Monday 20 October.
It was another lovely day when we left just before 9 am this morning. We were late leaving as there was breakfast provided and we didn't finish that until 8:30 am. It was very nice; cereal, yoghurt, bread, cheese, jam, croissants, cake and fruit. The coffee was from a machine and also very good. We also took a doggy bag of biscuits, some cake and an apple for our lunch. Before leaving Moira asked the girl in reception to phone a pilgrim hostel in Ivrea for Tuesday night but there was no reply. Instead we went into the bar, logged onto the Internet and booked a hotel there on 'booking.com'. We are now settled for the next two nights.
From Verres there was a gravel track that followed the river Dora Baltea. The signposts for the route said 2 hours 15 minutes to Hone where we planned to make our coffee stop. It was lovely and flat for a change and we enjoyed striding out in the cool early morning. Soon we veered away from the river and headed for the town of Arnad. I thought it was going to be just a little village but it kept going and going. Also the road began to climb and we were now high up looking down on the valley. It was at this point we went wrong somewhere, there are times when the waymarks are confusing and you don't know whether you have to continue straight or turn at a junction. I think we turned when it should have been straight. We saw a sign post but it was for the '103A' not our plain '103' route. It was going to Hone as well but its time was an hour more by taking the high level scenic route. Our route was along the valley floor and we took the first turning going down and then consulted our guide book and map. The VF was on the other side of the motorway, railway line and river. We backtracked and the road took us under the motorway, a lane then took us under the railway then continuing on the lane we spotted a bridge,over the river with the yellow VF signposts. We were back on track again.
It was flat again on a minor road on the other bank of the river and led all the way into the town of Hone. This was through climbing country and the mountains on either side had very steep rocky sides. Information boards showing the different routes to the top were displayed for the various climbs. Some were easy and others were difficult, it said that the area was used by mountaineers to train for more serious ascents. At Hone we found a shop and were able to buy milk, what was left this morning had gone sour. There was a bench handy and I made coffee. We had two of the cakes from the hotel, they were a sponge with lemon curd filling, very tasty. From Hone it was only a short distance and over the river to Bard, a touristy town set in a cleft between the sheer face of the mountain and another high mound of rock with a castle, Forte de Bard, on top.
The original 11th century castle was razed to the ground by Napoleon and was rebuilt in 1838. The narrow medieval street lined with 16th century buildings climbed up the pass through arches to the parish church at the top. Information boards gave details of the architecture and of hidden murals and frescoes. One house had an interesting feature, sundials on the front and side walls.
After reaching the top of the village there was still the castle above. This could be accessed by a further climb or a funicular railway, we carried on down the other side. It was back to the motorway, railway and river though the river at one point seemed to have been diverted along a wide channel with the river waters racing through it. Soon it was away from the modern ways of travel and onto an old Roman road then under a large stone archway to enter the town of Donnas.
This was an old spread out place with narrow streets that the route meandered through. From accounts of the area on the information boards and in Cicerone Donnas and other places in the valley had been ruined or partially destroyed when the river Dora Baltea flooded. These floods occurred at regular intervals over the centuries and continued to cause havoc. There had been no mention of any recent floods or if some defences were now in place to prevent them. From Donnas it was a long walk along the main road to Pont St. Martin. Fortunately there was a pavement. During the course of the day we had passed lots of vineyards most small but now the hillside was a mass of terraces and row upon row of vines.
From the main road we climbed a hill up to the centre of Pont St. Martin and found our hotel, Ponte Romaine, near the Roman bridge that it was named after. We were early, just after 1:30 pm, but we got in straight away. The room was fine with a nice shower and toilet en suite. The only problem was the internet, it came up on the IPad to register, I put in the password but it wouldn't go in. Later Moira checked at reception and they said that our room, right at the top, was just outside the limit of the Internet server. Why do they advertise WiFi and you can't get it ?
We had some lunch and after Moira showered she went out to see if there was a shop for food for dinner. I showered while she was out. She didn't find anything but the woman in reception said there was a shop on the road we came in on but it didn't open until 4pm. I went out with Moira later and first we had a look at the Roman Bridge. It was a single arch over the river and was quite big. We walked over the new bridge next to it then came back over the stoney cobbles of the Roman version.
We got a good view up the river where there was a Power station driven by the waters that came down the hillside by enormous pipelines starting from high up on the ridge above. The river was fairly wide and the waters flowed swiftly causing rapids in places. After that we walked down through the town looking for the shop, it was meant to be down a lane next to a tobacconist but we didn't find either. Moira asked a lady and we were directed along a side street to a roundabout and told to go straight over and on the other side was a large supermarket; and so there was. We bought bread, cheese, beans, wine, beer and a small cooked bird, I think it was quail. We were having a feast in the room tonight. On the walk back we came across a photo-shop and I got a memory card for my camera, just in time the one I have is just about full.
It was a feast we had, the quail was nice with some noodles I had been carrying for some time and the butter beans. We started with mushroom soup and had with crusty bread to dip in. The wine, an Italian red was nice and it only cost €1:75 for a litre. After I washed we relaxed on the bed and read the newspaper that we had downloaded this morning. It was quiet and peaceful so it wasn't long before our eyes were getting heavy and off to sleep.