First things first - who are we and why are we riding our bikes from Canterbury to Rome?
The introduction at the top of this blog provides a brief overview of our motives:
1. To raise money for our local Rotary club projects in the Mayenne region of France where we live.
2. To map the entire via Francigena route, using GPS and detailed descriptions, for the benefit of future pilgrims.
Beyond this, we should also add (because it is a question we are so often asked) that though we try to live according to our own moral code, we are not religious and our journey to Rome is not a religious pilgrimage in the Christian sense. I (as the main writer) may express some personal, irreverent and possibly critical views with regard to religion in this blog, but they will be predominantly humorous and never aimed to offend - even the most serious subject must be capable of taking the occasional jibe.
Nevertheless, with or without religion, the experience of travelling, as pilgrims, to Santiago de Compostela (2005) and Rome (2006) has changed our priorities and ultimately our lives - an outcome we would like to make accessible to more people. In 2006, our enjoyment and appreciation of the via Francigena was overshadowed by the difficulties of travelling along a route that was poorly marked, dangerous when it ran along major highways and (outside Italy) barely developed in terms of the pilgrim support found on the St James Way.
While part of the charm and challenge lies in precisely this undeveloped nature, we also recognise that not everyone has either the time (afforded to us because we have taken early retirement) or the masochistic desire to endure unnecessary hardship during what may be their annual holiday. But with sufficient support and information the practicalities of being 'on the road' need not subsume the rewards of stepping out of the daily routine to meet new people, learn about different cultures and quite simply find the space and peace we all need to think.
For these reasons, Paul and I have decided to travel the length of via Francigena again, but this time with the express aim of mapping every centimetre of it and gathering the information future pilgrims will need for a truly fulfilling journey - whether it is for 2 or 2,000 kilometres. Anyone who knows us either personally or through our previous books, will be aware that nothing ever goes quite according to plan and, true to form, we have no idea how this particular journey will end. Still, Paul's determination is legendary and he has said that come hell or high water we will produce a guide book for the via Francigena, so watch this space!
New to blogging we are finding our feet in this medium. In the vein of Sergeric the Serious (SS), the 10th century Archbishop of Canterbury and first known scribe of the route to Rome, we have decided to adopt suitably impressive names, thus we have become Paul the Peddler (PP) and Babette the Babbler (BB). We are going to try and make the blog a 2 handed affair with PP providing the boring, but necessary data to those that follow in our wake, with BB babbling over what goes on inside and often on the outside of this pair of ageing, biker pilgrims.