...I may never eat pizza again.
I was a little dubious when I was quoted a price of €40 for a single room at the Hotel Cristina (http://www.hotel-cristina.org/home), although I was quickly reassured that included "petite dejeuner."
This evening, the only other option I had was pitching my tent in a field somewhere, if I could find anywhere with a level patch that was at least 2x1 m and didn't have any cow patties lurking in the grass. The three options in Nus were unavailable (closed or full) and "Mummy's B&B" in the next town over was likewise dark.
It seems wrong to complain about warm sunny weather in the Alps in October, but I just wasn't prepared for these temperatures. It hit the high 20s Celsius again today, and I was ready to stop walking by 3:30. It took another 3.5 hours to find a town that had anything available, so I didn't bother quibbling about the price once I finally found this place using my GPS app and the Alison Raju guidebook loaded on my phone.
And then I opened the door to my room. And then I saw the view from the balcony. And then I saw the full-sized bathtub. Yes, this was money very well spent. After a long lazy soak in the tub, I got dressed and headed down to the restaurant.
I wound up ordering a Gorgonzola pizza, and this explains the first line of this update. The crust was paper thin and crisp, serving to contain a wondrous mixture of cheese and tomato sauce and more cheese. The question of whether to pick this up and eat it with my hands or use a knife and fork was moot. Nobody could eat this without utensils unless they lapped at it with their tongue like a cat.
So, yes. I'm supremely content at the moment. The pain and sweat and uncertainty of the previous few hours are not even a bad memory, enveloped as it all is in a hot bath, excellent food, and the promise of a good night's sleep. There's probably some sort of parable in there, but I'm too tired to draw it out.
On my way out of Aosta this morning, I stopped by the cathedral in time for the Scripture readings in the Mass. Out of respect for those who were praying, I found an out-of-the-way corner, stashed my gear, and tried to pick out what I could of the modern Catholic Mass done in Italian. (Oddly enough, I found the Spanish Masses I witnessed on the Camino easier to follow, although that may be due to the difference between a parochial Mass and one served in a cathedral.) I managed not to giggle at the communion hymn, which was set to the same tune as "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night."
The church cleared very rapidly after the dismissal, so I was free to wander about and take a few photos. (Please see flickr.com/photos/phool4XC for the latest.) The Roman Theatre, the Forum and the Arch of Augustus also warranted a visit, but I didn't spend much time with them.
Once I cleared the city, I discovered that I felt great! In spite of some initial soreness, I got up to my old Camino speeds. Granted, most of my walking today was more or less level, once I'd climbed to the altitude of the path. Even the heat was tolerable since I'd been careful to avoid the merino wool undershirt.
Things began to go awry when I realized I'd missed a turn and was now above the path I should have been following. Instead of the shade afforded by groves of oak, I was slogging it out on minor tarmac roads. Mercifully, all the Sunday drivers must have stayed at home, since I saw very little traffic.
Twice today, while I was standing looking confused and feeling uncertain, people came up to me and pointed me in the right direction. This is the simple experience of grace one has when you're living day to day, never knowing where you'll sleep or when you'll eat until it actually happens.
And now I think I need to see if the bed in my room matches the rest of the superlative experience at Hotel Cristina.