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July 9th 2016
Published: August 12th 2016
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Roman theatre, AostaRoman theatre, AostaRoman theatre, Aosta

Greg's photo was the best - thanks Greg!
Not surprisingly, it was a bit of an effort getting packed up and down to the van by 8.30am this morning! We were soon off to Aosta for a visit to the Roman Theatre, and with a bit of luck, some hidden frescoes in a little church off the beaten track. Aosta is the capital of the Val d'Aosta and it really felt that way when we entered the city via the huge Roman Arch and began making our way through the old town. Little things that I've never seen still amuse me - l thought an ice-cream truck was coming when I heard tinkling music and saw a tiny van lurching down the street, but it was actually selling blow-up toys like you would see at the Royal Melbourne Show. Scores of them!
The main Street of the old town in Aosta is lovely, not because of the shops in particular, but because it frames the view of the snow-capped mountains so beautifully. We wandered around the Roman Theatre before going underground to look at an old marketplace that had been excavated. The things in Italy that lie undiscovered beneath the foundations of other buildings for years are just incredible. What I liked best here were some maps on the information panels which basically removed all modern buildings from Aosta and left only the ancient ones. It really gave a better perspective of what visitors to the city in Roman times would have seen. We had a bit of time to look at shops before heading to a church where Mick had arranged for us to climb into the ceiling to view some ancient frescoes. These, incredibly, had been hidden when more fashionable ceilings were added to the church in Baroque times. It reminded me of the 1970's 'renovations' of beautiful period homes in Melbourne! In the renovated church, a glass panel on the floor of the altar revealed that it had been built on top of an ancient mosaic floor. We had just gone down underneath to inspect it further when the lights suddenly went out. It was an interesting exercise ducking Roman pillars and finding the exit again, but that all added to the adventure! Once out in the light, we met Jackie and headed down a tiny laneway to a little restaurant for risotto and yes, more wine. A family from Tuscany - neighbours of Mick and
Parco Aventuras di Mont BlancParco Aventuras di Mont BlancParco Aventuras di Mont Blanc

This is the platform we walked out on
Jackie - had come to meet us for lunch and we enjoyed the challenge of a non-verbal game with their curious but shy little girls, who poked their heads out from behind their parents' legs to exchange daring glances with Frank before darting back to safety where he couldn't see them!

Next stop on our way to Courmayer was the Parco Aventuras di Mont Blanc, where we stood and watched people flying from one hilltop to another on a zip line strung high across a ravine. I would love to try it - have added that to my bucket list! I couldn't get any great photos but found some on the park website to include which really capture it. We settled for a walk out onto an observation deck with a magnificent view of Mont Blanc. It's hard to believe we'll be up there tomorrow. I am blown away by the scale of these mountains and valleys, and on the drive toward Courmayer we were constantly bombarded by spectacular views of snow-topped mountains.

After checking into the hotel, which is nice but not a patch on Ad Gallias, we all walked down the hill to a restaurant, "Le Vieux Pommier", which has a great view of Mont Blanc from its deck. I'm struggling a little with the heat at the moment, so I spent a fair bit of time out there! Dinner was very casual, a version of a stone grill called a pierrade, which we cooked for ourselves. There were lots of lovely fresh veges, beef, chicken and pork and a selection of sauces and wine to go with it. It is probably the best way to inflict nasty burns if you don't watch the wine intake, but of course all Hedonistic Hiking guests are very well-behaved! I ate dessert out on the deck as I was melting by that time, and listened to lots of Italian conversation of which I understood only snippets, but I was often able to put the pieces together thanks to expansive gestures and the context. There was lots of food talk. The walk home was pleasantly cool and it was hard to tear ourselves from the view to go inside. At the moment I'm sitting out on our balcony (I'm still cooking!) There's a very happening bar right across the street from the hotel, which we get a good view of from our corner room. It looks like fun but I'm far too well-fed to consider it. Frank is having an early night however I am planning on finding a quiet spot in the hotel lounge where I can connect to wifi - the Holy Grail. No point writing a blog for friends and family back home if you never upload your posts!

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