Day One: Lausanne to Vevey — 26 km (16.2 miles)
I arrived in Lausanne after midnight last night, and had earlier decided I’d see how I felt before choosing whether or not to walk today. I had booked my Lausanne hotel for two nights and figured I’d either stay and enjoy a restful day or walk to Vevey and take the train back.
As usual after a long flight I awoke last night at 2:00, then 3:00, then again at 4:00. Each time I awoke I would calculate, in my jet lagged mental fog, how many hours until a cafe would be open and I could get something to eat and drink. Finally at 6:00 I decided I’d had enough of that and figured, if I started walking now I could be back at my hotel by around 2:00. That’d give me time to tour or relax after my walk.
So I headed up to the cathedral since that’s the official starting place in Lausanne, then back down past my hotel, under the train station and out to The Lake, my companion to the right all day long.
At the train station I caught myself doing some automatic but unintended behavior. Every time I saw someone with a backpack I began to fantasize about them being fellow Via Francigena pilgrims. I would wonder where they were from, whether we’d hit it off, whether they’d be good pilgrim friends. Then I’d shake myself out of my reverie — they’re just backpackers, they’re not pilgrims, I’d finally realize.
I know this little mind game is an expression of my aloneness, my yearning for company. Yes, I set out on this long walk fully intending to be solo, welcoming the quiet of my own thoughts. But the reality takes some adjustment. Except when I’m driving to and from work I’m seldom alone.
My pilgrim friend, Erinn, is so right in suggesting we should welcome alone time as an opportunity to struggle with our inner demons, rather than try to fill it with conversation or distractions.
I’m ready for that. It’s just that wherever I go, there I am. My demons show up, ready to get to work. The most powerful one? The demon who tells me to push beyond my physical limits of endurance, nutrition and hydration and just keep walking.
That’s what happened in a long, sunny stretch today. I should’ve stopped and rested. Eaten a little. By the time I arrived in Vevey I was so hungry, hot and tired that I would eat anyplace with air-conditioning and cold drinks. And I did! Lunch was at the local Ronald McDonald’s near the Vevey train station.
I’ll do better next time. Tomorrow it’s off to that same Vevey train station. I’ll head out from there through Montreux, by Chillon Castle, past Villaneuve and then up the first steps into the pass at Aigle.
Walking notes: A lovely day spent deciding just which of the fabulous lake views was actually the most fabulous. After walking downhill through urban Lausanne the beauty began along the lakefront. Several hours of beaches and marinas gave way to breathtaking views on a vineyard road traversing the hills as they made their shadeless way to gritty Vevey. As so often happens the designers of the walk opt for views and greenery rather than workaday necessities like cafes and grocery shops.