Saturday 10th July
We said our good byes to all the hotel staff, lots of kisses all round. Mel got all the many huge bags into the car and we set off about 9.30 and went into Aosta for a wander round. It’s a very interesting old town with loads of Roman history, we walked through the Praetorian gate and had a look at the arch of Augustus. All with a backdrop of big mountains. We had lunch outside of pizza and a bready things with herbs whose name I’ve forgotten.
Mel and Liz took us all to Turin airport and dropped us off around 2.30. So farewell to them and farewell to Annie and Caroline who went off to get their plane.
Having spent a good while at Turin airport before, I knew where to go to pick up my hire car. I got a nice little Fiesta with air con. A helpful Hertz man told me how to get out of the airport and onto the autostrada to get towards Vercelli.
No problems with the motorway driving although I didn’t understand that I had to press a big red button at the toll booth but a very bored voice told me what to do, and as it was disembodied I told him what to do once I had pressed the beeg red burton!
I reached Vercelli around 4.00 after driving past a huge field of solar panels, lots of fields of corn and for my disbelievers, endless endless fields of rice!
Vercelli was not that lovely, it was really hot, about 34C so I parked up in a big sleepy square (Piazza Pietro Paietta) with a huge statue of some old chap in it and set off to try and find the tourist information office. I saw a carabinieri officer and asked him where it was. He was very helpful so I set off according to his instructions. I didn’t quite follow them to the letter, which was pure luck, as I looked up to check the street I was on, what should I see but Vicolo Evasio Radice! (StreetView shows the street) Fantastic! Even though my great great grandfather was a key figure in the Risorgimento, his street is a bit blooming dreary and very small, with not a lot happening in it. I had been warned about this. Took a quick photo and got back to the air con in the Fiesta. I left Vercelli at 4.30, perhaps not giving it its full due but finding the intense heat of the plains a bit wearing.
I arrived in Novara some time after 5.00 and it turned out to be much bigger than I had imagined. I stopped at Carrefour and bought some water very cheaply, drove round a bit more but my homing instinct wasn’t working any more. Stopped outside the carabinieri, at this point still wondering whether this was the police or an army barracks, no matter, a very helpful woman officer took me to her office, whipped out a map, showed me where to go, did a reduced size photocopy for me, and drew arrows on it. She was great and it worked like a dream and 5 minutes later I was parking outside the Hotel Cavour. The man on reception opened up the electronic gates and I did a quick reverse and was safely parked up. The hotel and the room were fine, so I had a shower and rang home.
Went out about 7.15 for a wander around the old town, but having to pass disreputable youths lounging around the bus stops. The hotel is very near the station. I found a nice looking resto and sat outside as it was very steamy and humid (because of the conditions being so good for rice, the drawback being the vast quantities of mosquitoes).
I had gnochetta in gorgonzola sauce and yes it was yummy. I should have stopped at this point but of course you have to order the first 2 courses at the same time. This was followed by an enormous steak which was enough for 2 people, and salad which was enough for 4. I ate about half of it and washed it down with beer and water. It was far too much food and made me feel even hotter.
Back at the hotel, I had another shower to try and cool down as was yet again, drenched in sweat. Put the air con on full, but my stomach felt a bit overloaded. I was better when I got cooler.
I have never yet been to Italy and not been way too hot. Memo: must try in winter!
|Aosta Pretorian gate
|Aosta Augustan gate
|Vicolo Evasio Radice – great great grandfather
|Vicolo Evasio Radice – hmm
Sunday 11th July
The last day of the holiday. I had a nice breakfast in the basement and made up a sandwich for my lunch. I spent at least an hour repacking my bags. Got off about 10.00 with more helpful driving instructions from the nice man on reception who said he had been very hot last night too! I just imagined the Italians were used to living in hot humidity but he clearly didn’t like it either.
I drove north again passing lots of paddy fields and took a photo as evidence for the naysayers! There were lots of cyclists in a race (great for Caroline), lots of motorcyclists not in a race but nearly all totally inadequately dressed. Onto Lago Maggiore
which was not too far and stopped to take a photo when this huge lake came into view.
I drove down a cobbled street to park next to the shore for the cable car. The car park was a coin machine i.e. self service plus you twirl your own supplied parking disc to the start time. It was also a very small car park, maybe 40 cars at most. In order to make the car park work, there were at least 7 car park attendants. I could not help but think this was overdoing it as they had in fact, no work whatsoever to do!
I bought a ticket for the quite old cable car which goes up to the peak of Matterone with stop offs for the Alpine Gardens, included in the ticket price. The car goes over the lake which was fun and I got out half way up to see the gardens, mainly because I wanted to go to the loo! The loo was a hole in the floor, which was a bit tricky with my knee at that point. The gardens had been set up so as to show the full wealth of Alpine flora although it’s not an Alpine setting as such and frankly I’d seen more when we out during the week!
I returned to the cable car, just in the nick of time as they were about to knock off for a few hours for lunch. Went up to the top cable car station, and then picked up the chair lift which took me very gently up the last 200m or so to the top. At this point it was still very misty and so no views, the summit had its ubiquitous cross, and what looked like a mobile phone mast. I ate my sandwich on the grass and then walked back to the cable car as the chair lift was stopped for lunch.
I had a look in a resto but it was full up so then I stopped at a cafe instead and bought a bottle of ice cold water to take away and drank an espresso.
I hopped back on the cable car and reached the bottom about 3.00. I was still very hot so put my feet in the Lago – the water was warm and very clean.
I drove to the airport managing to take a wrong turn but it was OK as I had plenty of time, but very poor sign posting is all I can say. I then had a mad moment when I was looking for Terminal 3 of Milan airport but there isn’t one and what I wanted was Terminal 1. I was flying from T1 Milan to T3 Manchester and had got muddled up in the heat. The garages appeared to all be shut so I returned the car to Hertz and had to pay them to fill it up which cost me more, perhaps I should have tried harder but I was tired and very hot by this time.
The airport was very busy but I checked in with a very pleasant Flybe woman, big contrast to evil Flybe woman at Manchester. I told her she was not to lose my bags!
I wanted the loo but it was closed for cleaning and so I ended up walking the entire length of the terminal building in my search for one. My knee was hurting as I was weighted with my cabin bag, also had hurt it moving my big bags from the car to the trolley.
I ate another aubergine, mozzarella and courgette sandwich, it’s called a something or other campagnolo and is very nice. Then I drank all the rest of my water so as not to have to lose it and so as to be fully hydrated.
I went to the departure lounge and then to the gate. The plane left about 40 minutes late but caught up well.
I gave up my seat so that a mother and daughter could sit together which meant I ended up with a very lovely Italian astro physicist on his way to an international conference at Manchester uni. His second baby was due on the 17th so he was having a last trip before all that fun. I helped him with £ i.e. which coins were which and with how to get to Oxford Road from the airport via Piccadilly.
The bags all turned up very quickly. I found my car and saw I’d left the window open. It was only 17C in Manchester so I took off my shorts and put my jeans on in the car park. The M62 was shut so I took the slow way home across the moors arriving about 11.00 where it was only 13C and a bit of shock after the big heat. It’s now a week later when I’m writing this and I’m still cold!!
Not reaching the summit has really dented my confidence about mountains and I’ve been pretty down all week. It’s not that I didn’t have a lovely holiday, I did and the Gran Paradiso National Park
is absolutely stunning – I should like to go there again and walk some more but I’m reassessing what it’s all about for me. Maybe I don’t need to do summits. That said, I’m still thinking about some smaller summits over here…
|Garibaldi, Aosta, Hotel Cavour in background
|Stresa old cable car
|Stresa chair lift
|From cable car
|From cable car
|Island in Lago Maggiore
Please visit Map and Compass
and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.