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Published: July 30th 2016
Not wanting to waste a moment this morning, we booked tickets online to go up to the viewing platform on Mole Antonelliana as soon as it opened, and before the rendezvous time for our hike. I have been wondering for ages why the big tower in Turin is called a mole. Apparently in Italian, the term 'mole', refers to a building of monumental proportions. That description fits perfectly. We'd actually been warned about monumental queues
(In addition to being able to marvel at it's monumental size), but we were very pleasantly surprised when we walked straight in and right up to the great glass elevator. No queue at all. As we stared up through the glass ceiling then burst through the roof, it really did feel like we were living Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! The 360 degree views from the platform at the top were great, but the big excitement for me was definitely the lift. We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves when we rode back to the hotel via the river, with time to spare.
There are three other couples and three single ladies with us on tour, and everyone chatted in the lobby while the very
organised Jackie set everyone up with luggage tags and drink bottles for the trip. It wasn't long before we were on our way to the gateway to the Aosta Valley, Pont St Martin. It bodes well for the rest of the trip that once we got there, Jackie and her husband, Mick, took about 3 minutes flat to open bottles of cold wine and set up a picnic on a stone bench for us all to enjoy, while we filled water bottles from an icy cold water fountain. When I looked for a tub of washing up water, Jackie just laughed and said that would NOT be the Hedonistic Hiking way, and that their job is to look after us! Excellent. I'm not sure how a couple of glasses of wine and THEN starting a hike will go in the long term, but I plan to roll with that idea - it went well today!
I was actually a bit nervous about the walk beforehand. Did I do enough preparation? (Who knows what 'enough' would be.). Mick certainly eased us into the walking today. We started at the Roman bridge in Pont St Martin which crosses high above a
gorgeous acqua river in the village. Mick talked about its history before we walked across which was very interesting. I never would have asked myself why the bridge was that particular width (because there needed to be room for one legion of centurions or two chariots to pass), or why it was slightly raised in the middle (To allow water to drain off). One fact that amazed me was that we still use the ancient Roman technique of making roads camber when we build them today, even though we use different materials.
It is unusually hot in the Aosta Valley at the moment, so I soon felt it, with muscles burning and lots of heat coming off the road as we made our way up the first hill. We were treated to a wonderful view through a stone arch near Donnas which was the old toll point for the Roman road. Grapevines clung to terraced hillsides on wooden frames which created handy shade for our rest break at one stage. Willow is still used to attach the vines to the frames, and we heard about how winemakers in the area make their wine without any need for sprays, and
also how the wine is classified.
I was dreaming of the spa by the time we saw the huge fort at Bard in the distance. There was a visit up the funicular to the Alpine Museum at the fort first though, which was worth it for the views alone (and it was a nice surprise not to have to walk up!). The museum has great audiovisual displays and I loved the alpine streams under glass in the floor, and projected clouds drifting past as we wandered through the different rooms. The director of events at the museum came to speak to us, and on hearing that we hadn't had time to see the Chagall exhibition at the adjoining gallery, invited us back as his guests. I hope we'll be able to fit it in - the exhibition looks amazing.
Anyway, back to the spa. As soon as we had checked in to Hotel Ad Gallias, we went straight there. We were like kids at Disneyland when we saw it, especially as we were the only people there! It is in an old Roman cellar, built around a huge boulder, and the boys tried just about every button and
flashing light they could find! There is a big spa pool with a waterfall which pelted down onto shoulders sore from backpacks, and jets for every aching muscle. The most fun though was the disco shower, with lights that changed colour every few seconds - hilarious. We needed to get a grip before meeting everyone on the high terrace overlooking Bard for elegant pre-dinner drinks and canapés. There were a few questions about how the spa had been and Frank took great delight in telling everyone it was 'Rubbish' and that they "shouldn't bother going tomorrow either", with a big smile on his face!
Dinner was a lovely affair by candlelight on the lower terrace outside the hotel restaurant with some great conversation. The wine just kept flowing and the food just kept coming. I reflected on how nice it was not to have to research where to have dinner or even think about what to have. We just turned up and beautiful food magically appeared! Our room at the hotel is lovely - very modern Tyrolean with a slanted attic roof. A beautiful window in the roof gives us a spectacular view to the alps and the clouds
as we lie on the bed. Luckily there is also a great block out blind so we don't have to wake up too early in the morning! What a great first day.
Tot: 2.905s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 10; qc: 73; dbt: 0.0542s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.5mb