zealand?