September 25th 2022
We are parked in the shadow of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco as we are still on the Italian side of the border), in the tiny commune of Sarre. At 620metres, this is our highest campsite on the trip so far.
We’ve driven 200 miles north to the Alps, and in that time we have leapt from Summer to Autumn. The day before yesterday, we were wishing we had our swimming kit when we were in the Cinque Terre. Here, there is snow on the peaks around us, and the leaves on the trees are turning brown and beginning to fall.
Tonight, we are staying at the mildly quaint campsite, ‘Monte Bianco’ in Sarre, just outside Aoste (€0.50 per hot shower). Finally we have found a very quiet campsite. Most folk use this place, as we are, as a stopover on the route from Italy to France and vice versa. It looks as if it is going to close soon.
When I left you yesterday, I was frantically tapping away at the keyboard, trying to bring you up-to-date with our hoop-la of the last week, while my chums went off on their cookery course. They had a great time! They can now stuff vegetables, make pesto, create gnocchi from mashed potato, fillet and season sea bass, and bake a traditional biscotti cake. At the time trying to drink the bottomless, free white wine dry!
Meanwhile it began to rain. It was only ‘spitting’ at first but soon it became heavy and persistent; as if it was taking out a grudge on our camper van roof. I waved my lucky waterproof out of the door, but it only made the weather gods even angrier and forced them into trying harder still. So, when the creative trio messaged me to say it was time for lunch, I walked the dogs across to the restaurant, resplendent, but dry, in my sadly unmagical, ‘potters’ clay’ waterproof.
I arrived to find that the restaurant was buzzing. Wendy, Lesley and Andy had been joined on the course by twelve others, all North Americans, who were a great gang. I was regaled with all the stories about what had happened over the last three hours, and the next couple of hours flew by with the convivial company, and the even better food. If you come for a meal in Gisborne Crescent in the next couple of months, I think I know what will be on the menu!
Earlier today (Sunday), we arrived at Serre and found our own spot to park up, because the office was shut for lunch. We shook the journey from our legs with a stroll/dog walk along the river Dora Báltea, that took us into the centre of Aosta, to find out why it has been referred to as ‘the Rome of the North’. The town felt as if it was having a rest after the summer before getting up again for the winter season. This was probably accentuated by the fact that today is the town’s Saint’s Day, and we heard a tour guide (they get everywhere!) explaining that many families in the town will have attended one of the two parish churches this morning, and then will be having a big family meal in the afternoon.
Anyway, we ticked off the Praetorian Gate, the Amphitheatre, the Pailleron Tower and the Augustine Arch, in better than quick time, as the sun was setting and we wanted to find a bar that was still in the sunshine. And we did. We grabbed the last table at a bar in the main square, overlooked by Aosta’s very grandiose town hall to watch the sun slowly set behind the mountains.
The Romans got here 2050 years before us and trounced the local team, the Salassi. They then refused to give the locals a return fixture. Instead the Romans built a triumphant arch to celebrate, as was their want. It is still in good shape twenty hundred years later. So, Rome of the north? Nah! I don’t think so. I think I would give that title to Arles. But all the same Aosta is a very nice place, and I will pop in again the next time I cross the Alps this way.
We caught the bus back to the Campsite which meant that we had to have our FFP2 masks on and the dogs needed muzzles. I tried to pay on the bus to be told that I had to go back to the ticket office. Have you tried running with an FFP2 mask on? I emerged, clutching four tickets and gasping for breath with steamed up glasses, to see the bus pulling off from its stand and the driver grinning at me (I could tell he was smiling with his mask on by his very expressive eyebrows). He then pulled up just past me so that I could get on.
Tonight we are having a little chilli to mark the change in the seasons. We might have to put the heating on.
Tomorrow we are off to Chamonix and the forecast is for snow! Winter drawers on?