No storm and no rain – excellent. Better still, we manage to meet up with Isabelle and Eduardo with heart-warming hugs all round. Who says going back is not a good idea? Retracing our footsteps is bringing back all kinds of memories – some good, some bad. Last year this was the first day we travelled without Gwendolyn, but with Lubie and the bike – a difficult experience for all of us. This year we are in a position to learn from our mistakes and develop a single route from all the options proposed by the many, many VF mappers. Of course we think ours is the best, which is inevitably open to debate, but if nothing else we have managed to steer a steady, safe and predominantly traffic-free course along a valley where everyone is jostling for space and the SS26 and the A5 Autostrade seem to dominate the centre. In the process we have passed through Chatillon and St Vincent, two towns that have a great deal of history to boast about, while also climbing into remote villages where, in contrast, the churches are the size of shoe boxes though far more attractively decorated – I think we have photographed every single fresco we passed.
Tonight we are in Hône, staying in the same hotel where we stayed with Lubie last year and once again loomed over by the frankly bizarre Bard Castle. My sense of historical duty tells me I should mount its stark footpath and do the tourist thing, but the rest of my body is rebelling. Perhaps a photo from below will do.
The wind and rain battered the shutters through the night and I had the fear of a day spent wrapped in our capes. However, though the morning was grey the rain generally stayed away, but as you look up on the valley sides there is now a neat divide between green and white. Yes, though it is August it snowed above 1000 metres last night and remember the Col is over 2400 metres high. I hope those that are following us have prepared well and kept an eye on the forecast. The brother of a friend of ours that farms high on the Col surprised us last year by saying that for him autumn begins with August. Well I guess we have the evidence here to prove it. It was wonderful meeting Isabelle and Eduardo again. Their equestrian centre seems to be doing fine and the welcome we received was well worth our reduced day and small diversion off the track.
We seem to have moved from the land of yellow stencilled F signs into rather posher, but much less frequent signposts with the little pilgrim figure that I associate with the European Association. The posts seem to only be erected on road sides, never pathways, and all too frequently point into the no-man’s land between 2 credible routes and so we revert to maps, guesswork and a judgement of which type of route our successors would like to follow.
Tonight we are in the Hotel del Mulino in Hône, where we were able to park our horse Lubie on the lawn last year. BB tells me it is going to cost us 60 Euros for the night and so we will aim for a big breakfast tomorrow, but the good news is that pizza and vino rosso prices have fallen and so we will sleep well.