Day 10 St Croixe to Martigny 82m (132km)
Day’s route The forecast promised forte pluie, and that is precisely what we woke to this morning. I delayed, I tarried in a cafe doing yesterday’s blog, but I couldn’t put if off. Got kitted up and set off down the long descent from Ste Croixe, 11kms without turning the cranks even once! But the great blessing was, the lower elevation brought greater warmth, so the wet was bearable.
Yet another serendipity. If you scroll down to August 28 and click on comments you will find a message from Sylvie Vallioud. She and her family live in a tiny village on the VF route, and she had picked up my blog somehow, and they offered me free accommodation should I need it. The startling thing was that she was to expect the arrival of their 2nd baby on the 8th! But no worry, they would still accommodate me. When I arrived at midday today, Sylvie and Pierre-Andre were already at the hospital preparing for the birth. The grandparents were at home looking after 2yr old Charlotte and, even though not expecting me, they immediately sat me down to share their lunch with them, accompanied by Grandad’s home made wine. (Not home-made in our sense, he has a small vineyard and produces about 1000 bottles a year). And they wouldn’t let me go away empty-handed. They gave me some of their home-grown apples and plums, which came in very handy later. For an hour I added a little something unexpected to their day, and their spontaneous kindness added hugely to my day.
Vineyards and a linguistic trompe l’oeil. I cycled several hundred kms through France, including the Champagne region, and never saw a single vineyard. How did that happen, I wonder? Wasn’t that a very (v)ignoble thing to happen! So I come to Switzerland, and I have never really left the wine producing region all day. And who in the UK ever talks about Swiss wines? Is this a market yet to be discovered?
A bed in Martigny. The kindness of this morning has flowed into this evening. I arrived in Martigny, a town in the shadow of the mighty Grand St Bernard Pass, and I call at the house of Pastor Pierre Boismorand (pastor of the protestant church) and he immediately makes me feel very welcome, and shows me to a delightful little one-bedroomed flat at the back of their house, and insists I can have it and it will be free of charge. I find this generosity staggering, but entirely fitting (I suppose) in the context of a route of pilgrimage.
Crossing the Grand St Bernard pass. This is the highest pass in the Alps, rising to nearly 2500 metres (about twice the height of Ben Nevis). The weather reports for tomorrow, however, are very bad. Rain is forecast in the area, which will probably mean snow at the higher levels. So decisions have to be made. Either I will stay an extra day in Martigny, or climb part-way up and stay either in Osieres or Bourg St Pierre. I’ll sleep on it.