Pilgrimage for Fun and Fitness

Recently, I discovered a group of medieval re-enactors in Europe that was planning a “virtual pilgrimage” in the style of medieval pilgrimages to famous holy sites. While undoubtedly some of the pilgrims were walking for religious reasons or in search of a medical cure or other miracle, there was also a fair bit of holiday spirit and tourism involved. Pilgrims even collected souvenir badges.

I wasn’t able to participate in #pilgrimage21 during the official weekend of May 14-16, but I did have a bit of time before work this morning, so I got into my 16th C Flemish gear and headed out. I chose this outfit because it was the closest to what would have been worn by the first French women arriving in Canada. My destination options were very limited, so I decided to walk to the site of a former monastery that has a big statue of Notre Dame de l’Afrique.

Woman in a white headdress in front of a statue of a woman in a blue cloak

Then I went to a recently rediscovered portage trail joining the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers. The trail was in use by local Anishnabe people into the late 19th C to get around the Rideau Falls. I had a surprisingly long encounter with a deer on the trail, which was pretty exciting.

Deer on a pathway, surrounded by woodland.

It was hot, even before 9 am. Still, I was fairly comfortable in my long linen kirtle and chemise, and with my hair covered. My feet were far less comfortable; my unstructured shoes work reasonably well on grass, but after 5 km on pavement, I am pretty sure there is a blister on the site of an old surgery scar on the sole of my foot. Once again, I’m sure the neighbours think I’m a weirdo, but the best part about being in historical clothing is I don’t wear my glasses, so I can’t see their confused looks.

Ottawa River looking downstream with a woods and a church on the far side

Diane Harper lives in Ottawa. She divides her time between working for the government, exploring lots of different fitness activities and historical re-creation.