Thursday 16 October.
The breakfast was much better value than dinner last night. We had cereal, both of us enjoyed the muesli with a tub of yoghurt. There was fresh coffee and croissants and fruit. We also took a 'doggy bag' of a couple of apples and some biscuits for lunch. The paper table mats had a map of the town and we took one it showed the way back to rejoin the VF route.
The first 10 km. this morning were very easy. They followed a water channel that distributed water to the area for irrigation the path ran beside it all the way to the town of Gignod. The path varied in condition, parts were muddy with potholes full of water where others were dry with a cushion of pine needles to walk on. There was a lot of work going on upgrading the footpath and installing fencing. The transport these workers used tended to churn up the path and create the muddy sections where there hadn't been any access for vehicles it was firm and dry.
These water channels were called 'runs' and from the 14th century they were an elaborate system of distributing water for irrigation to even the smallest fields. The larger ones are still in use to day. In a lot of places the path and water system resembled the Cut in Greenock another water transport arrangement but there it was taking water from the town's reservoir. Some of the transport of the water was in square channels, in other places in large pipes and again in underground tunnels. Unlike the Cut in Greenock where it is in open ground with views over the valley and Firth of Clyde here it was through thick woods that obscured the wonderful mountain vistas.
When we left it was dry but a little cold and we wore our rain gear on top of our fleeces but after an hour we began to feel warm. We stopped and took off our rain jackets and it must have been tempting fate, it began raining shortly afterwards. Out came our jackets again and the rain stayed on all morning. It never got very heavy but it was wet under foot. Coming into Gignod we found a bench outside a small school that was under a shelter. There was a notice that said, if our translation was correct; 'for the use of students'. The place was very quiet and we managed to have our tea and biscuit without anyone objecting. The sky over the mountains above Aosta seemed to clearing and as they broke through the cloud and mist I managed to get a clear photograph. Unfortunately it didn't last and more clouds came over with more rain. It was disappointing as what we could see of through the haze and mist must be outstanding on a clear day.
The guide book said it was 9 km to go to Aosta but the VF signposts, that indicate the distance in times, had it as 90 minutes. The route now took to quiet lanes as it made its way steeply downhill once again. We still had about 400m of descent and it was beginning to tell on our knees. Soon we were down to the village of Variney and on the main road. This was the road that we had started on yesterday up at the col, now it was much busier. Fortunately there was a pavement and we could stop and admire the beautiful mural depicting various saints and pilgrims, on the front of the church, Chiese di San Rocco.
Soon we were in the outskirts of Aosta and to avoid the traffic the VF took to a minor road. It climbed at first and then when it levelled out we got a view of Aosta below with the mountains towering behind. We tried to make out the cable car going up to Pila where we stayed on our previous visit but it was too misty with the rain. It was at this point we went the wrong way at an unmarked fork. It took us along a thick grassy embankment, through an orchard with the trees full of apples and eventually back to the main road. It was now very busy with dangerous bends and no pavement. After getting round a few tight corners we came to lane that was descending towards the town, we headed that way and a short distance later the official route joined from the right. We were on track again.
When we reached Aosta city centre Moira carried my iPad. It had our location highlighted for once and I had marked our hotel's position with a pin. It was now a simple matter of using this satnav system to get us successfully there. Before we arrived we were worried about getting in as the booking site said 5pm registration. When we got there it looked closed and the door was locked but a woman appeared and soon opened the door. All she required was our passports for photocopying and after that we got the key. The room was up in the attic but it was nice and en suite.
We had lunch and listened to the radio on the iPad, the WiFi was first class. Mid-afternoon the rain had gone off and we went to look for a supermarket. The last time we were here there was a large supermarket next to the cable car station, we headed that way. It was only about 5 minutes away and the supermarket was there. First we had a look at the station and the cable way up the mountain. It went straight up and we could see the ski resort of Pila perched on a small plateau with a ridge of high peaks behind. They appeared to be doing repairs and maintenance on the system and cars, it wasn't operating and a sign indicated, I think, that a bus was the substitute transport via the winding mountain road to Pila.
Next it was back to the supermarket but it was different from our time here before. Then it was just a large sort of warehouse with boxes of the goods on the shelves and no elaborate displays, and it was very cheap. This place was a modern Tesco type store and not cheap. It was huge but not particularly busy, I remarked to Moira that there must be a Lidl close-by that people go to instead ( she checked later on Google and there was). We got what we needed for a meal in the room and stocked up on tea and coffee. Moira's shoes are beginning to need replacing and they had nice sturdy trekking shoes at €45, she is going to return tomorrow with her orthotic insoles and get a proper fit before buying them.
It was after 5 pm when we returned to the hotel. We listened to the radio, had dinner; soup followed by cold ham and salad, a red Italian wine; read, listened to more radio then got to sleep. Though we were close to the city centre the hotel was in a quiet area and there was no noise during the night, we both slept well. Tomorrow is a break but not from walking, we will be putting in a few kilometres sightseeing in Aosta.