Annabel Abbs at The Paris Review:
Simone de Beauvoir’s rucksack invariably contained a candle, an alarm clock, a copy of the local Guide Bleu, a Michelin map, and a felt-covered water bottle filled with red wine. She hadn’t always walked with a rucksack: when she arrived in Marseilles, age twenty-three, to take up her first teaching post, she’d walked with a basket. It was here, among the mountains, valleys, and cliffs of Provence, that a passion for solitary rambles and “communion with nature” first took hold of her. “I derived a satisfaction I had never known in all the rush and bustle of my Paris life,” she wrote in her memoir.
But the funny thing is, no one thinks of Beauvoir as a backpacking hillwalker. We think of her sitting in smoky Paris cafes, a string of pearls at her neck, a chic turban wrapped around her head, Jean-Paul Sartre philosophizing at her side.