International travel is so glamorous and fun.
A flight from Dubai that should have taken 6 hours took nearly eight. Then I waited over an hour to clear customs, because two A380s had landed at the same time – ours being late. Then a nerve-wracking wait of a further forty minutes to finally get the luggage.
You know that feeling when you’re the only one at the carousel from your flight – everyone else has picked up their bags except you – and you wait there in a hall that’s now empty, and your sense of dread grows with every bag that’s spewed forth from that dark gaping mouth of the rumbling subterranean beast that is a repository of all luggage.
Finally your luggage appears, all bright and chipper, as if nothing had happened – as if it’s just been messing with you all that time.
Then a long walk to find the car rental counters – and a further 40 minute wait to get served, then add fifteen minutes to fill out all the forms for the car, trying to figure out all the insurance stuff – then add another fifteen minutes to walk through the labyrinthine carpark at Rome airport looking for Bay 211, only to discover the car has been starved at birth because it’s a midget – a Compact when you asked for a Standard – and the midget boot wouldn’t even hold a dwarf, much less all the luggage we’ve got, including all the filming gear, which can’t be left on the back seat because everyone knows that thievery in Italy is rampant, unlike in Australia which is full of honest people who would never even think about stealing anything from a car.
Did he just say he’d put a dwarf in a boot?
DON’T MENTION THE DWARF!
So I walk all the way back to the car rental counter, and of course there’s now a line of people waiting to be served, and there’s only one guy on the desk and the other bloke who served me has gone on break, or paternity leave, or has been institutionalised, and so you patiently wait your turn, and tell yourself you’re a pilgrim, and finally it’s your turn and you then spend fifteen minutes explaining that the car is too small and you booked a larger car, but the guy tells you that actually you didn’t, and you’re lucky to get a car at all, even a midget one with a boot that could in fact hold a dwarf…
DON’T MENTION THE DWARF!
So after another 25 minutes I finally got new paperwork for a new car so I walked all the way back to the carpark and I found the new car and the luggage fitted – just – and then I tried to find my way out but got lost, and then the Garmin wouldn’t work because it can’t locate satellites that are now on the other side of the world, so I took the wrong turn on the ring road and discovered after a while that I was heading to Sicily when I should have been heading to Finland. which meant that I was about six hours late arriving at the hotel.
Enough of my whinging.
I’m in Umbria right?
What right do I have to whinge?
You should have seen the pizzas last night!
Jennifer and I stayed in the hotel we’ll all be staying in on the second last night of our tour – the hotel at Valfabbrica. The room was spotless, the bed was firm, and the toilet was in the shower.
Yes, the toilet was in the shower.
I guess in Umbria they must be short of time – they have to do two things at once.
It’s the same with this hotel we’re in tonight, at Citta di Castetllo. The toilet is in the shower here too. Which means you can sit on the loo and wash your hair.
It’s just a problem when the toilet paper gets wet.
Woke up this morning to a perfect Spring day. Blue skies, sunshine, the temperature coolish but not cold – a refreshing 12-15C most of the day – with the trees starting to bud, flowers blossoming by the side of the road, the grass in the fields a luxuriant green.
Today we made our way to the monastery at La Verna, which is where we’ll start our walk tomorrow week. We decided to walk up to the monastery from a little town below – a 2km winding path, quite steep at times, which emerged at the base of the sanctuario.
We picked up all the pilgrim passports from the monastery office – we’ll get these stamped each day, and pick up a certificate in Assisi. And then some bells tolled, and we realised it was 3pm – which is when the monks file in procession to the most sacred chapel in the complex, intoning a hymn and carrying a large cross.
Jennifer and I watched as they made their way through a long covered corridor, one wall painted with ancient murals, just as they’ve done each and every day since the 14th century, never missing a day.
We then made our way back down the 2km path, and headed to Citta di Castello, one of the classic Umbrian historic towns which we’ll be staying in during the tour.
In the afternoon we sat and had a Preseco, and did the thing that all Italians do – sit and watch the passing promenade.
If the weather stays like it was today, it will be truly glorious for walking. And the countryside at the moment, in the early flushes of Spring, could not look more beautiful.
On the past two walks I’ve brought sunshine with me. I hope I can make it 3-0.