Going to the Dogs in Switzerland

When we think of Switzerland we naturally picture soaring snow-capped mountains, lush green fields, cows with cowbells, chocolate, watches and possibly, St Bernard dogs with their trusty brandy barrels fastened below their chins.

But did you know that the dogs have been named after their home? The Great Saint Bernard Pass.

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Day 1 Via Francigena, Great Saint Bernard Pass to Aosta, 31km

Date: Wednesday 8 August
Distance to Rome: 31/1027km
Terrain: down-bloody-hill all the way
Overnight: La Belle Epoque,€48
Feeling: absolutely knackered!

20180807223729_IMG_2571_1Well, I can honestly say that I waaaaaaaay underestimated the via Francigena. I had heard about the Swiss alps and seen pictures of course, but I never knew the buggers were so big.

In my naivety I thought 30km in the crisp mountain air would be challenging, but doable. Ohh how wrong could I be?

20180808155835_IMG_2596_1I started walking just after 6 am and all-but crawled into Aosta at nearly 4.30 p.m. with absolutely nothing left in the tank and every muscle screaming blue murder.

A normal person would pay attention to the guide/map makers who recommend that this stage be split over two days, but me being the eternal optimist thought that one day would be fine.

Over the 10 hours I descended 1852 metres and my knees and leg muscles knew everyone of those metres intimately. It was a day to doubt my sanity, but when I took a moment to look up instead of where my feet were going, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. I could not believe the pockets of snow still nestled at the mountain tops and the lushness of the forests, the fields of cows and obligatory cowbells.

20180808164326_IMG_2597_1I also could not believe the amount of people out walking on the same path. People of all ages, young and old, all out for a hike. Obviously they breed them tough over here. One additional challenge is for me to know whether to greet them with ‘bonjour’ or ‘buon giorno’ as French and Italian are spoken equally in this part of Italy.

For a good part of the day the path followed an extensive water canal construction that provided irrigation water for the many farmers and their pastures. Even though Europeans are screaming about the drought it just seems to be endless water here in the north of Italy.

20180808171050_IMG_2601_1A memorable day for all the wrong, and quite a few right, reasons!

Tip of the day: buy yourself a good set of walking poles and bring them!!

Under the Tuscan Sun – in Hiking Boots

Yes, it’s on again! Or should I say, the walking boots are on again, and I’m excited!

In 8 months’ time I will be stepping out across the Italian countryside, powering over the rolling hills and inhaling gelato.

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