Friday, 25 July 2008

Assisi Diary Post 10: 24/07/2008, Piacenza

Assisi Post 10 - 24/07/2008, Piacenza

915 kms to go

Have walked now nearly 1500 kms and broken the final 1000 kms barrier. I think this is going to be a long Post so are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!

As I said at the end of the last post, I had had a txt from Vanda to say Fred was returning to England. She had said from the outset that she did not want to walk on her own so she joined me at the Grand St Bernard Pass for the descent into Italy.

I was quite tired from the ascent and had asked if I could stay an extra night at the Hospice. This I was allowed to do, so on 11th July I crossed the border into Italy.

This had none of the trepidations of crossing into Switzerland as I had walked in Italy before. Alas the weather had broken a bit so there were clouds to restrict the view.

I was delighted to find that in the first Italian village we reached, the Church was open. I went in and prayed for someone I knew who was making their first Communion on that day.

It did rain a bit but not too severely fortunately otherwise the descent would have been quite tricky. We reached Aosta without difficulty though at times my legs protested at the rate of descent! I noticed that many Churches were decorated on the exterior walls with religious scenes.

We intended to start out early from Aosta the next day but when the alarm went off it was raining cats and dogs! Vanda asked if we had a 'Plan B'! We stayed in bed a bit longer and then the sun magically came out and all was well. Off we went but after a short while, the clouds reappeared and the rain returned.

After about 2 hrs the rain stopped, the sun came out and walking was pleasant. Then just as we approached our destination, St Vincent, the skies opened again and it rained!

This was to be the pattern of the next few days, rain for a time in the morning, then sunny and pleasant, then a soaking just before reaching our destination! As we progressed down the Aosta valley, the mountains on either side became lower and lower.

At one point we had to cross a river. The guide had said there was a ford. It looked a bit deep. Vanda walked across to the halfway point where there was a raised bit in her shoes but I was convinced it was too deep so took off my boots and socks from the outset. She had to take hers off as well as the next bit was quite deep. Left to my own devices I would have illegally walked across the train bridge which was just a few metres away! One had to pick one's way carefully across the stony riverbed but at least it gave me an opportunity to photo my feet in an Italian river!

At Ivrea I had decided to have a rest day, not because I was very tired, though for 3 days or more after the descent from the Pass, my leg muscles ached, but because it was my birthday! Ironically the lovely man in charge of the hotel we stayed in noticed from my passport details it was my birthday the following day. When I came downstairs the following morning he gave me a big hug and said Happy Birthday. It was lovely!

Explored Ivrea. Discovered that the Cathedral (Santa Maria Assunta) houses relics of an Irish Bishop from Cork - Thaddeus Mc Carty, who was returning from a pilgrimage to Rome and died at Ivrea. In fact several people I met told me about him.

I am now beginning to think this posting is getting a bit 'bitty'! But bear with me!

Continued on our way and I got my first Italian Guinness in a most unexpected place, a little village en route to Santhia where we had decided to stop for rest/refreshment.

The following day we arrived at Vercelli and stayed in 'refugio' type accommodation beside a Church. it was very much like being on one of the St James routes, dormitory accomm and we met our first pilgrims there. There was Mass at the Church and afterwards in a side Chapel a beautiful Prayer session led by Don Alberto, the Priest in charge of the pilgrim accommodation.. I had been told about it by one of the ladies just after the Mass and was very grateful that she had taken the trouble to invite me.

Afterwards we had a great pilgrim meal so much like some of the refugios on the Spanish Camino. Picture is below!

The great pity about Vercelli though was that we did not get into the actual centre. We had arrived rather late in the afternoon and the refuge was about 30 mins walk from the centre and there had been no time to visit. The route out the following day by-passed it.

We went from one extreme to another when we took a hotel at the next stop, Robbio. This was because, to my delight, my sister and her husband were meeting me. They had been in England, then visited some friends in the South of France and were now en route by car back to Poland where they live. They had decided to take a detour to meet me in Italy. Knowing they would arrive late, I booked them into the hotel and wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. In the end they did not arrive til 22:30. However they decided to stay an extra day as they were tired. So we walked on to the next town and Sheila and Jorge drove over and booked themselves into another hotel. We went into the pilgrim accommodation on the edge of town but I was able to spend lunchtime and the evening with them. It was a great treat!

On the descent from Aosta the route was very well signed and remained so for a couple of days. Generally the signing was the letters VF with a direction arrow, painted in yellow. Then the signs disappeared after St Vincent and did not reappear again until Vercelli. Now they were the familiar (to me) depiction of yellow pilgrim and white arrow - see below

Not only did the signs reappear, but we also got or own guide! Alas I cannot remember now exactly where it happened, but am fairly sure it was en route to Robbio. We were having picnic lunch when a pick-up truck stopped and out jumped a man who started asking us questions. Given that I do not speak Italian, I was misunderstanding him and thinking he wanted directions to Vercelli! In fact he was a member of the local Via F group and was responsible for the signage. He told us about a route that would keep us off the road, giving us directions and explaining that part of it was a little overgrown. Off we went and found the arrow OK and followed the route but then reached a point where the sign was confusing and there were 2 paths one could have chosen. We debated it and made our choice. As we walked off, who should appear but the same guy, on a bicycle this time, calling to us ¨No, that's the wrong way¨ (in Italian obviously!). He explained the rest of the route again and even offered to walk the rest of it with us. We declined as we did not want to cause him more inconvenience but were very grateful for his intervention. We continued without further mishap and arrived OK at Robbio.

Can't have a Posting without talking about Churches and their open/closed state! After the first Italian village where the Church was open, they tended to be closed which was a great shame, and I had not expected it. I seem to remember when I walked in 2006 I generally found Churches open. Of course that was in a different part of Italy. Anyway for several days they were closed, or looked closed (I did not stop and try each one) except in the larger towns. However they are more open than closed now, and so beautiful - see picture below of the Church of Santa Maria del Campo en route to Mortara.

Whereas many Churches in the Aosta valley had biblical scenes painted on the outside, I came across another architectural feature in this area (Pavia/Piacenza) which I have not seen before, pointed towers on the façade (no doubt there is a proper term for this, Yvonne please advise). The Church of St Francis in Pavia was a good example

As I said earlier, Vanda came up to the Pass to meet me and we started walking together. However for me the arrangement was not working even though she did her best to fit in with my fitness level, accommodation requirements (my budget did not run to staying in hotels and eating out) etc. So I told her as we walked out from Pavia that this would be our last walk together. She decided to remain in Pavia while considering what to do next as there were good transport links. I had suggested she walk on her own as she was more than capable of navigating with the maps we had, and indeed with her better eyesight often spotted way marks that I missed! So I am on my own again. Perhaps I am just too awkward to walk with - if anyone out there is thinking of joining me for a while, be warned!

After Pavia comes the memorable trip by boat across the Po from Comte St Andrea to Soparivo. The very kind Priest where I had stayed the night before had phoned the ferryman and told me he would wait from 12:00 to 12:30. I was duly there but no sign of boat. I waited til 12;30 but there was still no sign. So I went into the village to see if he was at the tavern (there was a boat moored at the pier and I had wondered if it had been his).

Walked into the cafe and promptly felt unsure of myself as it was a room with several people eating, but no bar and no-one obviously in charge. Went round the back where there was a group of young people picnicing round the tables. Looked into the restaurant again and this time could identify who was in charge. I started trying to explain what had happened but I think he thought I had only just turned up and had missed the boat. In the end I managed to explain the situation to someone who spoke a little French. He turned out to be a Priest, and the group was a Parish Group from Lodi on a bicycle outing. The ferry was phoned and I was told he would arrive at 14:00 and could wait there. Meanwhile the Priest went off on his bike to fetch my rucksack (despite my protestations that it was heavy)which I had left at the pier in case the boat turned up when I was at the cafe. I chatted to a couple of the ladies who were accompanying the group. They were great fun.

Finally Danilo arrived with his boat and I was taken across the Po in the footsteps (not quite right word!) of Segeric. It was strange because the journey thru France and Switzerland did not seem really to link with his. As I approached the Hospice at the Pass I did feel a link, but a weak one. Then in a Church in Pavia I saw a 10th c cross that he must have seen, and now crossing the Po was looking at the same riverbanks. I wondered how much if any they had changed.

I had hoped to reach Piacenza that day as I thought there was only another 8 kms to do but in fact it was more like 13. I had been considering stopping for a rest day at Piacenza. In fact I started thinking about having 2 rest days. even though I had had a day off quite recently in Ivrea. But I was beginning to feel the need for an extended rest. I remembered the advice given by a hospitalero in 2006 when he said when I had walked 1000 kms I should find somewhere peaceful and stop for a few days. I was a few days ahead of my own schedule and anyway was not now intending to stay as long in Rome as I originally thought. Piacenza was large enough to enable me to catch up on stuff (my boots were wearing very thin) so I decided to stay there if I could find suitable accommodation.

So here I am, for a blissful 3 nights, the longest I have stayed since May 22nd when I started out on this very varied pilgrimage. Hope this has not been too rambling a post - but one last thing, a picture of an Italian Rose!

Take care all

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Assisi Diary Post 9: 09/07/2008, Pictures

Assisi Post 9
Just photos of the pilgrimage from 01/07/2008, leaving Etalans to Grand St Bernard Pass - as promised!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Assisi Diary Post 8: 09/07/2008, Grand St Bernard Pass

Assisi Post 8 - 09/07/2008, Grand St Bernard Pass.
1202 kms to go

The power of Prayer is not to be underestimated!

Well this has been a roller-coaster of a stage, both emotionally and in terms of terrain.

My last few days in France passed pleasantly enough. I camped at an actual campsite for a change! Had wonderful views of a gorge as I climbed from quite low down to an altitude of 800 metres in a matter of hours. The weather was on a change and when I arrived at Pontarlier (my last night in France) it was raining on and off. I collected maps and guide for Italy that were posted to me (Thanks Jill and Joe).

The following day I packed my rucksack and my heart sank! It was so much heavier now with the maps and guide. But there was nothing I could do about it. Today was another milestone - I was to cross the border into Switzerland. Despite the thousands of kilometres I have walked, and the challenges I have faced previously, it was still with some trepidation that I walked passed the Customs Post. My plan that day was to walk beyond Ste Croix, the 1st large town one encounters and find somewhere to camp wild. I had been warned already by Vanda that the hotels were very expensive and the Priest had not been able to help.

Sitting here in the sunshine at the Pass it is hard to remember quite how difficult that day was, but suffice to say I found myself in the Catholic Church (which was open, otherwise I would not have been inside!) with tears running down my cheeks. But God was listening to your prayers for me and he sent an Angel to feed and shelter me and more. Not only did she give me a bed for the night, but also found me accommodation for the next 2 nights, and showed me a lovely route for the following day. So thank you all for your prayers (I include in the word 'prayer' the good wishes and positive thoughts people are sending me), be assured they are not in vain! I felt truly protected and blessed.

The following day saw me walking down through a wooded gorge which was littered with (that is not the correct expression to use with what follows!) works of Art and beautiful, touching spiritual phrases and was a perfect follow on from the previous day.

Switzerland is very much better suited to the wandering traveller than the earlier parts of France in that most small towns have a shop and/or a bar/cafe or restaurant. Thus I was able to savour lovely cold beer, my just reward after several hours walking! And while we're on the subject, I have walked all the way (except for maybe 1/2 km) through Switzerland and not encountered a Guinness. I probably could have got one in Lausanne but I was staying in a pilgrim refuge (a lovely place, part of one of the Catholic Churches) and alas the key to the outer door did not work so I couldn't go out. Luckily I had shopped for food en route to the refuge. By the way I have started to use the expression 'Catholic Church' where appropriate as Switzerland, unlike France and Italy is not a Catholic country. They are Christian but the main religion is Evangelical Reform Church. In the best traditions of ecumenism though I have been given accommodation by the very kind Pastor of a Reform Church parish as well as in a Catholic parish. (Re-reading that last paragraph, I seem to have gone from alcohol to religion!)

Having mentioned Lausanne, I bet you are all wondering whether I took the boat or not (or perhaps you've forgotten). Yes I did. From Lausanne I took the ferry to Villeneuve. The weather had changed yet again. It had been pleasant walking weather, sunny, blue skies but not unbearable hot. Now it was cloudy and ominous. It made for some dramatic pictures as I crossed lake Leman. The Alps rose dramatically from its shores and they were shrouded in clouds which were nonetheless moving quite fast, so now a peak would be revealed, then hidden again. As I approached Villeneuve I wondered what pilgrims of old would have felt, seeing those mountains close up for the first time, and knowing they had to be crossed. In those days there would not have been the accurate weather forecasts or mountain rescue helicopters.

So I saved another day to be used as an emergency rest day if the need arose I then walked 20kms to St Maurice. It was nice flat walking but alas it rained relentlessly for the first 3 hours. Luckily it stopped by the time I had to stop to eat and I picniced under a road bridge alongside the Rhone river. And what did I have to drink with my picnic? Cotes de Rhone of course!

All this was leading to my next major challenge - getting to the Grand St Bernard Pass. It is 2400+ metres high (8000+ feet), and I am afraid of heights! Minor alarm bells rang when I told the Priest in Orsieres I was going to the Pass the following day and he remarked I must be a strong walker. I do not consider myself to be so. Anyway there was no point in letting it dwell on my mind. Vanda had already txt'd me to say there were no precipitous drops, just some steep sections. In fact the walk from Martigny to Orsieres had presented me with a very unwelcome section where I was scrambling over rocks and tree roots.

I set off the following day with a walk of at the most 25kms if I stayed off the road. What I had not really taken into consideration (nor indeed even calculated) was that I had to ascend some 1400 metres. The walk started with a brutal, steep climb up a hill. I had to stop about every 100 metres or so to catch my breath and thought it will take me about 16 hrs at this rate! I think in fact I had already gone wrong and although ended up in the same place as one of the guide's waypoints, I had travelled a different route. Alas about 15 minutes later I took a wrong turn and spent about 1.5hrs rising in altitude about 200 metres up the wrong mountain! There was nothing for it but descend (by the road, not footpath) and then regain the 200 metres, but up the right mountain this time. The weather was beautiful though. My feet were great (sorry I know I keep going on about it but I still cannot believe it, I managed to walk 4 hrs without stopping.). I stopped to picnic by a stream and a fish came by to shelter behind a rock. Then later I saw a fox but alas he saw or smelled me before I could get the camera out.

However by the time I arrived at Bourg St Pierre, the halfway point in terms of distance and altitude I was pretty tired. I considered stopping there for the night. But I told myself I could get to the Pass so after a beer and sandwich off I went again. The scenery was of course magnificent. There were some steep bits but were followed by level bits so one could recover. I had been considering taking the road after St Pierre but decided on the walkers route. The sign at St Pierre indicated the Pass was 4 hrs away and it was now only 13:30. I needed to arrive by 19:00 as that was the time of the meal at the Hospice where I had reserved a dorm bed.

On and on I went. Up and up. I was in good spirits, there were no dramatic sheer drops! But the ascent was starting to take its toll. It was becoming harder and harder. I found myself in an area (can't quite describe it as a field) where there was a herd of cows. Again they seemed to find me fascinating and one started down the path towards me. It came right up to me, am not sure what it was expecting. However in order not to frighten it, and to get past it I had to leave the path which I them promptly lost! I continued in the direction parallel to the road and eventually spied a signpost in the distance and made for it. By now I was really flagging. Managed to find an escape route out onto the road and followed it for a km or so. Then took the walkers route to cut of a few bends. I could see the road winding up and up ahead so took the walkers route again hoping it would cut off more bends despite being steep. Normally I don't mind steep stuff - since doing the Camino del Norte I have developed quite good muscles for that sort of terrain.

It went on and on. I could not see any sign of habitation, nor did I have any idea how much further I had to go. I could see a cross high up on a rock. I hoped I did not have to go that high. The path levelled out and then would climb. I crossed streams presumably caused by melting snow. On and on and still no sign of anything. Then I came to a signpost but it was not much help as it gave no distances. I continued, then came across a sign. ' Hospice', it said. I must be close now. It was 18:15. I had been on the road since just after 08:00. I decided to ring to say I was on my way but not sure how far away I was. I had a sort of idea to ask them to keep me some cold food as I was convinced I still had quite a way to go. I described where I was, having the sign for the hospice as a guide, and they said ¨Oh you are only 20 minutes away.¨ Mind you I would have preferred if it was 5! I explained I was tired and walking slowly. They said it was no problem.

I continued. By now all I could feel was the incredible weight of the rucksack. I considered ringing again to say I would miss the meal as I felt I really had to stop and rest for about an hour. Again I think it must have been your prayers that kept me going. Something dragged me along! I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, stopping every 50 metres or so to lean on my staff and catch my breath. Eventually I rounded a corner and saw a building. It was higher than I was by more than I would have liked, but at least it was there.

As I proceeded, the path turned into something that looked like a very old road which I suspect it was. I wondered if this was what had been used by pilgrims in ages gone. At long last I saw the road again and the final track up, a steep path with scree on it. I arrived at the road right beside the sign that told me I was at the Col de St Bernard, 2469 metres. I had to stop and photo it. It was now just after 19:00. The 20 min walk had actually taken me 45 mins. Passing the cafe I saw a building with a door with a cross on it. Was this the Hospice? Breathless and with tears of relief I went towards it. Two men were just going up the steps to it and I asked was this the Hospice. ¨Yes¨ was the answer. I explained I was staying there and they accompanied me in and said I must hurry as the meal was starting. At this stage I think my body went into very mild shock. They were trying to help me off with my rucksack but I didn't seem to be able to remember which bits to undo! Perhaps it was because they were telling me to hurry - I don't know. Anyway we got the rucksack off and they were showing me where to go. I asked where the Church was (I am in an Augustian Friary so I have not used the word Catholic!). I felt compelled to just go for a minute to give thanks for my arrival. Then, still breathless & a bit tearful I was escorted to the dining room. One of the guys gave me a bowl of what I thought was soup, and a jug of the same, saying it was for me. I drank. It was warm, weak very sweet tea. A place had been laid for me which co-incidentally was opposite a very friendly Swiss man who could speak very good English. He was there with his daughter and another young guy for a week to do some walking in the Alps. We had a convivial meal in English and French. The two who had helped me on my arrival came back to check I was OK.

Afterwards I was sent yet another Angel to take care of me. She also offered to wash my clothes! And so ended the Swiss part of my pilgrimage. It started with a challenge for which I was sent an Angel and it ended with a challenge, for which I was sent three Angels.

Again thank you all for your prayers. You will have noticed there are no pictures with this posting. The next posting will be just pictures.

And I nearly forgot - the day I walked into Switzerland, I had a text from Vanda asking if I would like company. I replied in the affirmative. A few days later it emerged that Fred had decided to stop walking and return to England. Vanda wanted to continue so we will meet soon and walk together. So I am about to enter another phase of this pilgrimage.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Assisi Diary Post 7: 30/06/2008, Etalans

Assisi Post 7 - 30/06/2008, Etalans. 1466 kms to go

Am now just 4 days away from the Swiss border and apparently horrendously expensive living costs. Am almost tempted to change route to stay in France and bypass Switzerland and go direct to Italy. However that would play havoc with my schedule and on closer inspection I have noticed there is supposedly pilgrim accommodation with 'the parish'. Whether that proves to be the case remains to be seen. Another alternative for reducing costs in Switzerland is to do something pilgrims of old did, and that is to take a boat across the lake Léman to Villeneuve. This was suggested to me by Alison R and I am considering it. When I walked down the west side of France in 2003, I took a ferry across the Bay of Arcachon rather than walk all the way round it, adding at least a week if not more on to my journey. That did not seem like cheating to me! No doubt my next posting will contain the result of my deliberations!

It can be difficult not to make this sort of writing into a 'weekly report'. I have a horror of repeating myself or becoming boring. Anyway ........

Accommodation: Have managed to continue to find cheap pilgrim accommodation but have also had to camp wild a number of times. This has been for 2 reasons, one to save money and the other to even out the stages. As an aside, re camping sauvage, it had crossed my mind to wonder if this region of France had any snakes. Interestingly the day after the thought crossed my mind, I was given a slightly gruesome answer - a dead snake on the road. Don't know what it is though but here is a pic.

Despite the fact that I am still absolutely amazed that I can walk for 3 or more hours without it becoming excruciatingly painful, I still do not wish to provoke my feet by tackling a 30+ day. So far though I have managed several quite long (27+) days one after the other.

However by camping wild I have been able to afford 'normal' B&B or hotel accommodation on one or two occasions when it has been necessary. (I don't like to camp wild 2 nights in a row mainly because of problems with recharging my phone which as I said in the last posting doubles as a camera.)

Normally I would not 'plug' my accommodation but the one I found at Seveux merits an exception. First of all it is right on the Via Francigena and has a waymark right outside the door!

Next it is run by an exceptionally welcoming couple who really understand what it is like to be a hot, sweaty, tired pilgrim. And to top that, fluent English is spoken! Ted is English and his wife Charlotte speaks English, German, French, Italian and even some Greek! They really made me feel at home - I even got to watch a video, a real treat! Next morning breakfast was superb. None of your 'coffee, croissant & jam', it was boiled egg, ham, different yummy types of bread and great coffee! If any of you are considering doing the Via F, my advice would be do not stay in Dampierre, walk the extra few kms and stay with Charlotte and Ted in Seveux. The town has a shop if you want to self cater, it also has a bar/restaurant, it also has a restaurant that burnt down but is being rebuilt, and apparently there is a Mexican restaurant somewhere that will pick you up from Seveux and drop you back after your meal. Oh, nearly forgot, it has a hairdresser as well! Also it means there are less kms for the next day which is quite long. Their contact details are Le Tilleul, 7 Rue du Paquis, 70130 Seveux
(I promise I am not being paid to advertise them)

Visual stuff: all sorts of different things. The walking has varied in terms of surroundings. One day spent about 10 kms in a forest and when I stopped to rest, a butterfly for some reason, found my Irish Flag irresistible. It landed on it and stayed for ages. In fact I had to gently shush it off to put my rucksack on. Unfortunately I could not get a pic of it with its wings open. They were brown with an eye on each wing. Anyway there is a pic below

This area also seems to have a strong tradition of wash houses. Each village I pass through has one, now unused but usually decorated with flower baskets. This one also had a handy mangle outside!

The other interesting thing I discovered is that in this area the Churches (which by the way are open more often than not) have wood burning stoves. I have not seen this before

One of the Churches I visited (the Church of St Martin in Arc-en-Barrois) had a grotto within the Church with beautiful statues. The picture does not do it justice - the statue in the foreground was so beautiful though sorrowful. There were frozen tears running down her face. It was very moving.

Some parts of the Church date from end 12th c.

As the days passed the terrain became more mountainy and my approach to Besançon yielded some great views.

Also on that day I walked in Misery! (which reminds of my 2003 walk through France where in Brittany I encountered a place called Purgatory!)

I was 'off piste' again and had taken a very straight-looking road for a few kms. It was a mistake as it had very heavy traffic and no verge. But on the other hand I got the chance to walk in misery and get great views into the bargain!

Weather: It is warming up with a vengeance. I now get up at 05:30 and am on the road by 06:30 to race the sun! The day after Chateauvillian it was really muggy and humid. By 09:30 even though I was in a forest I was dripping with sweat. I had expected the distance that day to be about 18 kms - I was not following the guidebook but info given to me by the very kind lady at the Tourist Office the day before. Anyway by the time I had done 20kms I was dead beat. I reached a village and stopped for the 3rd time. All I wanted to do was go to sleep. The only thing that persuaded me out of that idea was that my destination was only 3kms away. But what a lovely welcome. I was staying again with a community of Nuns and the Sister who was in charge of guests I suppose could see how tired I was and she make me coffee and served it with a lovely cake! The day reminded me of the worst part of my 2006 pilgrimage, up the Riviera coast which was so hot and humid.

Fortunately the humidity was only to last for that day, but the temperature was rising. Because of this, there were clear blue skies and vivid colours. I took the pic below at 08:27!

Then just to remind me what the elements could do, I encountered a storm. Though fortunately I was not 'on Camino' at the time. I had arrived at Langes much later and hotter and sweatier than I wanted. I had hoped to get a couple of 'chores' done there. Anyway I was planning to camp wild the following day as the distance was too far for me. I woke at 05:30 and there was the mother and father of a storm going on. Thunder, lightening, heavy rain, the works. Well I just could not motivate myself to get dressed and get out onto the road. Stayed in bed! Got up and booked in for another night and fortunately there was room OK. I was in an Auberge de Jeunesse and unlike many it did not close during the day so I could come and go as I pleased. I was able to do the chores I had hoped. Next day was OK so off I went. The pics below show the same view at the same time on the 2 days.

Miscellaneous: I know I have shown pics of roses before but the smell of this one was magnificent. Really sweet and powerful. Could not resist including it.

And you know I was talking about plantains last time, well someone looked it up (thanks Sil) and it is an astringent herb with the following properties: diuretic, expectorant, anti-mucus, mild anti-inflammatory & anti-bacterial. (though I wont be sticking it up my nose Sil!). Amazingly enough I came across a giant specimen and had to include it too - see below

And finally


In this region the cows have bells round their necks (and yes I have recorded them) and you keep hearing this lovely tinkling sound of all different notes. Took a pic of a gang of cattle that decided I needed to be investigated and came from the far end of their field to do so but alas it is a little blurred but you get the general idea.

So take care all, keep sending me your positive thoughts, they are what is getting me to my destination.