by Keith Walton
In 2000, to celebrate the Millennium, the Paris Meridian was designated la Méridienne verte, with thousands of trees to be planted along its length ‘establishing a strong relationship between new generations and the environment’, trailways were opened, and places of floral celebration. It was launched on Bastille Day, 2000, with la fête du Millenaire, a picnic in every commune along the length of the Meridian.
Intrigued to find out how this ‘green spine’, this new knitting-together of France, marked by trees now fifteen years grown, had developed, the author cycled it, from Dunkirk to the Pyrenees. His route crossed and recrossed the Meridian, that was the caduceus (the herald’s wand of Hermes, god of travellers) to his serpentine ‘desire path’.
He visited cathedral cities and battlefields, the broad fields and villages and soft-flowing rivers of la France profonde, barren uplands, to the burning South, and returned at last to the smallholding where, forty years ago, he tried to live a rural dream…
This is the daily record of his journey through a country he finds ever fascinating, in which the details build into a mosaic picture of endlessly beguiling France.
£6.50 including p&p