Camino Postcard 16: Castrojeriz to Población de Campos

First of all, I owe the people of HONTANAS an apology. I realised the other day that in my earlier posts, I referred to their hometown as ‘Honatas’. Lo siento!

Day Four on the Meseta

Today, we ate breakfast at our albergue in Castrojeriz before setting off. Our boots had spent the night in a little shed. When we collected them we found that they were now more or less dry.

Tying our laces up, we started walking; just the three of us, now; we left Tony at the albergue to catch us up later.

This morning, we climbed the alto de Mostelares. The path wound its way to the top, stretching our legs but never being too strenuous. At the top, we were rewarded for our efforts with a beautiful view of the valley we had just crossed.

A short plateau followed before we began walking down a very steep incline. It was so steep, we had to lean backwards as we walked.

The clouds skudded across the sky as we continued on our way – a breezy day in the heavens.

Upon a moment, we came to a chapel where we paused to stamp our pilgrim passports. Framed photographs of the current and last two popes hung proudly on the wall. The photograph of John Paul II showed him wearing a brown pellegrina with scallop shells embroided onto it. This photograph was taken in the early 80s when John Paul made his own pilgrimage to Santiago.

We next stopped at an interesting café-albergue in Itero de la Vega, where we saw bronze insects mounted on the wall. Tony caught up with us here so we ate together.

After stopping again at Boadilla del Camino, we joined the Canal de Castilla, which took us to Frómista. As canals go, it was a fairly ordinary one although the high walled lock at its end with its two bridges, one held up by a lovely arch, were impressive sights.

Our original intention had been to stop in Frómista but at Boadilla Tony told us that the albergues there (or at least the one we had intended to stop at) had been reviewed unfavourably online. In contrast, an albergue three kilometres up the road – just before Población de Campos – had been very favourably reviewed – so we decided to head for that one.

The albergue in question is called La Finca and it was unique among all the albergues we stopped at on the Camino Francés. How can I describe it? There were no dorms, but rather, individual bedrooms. I say ‘bedrooms’ reservedly because they were more like cubicles. The bedroom/cubicles had an upper and lower level. The lower level was on the ground floor; the upper level was accessible via a short set of stairs.

Our first impression of La Finca was very favourable. Very soon, however, we began to see some of the cracks – the showers didn’t have locks on them and the water was permanently cold; neither were the bedroom/cubicles as clean as one would have liked. I think La Finca had only lately opened so hopefully these were just teething problems. At any rate, the food that evening was good. As we ate, proud parents took photographs of their daughter in her first communion dress outside.

As soon as I finished my meal, I retired to my bed. I was feeling out of sorts that afternoon and not in the mood for company. I did a little writing before going to the toilet. When I came back, I found Ellena sitting on my bed. She had been concerned for me and came to make sure I was alright. Did I say I didn’t want company? I will always be very grateful for the company of a friend. We sat and chatted and peace came back to my heart.

29th June 1901: Rome

But as I slept, Rome, Rome still beckoned me, and I woke in a struggling light as though at a voice calling, and slipping out I could not but go on to the end.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) p.437

Belloc’s day had a martial start to it. He saw a sign saying ‘”The Triumphal Way'” (The Path to Rome, p.438) – ‘I wondered whether it could be the road where ritual had once ordained that triumphs should go’ (Ibid) – and two soldiers from the current Italian army out on manoeuvres.

Not long later, however, the military gave way to the spiritual. Belloc climbed a little hill, and between the walls of a villa, he saw Rome at last.

This sight marks the beginning of the end of The Path to Rome. Belloc now launches into a long and operatic goodbye. It has a touch of the mock epic about it, for while the farewell begins with Belloc it ends with no less than God and St. Michael in the heavenly heights. And that’s just the beginning. Where does one go after the Lord and his most powerful servant?

Home, of course. Belloc made his way down the hill and walked across a plain to the gates of the city.

… I went on for several hundred yards, having the old wall of Rome before me all the time, till I came right under it at last; and with the hesitation that befits all great actions I entered, putting the right foot first lest I should bring further misfortune upon that capital of all our fortunes.
And so the journey ended.

The Path to Rome, p.445

Belloc passed through the gates and made his way to the nearest church – Our Lady of the People. Mass was just ending, but another would soon be starting. He retired to a café for a breakfast of bread, coffee and brandy and to write the ditty with which he ends the book.

So, there we are! 29th June is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (unless you are reading this in England or Wales, in which case the feast has been transferred to tomorrow). Belloc has walked from Toul to Rome.

I think this is the fourth year in succession that I have read The Path to Rome and I am still not bored of it. I don’t think I ever will be. To be tired of Belloc as he recounts his journey is to be tired of living because that’s what he does, with all its ups and downs, commitments made and commitments broken, joys and griefs – all these things that mark our lives also marked his journey.

In terms of friends and friendships, Belloc made no flashing friends along the way. He did, however, experience friendship many times – The Path to Rome is a wonderful book to read if you want to experience the kindness of Men towards strangers.

Ultimately, though, I find my thoughts being directed away from the idea of friendship in the book and towards what I said about The Path to Rome being about living. I have to admit, I never thought of it that way before. Perhaps that will be the theme for next year’s reading: The Path to Rome as a microcosm of life.

28th June 1901: Rome Beckons

At daybreak, Belloc reached Montefiascone. The path to Rome did not run through the city, however, so he ignored it.

Next, he came to Viterbo. The road didn’t go through this city, either, but after a brief debate with himself, Belloc decided to enter it. Viterbo was a famous place, after all; and on a more practical level, he needed ‘wine and food for the later day in the mountain’ (Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) p.427).

Viterbo was teeming with life but Belloc stayed only long enough to buy his provisions. He may have been a man who loved – needed – companionship but right now the call of Rome was stronger on his soul.

As the morning wore on, the heat increased but thankfully remained below the furnace-like levels of ‘the oven of the Garfagnana or in the deserts of Siena’ (The Path to Rome, p.429). Indeed, the air was so cool in the horse chestnut forest that Belloc walked through that it reminded him of home.

Upon leaving the forest, Belloc came to a ‘a bare heath’ (The Path to Rome, p.430). He started to sing. Two carabinieri passed him; they also were singing. The two parties saluted each other, friends in song.

Belloc stopped to eat at a house. A woman served him while an old man sitting nearby refused to speak to him. Belloc did not hold this unfriendliness against the man.

… I should dearly have liked to have talked to him in Lingua Franca, and to have heard him on the story of his mountain: where it was haunted, by what, and on which nights it was dangerous to be abroad.

The Path to Rome, p.430

In was still morning when Belloc arrived at the Campagna where – am I correct in saying this? – the armies of Rome once trained. He looked into the distance for city itself, the dome of St. Peter’s, but the Sabinian hills blocked his view. Something which he did see was Soracte.

… Soracte, of which I had read as a boy. It stood up like an acropolis, but it was a citadel for no city. It stood alone, like that soul which once haunted its recesses and prophesied the conquering advent of the northern kings.

The Path to Rome, p.433

Soracte, which played such a big part in the life of another famous English travel writer, perhaps the greatest, Patrick Leigh Fermor.

The Campagna seemed too small to be the place where the destinies of the world were worked out. Belloc could barely fathom this. He ate his food and drank his wine and did so in a reverie as he tried to make sense of what he had seen.

After eating, Belloc turned off the road and fell asleep. When he woke up, it was evening. He started walking and entered Ronciglione where he ate once more. He spoke to a lot of people – but about Rome.

Belloc kept walking. He passed Sette Vene – where he had intended to stop for the night. Nothing mattered now except Rome. Eventually, though, he did stop. And now, he stayed at an inn. Belloc flit ghost like between the tables before settling down at the end of one where he ate a good meal, and drank good wine. Belloc took strength from the atmosphere of the place.

Unfortunately, there was no room at this inn, either; the inn keeper kindly showed Belloc his granary. It would do for the last night of the pilgrimage to Rome.

27th June 1901: The Carts to Rome

Belloc spent the night climbing the ravine. As the sun began to rise in the east, he reached Radicofani. A man lounging on his doorstep wished him good morning.

Belloc passed straight through the town and left by its southern gate.

Ahead lay another valley; it looked even rougher than the one Belloc had just passed. As he didn’t have the heart to cross it in the increasing heat he looked about for somewhere to rest. At that moment,

… a cart drawn by two oxen at about one mile an hour came creaking by.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (ignatius Press 2003) p.411

The driver was asleep. Belloc jumped on board and closed his eyes to rest.

The oxen plodded along. Occasionally the driver stirred but made no move against his unexpected guest. The sun reached its zenith then began the long descent into the west. Finally, the cart reached the foot of the hill that lead up to Aquapendente, Belloc’s next destination.

The driver woke up.

He looked at me a moment and laughed. He seemed to have thought all this while that I was some country friend of his who had taken a lift.

The Path to Rome, p. 412

The driver urged his oxen onwards. As they trudged up the hill, Belloc gave him a cigar by way of a thank you for letting him stay on the cart. The driver promptly smoked it with great satisfaction.

Aquapendente. Belloc notes that the town was famous but can’t understand why – ‘To the pilgrim it is simply a group of houses.’ (The Path to Rome p.412). He ate there, and then left. Outside the town, he settled down on the bank of a stream and slept until evening.

Tonight, on 26th June 1901, Belloc walked into San Lorenzo. Leaving by its southern gate, he saw ahead of him the lake of Bolsena below.

I sat on the coping of a wall, drank a little of my wine, ate a little bread and sausage; but still song demanded some outlet in a the cool evening, and companionship was more of an appetite in me than landscape. Please God, I had become southern and took beauty for granted.

The Path to Rome, pp.419-20

To be honest, if that’s what it meant to be southern then I think Belloc always was. I can’t think of any point in his pilgrimage where he puts landscape ahead of companionship.

Anyway, another cart passed by. Its driver was awake. Belloc stopped him and boarded it. The two men sang of their homelands; they ate and drank together. It was a perfect time for Belloc. He writes,

That was a good drive, an honest drive, a human aspiring drive, a drive of Christians, a glorifying and uplifted drive, a drive worthy of remembrance for ever.

The Path to Rome, pp.420-1

His tongue is surely very firmly in his cheek but you take the point. He really enjoyed himself!

Belloc and the cart driver parted ways at Lake Bolsena. There, Belloc ate at someone’s home. He intended to carry on walking but they insisted on giving him a room for the night. Not wanting to be misunderstood, Belloc acquiesced. He did not stay the night, though; instead, he snuck out ‘not long after midnight’ (The Path to Rome, p.423) and continued on his way.

Camino Postcard 15: Honatas to Castrojeriz

Day Three on the Meseta

I slept badly last night; the dorm was too warm and one of the other pilgrims snored too loudly. I couldn’t be angry, though; the heat was good for our boots and as for the snoring pilgrim, well, who is perfect? As it happens, I am prone to snoring as well, and goodness knows how many other imperfections I have that other people find annoying.

We did not eat breakfast in Honatas but hit the road straight after getting dressed. It was not a comfortable walk – my boots were still very damp from yesterday. Only from tomorrow would they start to feel dry again.

Before we left the albergue, an American pilgrim reminded me of a neat trick I had first learnt in Roncesvalles: put newspaper in your boots; it helps soak the wet/dampness up. I remembered her advice thereafter and it never failed me. How does paper soak water up so effectively? I would love to know the science of it!

When we left Honatas, the weather was dry. Alas, it didn’t stay like that for long. Thankfully, though, the rain was not heavy and we were spared the sleet and slow. Not that the weather showed us any mercy. Around mid-morning, hailstones began to fall. One struck Ellena in the eye – fortunately no damage was done.

The hailstones were so vicious we paused to take refuge next to the wall of the Arco San Antón. It was ‘just’ a ruin so didn’t keep us dry but it did allow us to turn our back on the hail stones until the shower stopped.

Prior to the hailstorm, we passed a finger of stone (photo below) on the hillside next to the path. It was, no doubt, all that remained of some building or another but in its desolation under the heavy clouds it had a real Tolkien-esque feeling about it.

After passing the ruin, we had to negotiate a huge puddle, which I almost slipped into. I came so close to doing so that I feared I had soaked my boots through for the second day in a row. Fortunately, I managed to avoid that fate by a hair’s breadth.

At St. Anthony’s Arch the hail storm soon stopped and we continued on our way. Not long later, an ambulance whizzed past us in the opposite direction; it was a salutary reminder of the dangers that the Camino can sometimes pose.

A long, little used, road took us to Castrojeriz. While walking, we met Lillian, and saw two dogs playing with each other in a field. Lillian was her usual bubbly self and the dogs looked like they were having a rare old time. It was all very heart lifting – which we needed after the hail.

As we approached Castrojeriz, the rain stopped and two rainbows appeared. One of them, as you can see in the photograph below, actually ended on the nearside of the hill. I should have gone to see if I could find the pot of gold!

When I mentioned this to Ellena and Carolin, the joke belied the fact that money was concerning me again: discussing it takes up half a page in my journal entry for today. I was still spending too much.

We arrived in Castrojeriz before midday and stopped at a café. Still suffering from the effects of yesterday’s weather, no one had the heart to continue and so, although the albergue would not open for another two and a half hours, we decided to stay there for the night.

It was a good decision. The albergue, built around a courtyard, had nice, smallish dorms. The hospitaleros cooked the meal, an oriental dish, which was very tasty. The other pilgrims were very friendly and we met Tony again, which lifted everyone’s spirits.

Although we did not know it at the time, today was the last day we had to walk in really bad weather. From now on, the weather would be at worst too hot; there would be rain, of course, but nothing like we experienced today and yesterday. In this respect, we got lucky because we did hear of snow coming down in one or two of the higher up locations along the Camino Francés. By the time we reached them, however, the snow had melted away and the weather was fine again.

26th June 1901: The Kindness of the Cool

Belloc didn’t quite make it to Radicaofani today but note San Quirico d’Orcia between it and Siena

Belloc walked through the night and into the day. The sun rose and it was hot but interestingly he doesn’t blame the heat for soon making him stop.

It was not so much the sun, though that was intemperate and deadly; it was rather the inhuman aspect of the earth which made me despair. It was as though the soil had been left imperfect and rough after some cataclysm…

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) pp.401-2

He lay himself down in the shade of some bushes and remained there for the rest of the day, waking and sleeping in turns.

Belloc resumed walking late in the afternoon. He stopped at an inn where the Italians speaking to him tried to make themselves understood by shouting at him.

As the sun set, Belloc arrived in San Quirico. The cooler air made everything ‘kinder’ (The Path to Rome, p.403). He didn’t make any friends here but he did see kindness in action.

… for the first time I saw in procession one of those confraternities which in Italy bury the dead; they had long and dreadful hoods over their heads, with slits for the eyes.

The Path to Rome, pp.403-4

If you would like to see a representation of the people he is talking about, I thoroughly recommend watching A Room With A View – the Merchant Ivory adaptation of E. M. Forster’s great novel.

As I said, Belloc didn’t make any friends in San Quirico, but he did talk to the people there, and they made a positive impact on him.

They were upstanding, and very fine and noble in the lines of the face.

The Path to Rome, p.404

Leaving San Quirico, Belloc walked across a plan that led to Radicofani, which was perched on the side of a ravine. He came to a farmhouse, and desiring companionship, entered it. There, a very kindly farmer immediately took pity on the weary traveller and insisted that he stay the night. He took Belloc to the stable and settled him down among the oxen.

Having slept all day, Belloc was ready to walk all night but so as not to insult the farmer’s kindness, he took the bed of hay being offered to him. After the farmer had left, Belloc listened to the oxen eat and decided that when he arrived in Rome he would buy two ox horns and on his return home have them hollowed out and mounted so that they could be used as cups. He even composed two ditties to be engraved on the side of each. Then, Belloc sneaked out of the barn, and resumed his walk.

25th June 1901: To Cut a Story By Telling a Story

Belloc neither started in Lucca nor finished In Siena today

Belloc walked through the night. He ‘saw nothing’ and refuses to tell us what he was thinking, even though

… my interior thoughts alone would have afforded matter for this part of the book]; but of these if you have not had enough in near six hundred miles of travel, you are a stouter fellow than I took you for.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome, p.389

As the sun rose, Belloc took his rest ‘under a tree of a kind I had never seen’ (The Path to Rome, p.390). He slept well and, as he thought, long but actually woke after just one hour. It sounds like Belloc had something of a power nap.

It was in a trattoria that Belloc found out the time (his watch had stopped working), and while there he counted his money – three francs and a few centimes. Not much, but money was waiting for him at the post office in Siena. Did he have enough to get there? Yes, if he took the train… And so, he did.

From the way he writes it doesn’t look like Belloc seriously considered walking. According to Google Maps, doing so would have taken between 21-23 hours – but that’s if he had started from Lucca. By the time he reached the trattoria, Belloc had walked all night. We don’t know how many miles he had done, but let’s say it was around 12 and he was now in or near Castelfranco di Sotto. Depending on the route, Siena would have been between 52-59 miles ahead. That would have taken Belloc two long days or three shorter ones to accomplish.

He could have walked that. But only if he had reigned in his spending. It was wise, therefore, of him to take the train, for as we saw between Como and Milan, reigning in his spending was not one of Belloc’s strong points.

In Siena, Belloc collected his money, heard Mass and left. He had spent less than an hour there,

“After all, my business is not with cities, and already I have seen far off the great hill whence one can see far off the hills that overhang Rome.”

The Path to Rome, p.394

Belloc now skips over the next 20 -30 miles of his journey by telling an amusing story about human attitudes to bureaucracy, authority, and the long arm of the law. He justifies not telling us about his journey by saying that it was made in the dark ‘the description of which would have plagued you worse than a swarm of hornets’ (The Path to Rome, p.400)

And that is the end of today’s entry. As you can see from the above quotation, we have reached the 400th page (for the sticklers among you, today’s entry actually ends on p.401). Only 48 to go. Will Belloc find friendship further on? More to the point, will he tell us if he does?

24th June 1901: Soldiering On

By sleeping at Lucca during the day and continuing his journey at night, Belloc resumed what had been his original intention to make his a night time pilgrimage to Rome

Belloc slept badly last night.

I discovered this great truth: that if in a southern summer you do not rest in the day the night will seem intolerably warm, but that, if you rest in the day, you will find coolness and energy at evening.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) p.382

And today does not see an improvement in his desire to keep writing an account of his pilgrimage.

The next morning with daylight I continued the road to Lucca, and of that also I will say nothing.

The Path to Rome, p.382

Belloc knows the awkwardness of his position, for he has LECTOR ask ‘Why on earth did you write this book?’ (The Path to Rome, p.382). Of course, AUCTOR – Belloc – has an answer; and it is a suitably Bellocian – contrary – one: ‘For my amusement’ (Ibid).

The above notwithstanding, Belloc does share some details of today’s walk. He passed a town called Decimo. There, and in the surrounding region, he saw towers with numerous arches. He entered Lucca, which he found to be ‘the neatest, the regularest, the exactest, the most fly-in-amber little town in the world’ (The Path to Rome, p.385).

It was another extremely hot day, and rather than try and brave it out, like he did yesterday, Belloc checked into a hotel until evening. Of course, it was an unusual request to book a room just for the day, but happily, the hotelier was happy to accommodate him. Belloc ate ‘such a meal as men give to beloved friends returned from wars’ (The Path to Rome, p.386). And that’s a lovely, and very grand, turn-of-phrase to describe what is just a big meal!

It’s also as close as we get to anything resembling the idea of friendship in today’s entry. Belloc left the hotel in the evening and does not record meeting anyone along the way.

The villages were silent, the moon soon left the sky, and the stars could not show through the fog, which deepened in the hours after midnight.

The Path to Rome, p.388

Camino Postcard 14: Hornillos to Honatas

Day Two on the Meseta.

Wow. A short, and intense day. When we left the homely albergue, it was raining, but only lightly. Everyone felt fine. Ellena’s knee was getting better, Carolin felt okay, and so did I.

Our intention was to walk to Castrojeriz, 20 kilometres away. We managed 10 before throwing in the towel.

What happened? The weather did, big time.

The meseta

The light rain got heavier. It turned into sleet, then snow. The wind drove it down against our faces. My left foot started squelching. Uh-oh. Had I trod in a puddle? The squelching got heavier. It started in my left boot but soon both feet were affected. No, I hadn’t trod in a puddle: the rain, sleet and snow had penetrated my boots and soaked my socks right through.

For me, this was the worst news. If my feet were squelching they were rubbing against my socks and boots, and that meant I was at increased risk of acquiring one or more blisters. And that, of course, I really did not want to happen.

I don’t think I have mentioned blisters for a while, so let me reiterate: they were bad news. At best, they slowed you down; at worst, they could end your walk.

Slowing down doesn’t sound so bad. No, but had I needed to do so, I might have had to leave Ellena and Carolin, which would have been a great blow as we were getting on so well. It would also have put me behind schedule, which had the potential to cause money problems.

A Camino ending blister would certainly be bad news. Yes. I wouldn’t have minded having to go home early because of my eye because I can’t help being short sighted but if it had been because of my leg (I should have got physio for it last year) or because of a blister that would have been incredibly frustrating.

You had the right boots and socks, though; the weather was not your fault. Welcome to my world of irrational thinking.

The snow continued to fall. All three of us soon got soaked through. It got even worse – the wind lowered the temperature until our hands were frozen. Mine stung with the cold. We decided to stop at the next town we came to, which was Honatas. There, we found an albergue. We checked in as soon as it opened. Until then, we drank wine and a couple of hot chocolates (not at once) in its café.

Exhibit A: One frozen pilgrim

The afternoon was spend warming up in bed.

There was still a little drama to come, though. After checking in, we were asked – as per the custom at all albergues – to leave our boots on a rack under an awning outside. We knew, however, that if we did that, they would never dry out in the cold, damp air. So, an executive decision was taken to go against albergue custom and keep them in our dorm. Fortunately, the hospitalera did not notice (or chose not to do so). If she had, I would certainly have brought them in later on and kept them in the dorm overnight.

At tea time, we ate in the dining area. At the end, we were charged for our food. Again: we had already paid for it when checking in. The man-in-charge (pun intended) made a stink about it but eventually found it in his gracious heart to let the matter go.

As the afternoon wore on, the bad weather passed; we even saw a little blue sky. The rain made a couple of comebacks but didn’t last, and was never as bad as the morning.

After we checked in, I inspected my feet for blisters. The good news was that no new ones had appeared. The bad news, however, was that my left thigh had severely chafed. Fortunately, that resolved itself over the next few days with a generous and regular application of vaseline.

I got lucky – all three of us got lucky: we were told about a French pilgrim who had been found laid out on a bench somewhere behind us. Thank the Lord she was alive. Details were never more than sketchy, but I recall being told that she was found wearing inadequate clothing for bad weather. Exhaustion must have taken her. This is why, as I said yesterday, it is so important to prepare as well as you can. Of course, this applies to the Camino as a whole and not just the meseta.

The weather was so bad, Ellena and Carolin were forced to put their ponchos on over their raincoats. Note the muddy path, which made the walk even more difficult – especially when it was filled with puddles.

23rd June 1901: Sillano and After

I don’t know for sure that Belloc stopped in Borgo a Mozzano but it is on the direct line to Rome so seems a fair bet that he ended the day there.

The transition between yesterday’s ‘entry’ in The Path to Rome and today’s is very vague. For the first time since the start of his pilgrimage, Belloc neither says ‘I went to sleep’, nor, ‘I woke up’.

Instead, he ends yesterday’s ‘entry’ with the quotation that I tagged on to the end of yesterday’s post, and opens today’s with a flight of fancy about the soul being able, in ‘very early youth’ (Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) p.374), to remember its heavenly origin.

From whence comes such an unorthodox thought? It’s because Belloc sensed something of heaven in the sight and smells of the Sillano valley last night. As might be expected, they made a deep impression on him. Belloc describes the feeling as ‘the blessing of Sillano’ (Ibid), and says that ‘here was perhaps the highest moment of those seven hundred miles – or more’ (The Path to Rome, pp.3734-5).

Unfortunately, this great moment has a negative consequence for the reader – Belloc now loses patience with the story of his pilgrimage; he apologises if he now ‘press[es] on much more hurriedly to Rome, for the goal is almost between my hands, and the chief moment has been enjoyed, until I shall see the City.’ (The Path to Rome, p.375).

Belloc laments that he has to tell the story of the ‘next sixty miles of way… as of a real journey in this very repetitive and sui-similar* world’ (Ibid) rather than being able to ‘wander forth at leisure through the air and visit the regions where everything is as the soul chooses’ (Ibid).

That would certainly have been preferable. Perhaps, then, he might have decided to come back to his book and told us about some of the friends he made during that time, and friendships that were created. As it is, today’s ‘entry’ contains no mention at all of either.

For the record, Belloc spent the day walking in punishing heat. He passed through a town called Castel-Nuovo (possibly Castelnuovo di Garfagnana) where he found numerous bridges before arriving in a town called Borgo (the second of this name that he has come across on this pilgrimage, though he avoided entering the first). By the time he got there, it was evening, and he decided to stay the night.

*I have never seen this word before. As ‘sui’ is Latin for ‘of itself’, I assume that Belloc is emphasising the sameness of the countryside that he passed through