Day 13 – Walking the Via Francigena- From Péronne to Saint-Quentin, France –
Encountering a Major Setback
I was nervous about today’s walk.
It was estimated to be about 41 kilometers, mostly along the road with cars zooming by.
Well… unfortunately, I did not need to worry about this walk.
I had much greater things to worry about today.
We got up early and packed our backpacks.
It was not until then that I realized that my front bag, the one with all our money, passports, papers, credit cards and all our documentation, was missing.
I finally remembered that I had left it hanging on the back of the chair in the restaurant we dined at last night.
We ran to the restaurant, but it was closed until noon.
We called the phone numbers they had on their website and on their door, but nobody answered.
We e-mailed them and went to the restaurant’s front door every half an hour until finally at eleven in the morning, they opened the doors to let us in.
All that time, I kept on hoping that everything would be OK…. that the restaurant was run by kind people who would not steal from their customers, no matter how foolish I was to forget my bag.
But I was wrong.
Not the cook, who had shifty eyes and refused to meet my begging eyes, not the server and not the manager admitted that they had found my bag.
Everything was gone.
Our money for the pilgrimage, for the next two months and for the trip to Turkey, and all our credit cards, passports, my driver’s licenses, every important thing a traveler must not lose.
Here I was…. I had lost everything.
The police came and took us to the regional office.
We spent hours with Google translator, filing a report of the theft.
The restaurant staff claimed another customer must have stolen it.
I was heartbroken.
I cried and cried, but I had to face the harsh facts, that the bag was gone.
I called the US embassy in Paris, and they told me to come over and that they would issue us new passports.
What are we to do… should we stop the pilgrimage, and take a train to Paris?
What about our pilgrimage, our commitment to walk and all the accommodations we’ve booked for the next week….
We already planned to finish walking this section of the pilgrimage in Reims, should we stop now and go to Paris?
Or should we view it as a setback, and not a catastrophe….
Pilgrims encounter setbacks….
What would we gain by losing more money on all the prepaid bookings we’ve made?
It was 2:40PM when we finished at the police station.
The policemen who promised to take us back to town after we finished filing our reports, were investigating an accident and were not able to come and drive us to town.
We didn’t know what to do.
It was too late to walk 41 kilometers, there are no trains in Pēronne and the next bus to Saint Quentin was not until 5:45 PM.
The young and friendly policeman who filed our report, offered to take us in his car back to town.
We put our backpacks in his car and he drove us to town.
We shook his hand and started walking around town, hoping that the thieves would have taken the money, but thrown our passports and credit cards in one of the trash bins around town.
We walked all over town, but could not find anything.
At the tourist information center, we asked them to call us a taxi to take us to Saint Quentin.
It took only twenty fine minutes by taxi.
It would have taken us over nine hours on foot.
In Saint Quentin, we checked into our bed and breakfast, left our backpacks and went into the main square at the center of town, to look for a cafe.
We found a cafe and started the long and arduous process of calling the US, and canceling all of our credit cards.
It took hours and hours, but we did it all.
We spoke about our strategy for the next few days.
Should we quit or should we keep on walking…
After a long talk, trying to get over my resentment of being in this unfriendly country and of all the thieves in the world, we decided to keep on walking.
The money is gone.
It was a lot of money…thousands of dollars and Euros….money we brought for the next three months…
And I feel foolish and careless and mindless and frustrated and shaken and unsafe.
But it is gone.
The credit cards are all canceled, and we will get new passports when we’ll get to Paris.
Luckily Jules has his wallet with him.
We have only one credit card that we are still able to use.
I went to a shop and bought a new small bag.
It is empty and I feel almost naked without all my papers, money and wallet.
We promised ourselves that we will be careful from now on and watch one another, reminding one another and checking one another’s belongings.
Two brains are better than one, and four eyes are better than two…
I am disheartened, and my confidence in the goodness of people has faded, but I will be fine…. I hope so…
Saint Quentin is a charming town, and we enjoyed our walk around town in the evening.
The owner of our Bed and Breakfast had recommended some good restaurants in town, but I was not in a mood for food.
We went to a neighborhood Italian place, and ate spaghetti with tomato and pesto sauce.
That night I had many bad dreams and woke up a few times in the middle of the night.
I made myself go to sleep again, because tomorrow we have a very long walk.
Tali the shaken pilgrimage
3 hours of walking around Saint-Quentin
Active walking time – 3 hours
Daily Steps – 13,770
Daily Kilometers – 10
Total Kilometers walked from Canterbury – 267
Maximum Altitude today: 0 meters
Total Elevation climbed today: 0 meters
Total Descent today: 0 meters
From Pēronne to Saint-Quentin, France
La Filature Chambres d’Hôtes, Saint-Quentin