Sunday, June 18, 2006

VF Day 6 Sienna - San Quirico D'Orcia

We set off for the church of Santo Domingo, a huge building on the edge of the centre by the stadium. It was an odd feeling inside as there were no pews in the main body of the huge church, so it was more like a church hall about to put on a beetle drive. I felt like I should give blood.

We did see St Catherine's thumb - grimly preserved and greyish pink next to a bust of her containing her 'head parts' and a box containing the chain she whipped herself with. Grim.

The stained glass looked pretty poor. It seemed new. We set off out of town on busy roads in commuter traffic with all road signs leading to Rome, in every direction. Pretty soon we were rolling free on undulating roads. After 8 miles we stopped at a roadside stall for peaches and apricots and a banana for Lou and tomatoes for me. We spotted a fruit called 'Claudie'! I think it was greengages. We stayed for sandwiches and coffee and then set off for Buenconvento which we reached in great time. We strolled around the market looking for a replacement for Gulliver, but with no luck. Then onwards and upwards.

The first 20 miles of the day were a breeze relatively speaking and we made good time but the last stretch was tough. There were a few climbs followed by one giant one. OK, not giant but 200m over 4 km with a few flat bits and a scary tunnel, all just after noon. We scrambled from shady spot to shady spot. We saw a patch of cypress trees on a hill in the middle of farmland and couldn't work out why they were there. I now know it's so they can sell postcards of them - they're a standard Tuscan image.

When we finally made it here to San Quirico d'Orcia we stopped just inside the city walls for apricots. The town seemed deserted and it got no better as we walked in. We dropped the bikes by the church and strolled around but everything was closed. The tourist office re-opened at 3 so we went for an ice cream and sat and waited. A poke about town did not reveal the hostel, although I asked at a place where lots of cyclists in Team Francegina shirts we going but it wasn't there. Lucky because later we saw them having a prayer meeting. We sat at a bar and had a beer and some water. A few other cyclists with panniers arrived. The park in the distance appeared to be full of naked people, but on closer inspection they were clay statues.

We walked up to the tourist office which opened shortly after 3. The woman checked with the hostel by phone and the bloke came over to tell us that he was not only full, but that he had 29 residents and only 26 beds. A troop of scouts we'd seen earlier should have given us a clue.

A Scandinavian family were trying to find a room for 3. Unfortunately for them the cheapest place in town only had a room for 2. Lucky us, we swooped in and pinched it. It smells a bit, and is above the bar, but it will do. We stayed and I had a nap until 7 when I could hear life below. The tourist office had closed so no stamp but Louise did buy a replacement for Gulliver. I wanted to call her Catherine, but we settled on Guiseppe.

We found a fabulous garden restaurant - Trattoria al Vecchio Forno for dinner. I tried a glass of Brunello di Montalcino (couldn't really afford a bottle) and had more angel dancing soup, but it wasn't as fabulous - it tasted too fresh and could have done with a night in the fridge. I had a tuscan baked mushroom risotto which was good, topped, I think with powdered polenta and served with grilled peppers, aubergines and courgettes. Scrummy. I wanted vin santo for pudding but couldn't remember the name of the biscuits so mimed the action. This amused the waiter who brought Lou her panna cotta and me my .

We wandered back through town where the dregs of the Sienna Jazz Festival had been happening earlier and then onto the main square which was filled with bench seating for locals hosting some sort of sports awards dinner, then strolled off to bed. Sleep wasn't seemingly a realistic option as there were fireworks and partying til 4, but I was pooped and so did get to sleep, waking every hour with the church bells.

My experiments with factor 20 suncream are over. I'm burned on my arms, face and hands. To a lobster degree.

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