Grump Day at Gimillan

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July 13th 2016
Published: September 7th 2016
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Passing the Coppe dell'AmiziciaPassing the Coppe dell'AmiziciaPassing the Coppe dell'Amizicia

You're not allowed put it down until it's empty! No wonder the photo's blurry!
How you could wake up wobbly here, with that view, I don't know, but I suppose it had to happen at some stage. When I think about why, it's Isabel's birthday so we are feeling bad we're not at home, we've been pushing the envelope to bursting for a couple of weeks now, and sleep deprivation and I don't go well together. So, anyway, I was in two minds about inflicting my mood on others on the walk and thought seriously about spending the day just relaxing at the hotel - not a bad option! In the end though, I pulled it together and went along, not wanting to miss the very last hike.
I really stomped up those mountain trails at the beginning, making sure I was a distance in front of everyone and hoping the endorphins would kick in quickly! We started at Gimillan this time (or so I'm told. I still wouldn't have the faintest idea where we are at any given moment!). The first big hill took us past cows grazing before we headed further on and down the other side to a really pretty bridge where we stopped for a rest. A group of stone shepherd's huts in the distance added to the lovely view. Mick told us later about one tour when he walked over to those huts in search of shelter because it was snowing! It was very cool today, but nowhere close to snowing, in fact we have had unusually warm weather all the way through the alps. After setting off from the bridge, the path up the hill continually peaked, ebbed and rolled into the next hill, but that gave us a little chance to catch our breath on the short flat stretches between each climb. Eventually we reached a plateau where Jackie had set up lunch in a sheltered spot beside a pretty lake. There was more reading from Mick after we'd eaten before it was time to head down the hill again. Frank and I began to try the 'almost running' light-footed downhill technique we'd watched a few very fit walkers use on a few of the trails. They look like mountain goats when they do it. I'm sure we look less graceful, but it certainly is easier on the knees!

We nearly got skittled at one stage by two kids on bikes who came hurtling down the path from I don't know where - they certainly didn't ride up the bits we climbed! The others appeared more startled by me shouting "Bike!!!!" at the top of my lungs than they were by the cyclists, but we were all in one piece when the dust settled. The rest of the walk was far less eventful.

It felt as though it had been a long day when we got back to the van, where Mick and Jackie always have cold beer and juice waiting. I decided to head to the hotel spa for a pedicure - a necessity rather than a luxury when you are pounding your toes in hiking boots for days on end, but wonderful just the same!

We were looking forward to a fabulous dinner, but the surprise of the evening was meeting the lovely Laura over pre-dinner drinks in the sitting room. Ever so gracious, and elegant in a traditional long dress, she welcomed our group and chatted about life in Cogne. I wish I'd taken a photo, but I was too engrossed in what she had to say to think of it. We weren't surprised by the fact that local people rarely leave. (That sounds a bit 'Hotel California'!) I can imagine the people who grew up here pining for the mountains after living with that magnificent view their whole lives. Apparently the young people tend to go off to study, but come home to settle - in fact, there is almost no foreign ownership of property in Cogne as families generally hand their homes down through the generations. Laura's family have owned the Bellevue Hotel ever since it was built. We heard all about the culture of music and outdoor life and how social events always revolve around everybody, young and old, bringing their accordions along and making music together. Sports tend to be skiing and mountain climbing - and much to Laura's distress her son has taken up ice-climbing, which looks terrifying to me so I can't imagine watching your own child do it! For those who prefer quieter pursuits, lace made in Cogne is quite famous, and the town has a whole museum dedicated to it. The lace collars of the Cogne traditional dress feature in many old paintings by famous artists and made it easy to identify a lady from Cogne in days gone by. I think we were
The lovely Laura.The lovely Laura.The lovely Laura.

She was a great ambassador for her town. I'm glad I managed to find a photo.
all a bit sorry to say good-bye to Laura, she was certainly a fantastic ambassador for her home town and for the hotel, but dinner was waiting in the beautiful restaurant.

If I am being completely honest, I actually preferred last night's food to tonight's meal, despite the restaurant's Michelin star, but the setting was so beautiful with the view of the mountains, gorgeous heirloom silverware and special printed menus that it was impossible not to have a lovely time! No-one was really ready for bed after dinner, so we all headed to the bar for a nightcap. I was thinking it might have been a mistake to go along when I saw the barman talking with Julie and next thing the dreaded Coppe dell'Amizicia arrived. I don't know if I explained that the rule for this thing is that it is passed around from person to person and mustn't touch the table until it's empty. Or that the contents would burn the hairs off boar hide. In any case it could have got quite messy in the bar, but we managed to stay nice! It's no surprise, however, that my photos of the evening are slightly blurry......

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