“We are going to be crossing the Alps, Ruth,” Gord announced with surprise. Where was he for the last week when I was talking about the climb and worrying about how steep it would be with the trailer??? I am always surprised to realize how amazing he is at tuning me out! Yesterday our proximity  to the Alps became real when we could see Mont Blanc towering over the rice fields. It was visible even through the smog that hangs between Milan and Torino. This area has some of the worst air quality in Europe, and that’s without forest fires. “Yes, Gord, we are crossing the Alps on this route.  I’m nervous but I’m going to do it.”

Today I met my fourth and fifth pilgrims since Budapest. They were a Belgian/French couple making their way along the Via Francigena from France. Climbing the Grand Saint Bernard Pass at 68 and 80 is a serious achievement. I hope Gord and I are still doing this at their ages.  The couple have completed all of the same routes that Gord and I have done, except Shikoku. She leaned in to explain that they were both widow(er)s walking the Camino when they met ten years ago, and that the Camino saved her life. I had tears in my eyes when I left them, thinking of my friend Julie who is planning her next Camino while grieving the recent loss of her dear husband Joerg. And about the possibility that Gord or I might one day be making that same journey. 

I needed the connection with these two pilgrims to shake me out of my feelings of travel fatigue that I’ve had the last few days. I’m so grateful to be alive and able to make this Camino, and to share these days with Gord (whether he’s listening or not). 

I’m writing this just outside the Abbey of Saint Albino on the outskirts of Mortara. It was founded in the second half of the fourth century but modified many times since then. 

Fifteenth century frescoes adorn the much older 12th century apse of the current chapel. The ruins of the original pilgrim hospice are still standing and appear to be in the process of restoration. 

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