I stayed awake most of the night before our walk from Bovernier to Martigny. We read two path guides prior to the walk and both sounded ominous. One described this particular leg of the Via Francigena as the ‘worst’ leg of all and suggested that if walking on extremely narrow, rocky, slippery paths at heights was problematic, then perhaps resigning oneself to taking the train might be the best option.
David is a good partner. Instead of convincing me to walk the path, he offered several suggestions. We could try it and turn back if it seemed too difficult; we could find an alternative route (although other than a major highway, there weren’t any); we could skip this 5km part of the path altogether… after all, what’s a couple of miles compared to the 1200+ we’re walking?
After my sleepless night and considering that the day was sunny AND we’d heard of absolutely no pilgrim deaths on this part of the path, I decided to give it a try. As usual, the anticipation was much worse than the actual walk. In fact, it was less strenuous and arduous than the walk the day before. Kudos to David for realizing and appreciating my angst and helping me deal with it. That’s what good partners do!
Since it was only a few miles walk from Bovernier to Martigny (and we survived), we continued on to St. Maurice. This path was very different from the two we’d just experienced. We entered Bois Noir, a nature reserve with a noted waterfall. Along the route, we encountered Wasir and friends. An Afghani who had helped US military in Afghanistan, Wasir was now a student in Switzerland. The group graciously offered us some of their BBQ picnic lunch and it smelled so good and we were so hungry and they were so friendly, we joined them. We passed a pleasant half hour with them eating, drinking and chatting.
We are beginning to leave the Alps behind. There are still lots of ups and downs, but it’s becoming more rolling hills than snow-covered mountains. We look behind us to see the mountains now.
Vineyards are lush and plentiful here. We watched women pruning the vines one morning. We waved and said ‘bonjour’. They waved back and continued with their labors, but didn’t mind me snapping a photo.
We caught a train back to Martigny and spent our remaining hours there exploring the town. It’s an absolutely lovely city offering everything from Barryland (a St. Bernard dog museum), to contemporary public art, to Roman ruins and more. Take a look. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge it.
David ordered new shoes for us today. Ours are kaput and I can only think that my worn-out shoes may be contributing to my sore foot problem. Let’s hope!
Day 47 – Bovernier – Martigny- St. Maurice
17.28 miles walked/ 40,191 steps - We met 9 pilgrims today.
Leg distance: 13.2 miles / 618 miles to Canterbury
Day 48 – St. Maurice-Aigle
I want to note that in this part of Switzerland, most people speak French. I’ve relied upon my high school/college French, but found myself speaking mostly Franglish and Fritalian. I answered ‘si’ more than ‘oui’, but most people forgave me and ended up speaking English. I remembered most of the important words, however… merci, bière and toilette.
Since we’d already walked from Martigny to St. Maurice, we boarded the earliest train back to St. Maurice. We’re back on Plan A walks again. Our first goal was to visit the St. Maurice Abbey dating from 515 AD and founded by Sigismond, King of the Burgundians.
The Abbey didn’t open till 0800, but Mass was just ending at the neighboring Basilica and we poked our heads in to take a look.
We entered the Abbey as the Basilica bells chimed eight o’clock. There was not that much to see in the entryway… a few photos below. We made our way further inside and a kindly woman in an inner office stamped our pilgrim passports. There was no more for us to see or do so early in the morning.
There was also a fine castle in town which happened to be hosting a Dracula Exposition. We missed the expo, but at least got a photo of the castle.
We crossed the Rhône River and followed it for awhile, then upon reaching Ollon, we began to climb. First small hills, but culminating in the biggest, baddest, steepest paved hill, I think we’ve ever climbed or seen for that matter … 600’ at a 16% grade. It went on and up forever switchbacking through vineyards… up, up, up and made San Francisco’s steep hills seem like little bumps. At the top, however, though sweaty and out of breath, we got a great view of the town below.
We continued up and down along a thickly forested path. When we emerged near Aigle, a storybook castle popped into view. It wasn’t the usual castle we were used to seeing with disintegrating walls and crumbling turrets. No, this was a castle that a fairy princess would be proud to claim. It was spectacular.
And the closer we got, the more beautiful it was.Originally built c. 1179, it has been refurbed and re-purposed throughout the centuries. The castle now belongs to the town of Aigle and houses a wine and wine-labels museum. Switzerland, by the way, has to be home to the most eclectic, unusual group of museums ever … wine labels, cuckoo clocks, music boxes, St. Bernards… they’ve got it all covered.
Aigle, a pleasant little city, was our goal for the day. Weary and tired, we made ourselves comfortable in the Hotel du Nord for the evening and planned our route for the coming day.
We seem to have a love/hate relationship with Switzerland. It’s wonderful and scenic. People are friendly. Everything’s neat and tidy. There are no barking dogs, no litter, no trash. The public restrooms (WCs) are clean and have toilet seats and most are free and things work. BUT everything is so expensive … double what we were paying in Italy. It’s killing our budget.
Day 48 – St. Maurice-Aigle
12.91 miles walked/ 30,029 steps - 5 pilgrims on the path today
Leg distance: 11.5 miles / 607 miles to Canterbury
Up next … we’re heading to Lake Geneva, Switzerland’s Riviera.