Monday, September 30, 2013

Walking with Angels. Santhia to Vercelli

Where does one start when you try to recall a long day that ends up in could what be described as an an abandoned convent at the end of a runway in the city of Vercelli. We just completed our interrogation by the head Nun, Angela. We buzzed to get into the building and she took us up to her office. Since we were Canadians she reverted to speaking French instead of Italian. After the passport recording and credential stamping we were shown to our humble abode, see picture. This is not the kind of place where the maid might have missed a spot or two. The walls are in disrepair and there is no end of clutter. Before Angela left us, she said if we need anything just shout, ANGELA.
We started the day at 6:30am after quietly leaving our room mate sleeping in the dorm. We drank a litre of orange juice and ate our yogurt before setting off at 7am for a 28 km walk through rice fields to Vercelli. Since it is literally down hill, albeit gradually, all the way to Verccelli, all the canals etc all flowed the same way we were going. They are just starting to combine the rice. With the guide book in one hand it was not too difficult to find our way. We maintained our. 5km an hour pace with stops when the legs needed a break. We followed the VF signs right into Verccelli and arrived at 2pm. We were going right by a bar so we sat down and ordered our usual two beers. When I showed the address of the Convent we were going to, there was much discussion, all in Italian of course. Finally the bartender drew a few lines with no street names on a piece of paper, and off we went. Twisting and turning, this way and that, asking anyone we happened to meet. Finally we are walking along the road and a woman in a car yells at us and points down the road. A block later, there is the convent. Angela made no bones about the 10E each and said no smoking or eating in the room. Petit de Jeune is at 7:30am in the morning and there is no evening meal. She did say there is pizza down the street and gave us a key to get back in if we are after 9pm. The Ritz it is not.
When we stop at any store or bake shop to buy something they seem to almost insist on you taking the cash register receipt tape. Today in a small town, someone actually came running after us to give us the receipt. One of our favorite bake shop take alongside for lunch is what we call, sheet pizza.
You just tell them how big a piece and they put two pieces together and wrap it up. It is moist and really quite tasty sitting on a stump in the middle of nowhere. We sort of picnic every day. We do miss the internet staying at the parrochials but experiencing the unknown is part of the journey as well. David Peterson said he always wanted to make this pilgrimage and I know he would really like it.
Tonight on our way out to eat, a big rat ran across the dirt path in front of us. It seemed fitting, given the state of repair of the buildings. One can only assume what is was like with all the nuns and would be nuns, running around.

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