Monday, March 05, 2007

Rue Trottechien

Mont Blanc
Today's destination is Turin/Torino in Italy with the intention of breakfasting in Chamonix, breezing through the Mont Blanc tunnel so we can lunch in Aosta and then arrive in Turin with sufficient time to enjoy the late afternoon.

When I was about 9 I had a book of adventure stories that had a tale of high drama set in the French ski-village of Chamonix. This was all quite racy stuff, possibly the first foreign setting of a story I had outside Tintin books, and a place so foreign that it ended in –x!  Accustomed to place names derived from indigenous tongues and Anglo-Irish nostalgia, Chamonix rolled around on my tonguelike some exotic taste. Decades later, the voice on my satnav sounds most distinctively Australian when called on to pronounce such French & Italian placenames.

The setting for Chamonix is gorgeous, even if it has fallen prey to ski-lodge upon ski-lodge packed around name-brand clothing shops, pace Whistler. Lots of dogs around, including an eeenormous Harlequin Great Dane, and a Chinook from Vale, Colorado. A waitress serving me coffee said something about malamutes, I initially perceived it to be about a friend in Canada with a 45kg malamute, but when I said Bondi was about 70kg, she said, "oh no, she has 45 malamutes"....

Taking the Mont Blanc Tunnel was out - it was closed for some unspecified reason. Signs told motorists to check the autoroute’s dedicated radio station, but it just seemed to be playing dreadful music all the time without anything like a helpful announcement. Consequently driver after driver had to turn around at the last possible moment without the benefit of advice at earlier junctions.

Roadside stop at TrientThe next way around was to take Great St Bernard Pass, adding at least another hour or two to our travel time. Most of that seemed to be consumed with switchback ascents and descents.

We stopped at Trient with incredible views back towards France, and also eastwards towards Martigny in the Rhone Valley where we'd turn south towards the pass.

Martigny #1

I did not like the steep drive down into this valley one bit. Every vertigo-ridden nerve in my body was screaming throuch clenched knuckles all the way down.

Martigny #2

The climb through Great St Bernards Pass was essentially in 3 sections: a long climb, intermittently covered by a tunnel-shelter as white peaks went strobing past the external colonnade, a pause at the Super St Bernard ski run, and then a final long haul through the Great St Bernard tunnel into Italy. Today I've crossed Switzerland-France-Switzerland-Italy without ever being stopped by border officials.
    Super St Bernards Ski Run

As you can imagine with all the different countries old and new abutting each other through these moutains, this corner of  Italy, the Valle d'Aosta is a historical crossroads, strewn with Roman ruins.
Aosta (1) Aosta (3)Aosta (2) In the main street of Aosta, Bondi's coming seemed as of much note as Hannibal's elephants cocking a leg on the city walls as they passed through here over 2000 years ago. We may have scored a record number of photo-shots with toddlers, hotel staff and other passersby today. The owner of one gelateria insisted that he enter her shop, and then gave him a free vaniglia cone.

Aosta (4)  Aosta (5)
Aosta (6)

Just as we entered Rue Trottechien (street of the dog walkers!), I heard the familiar tone of my satnav instructing me to "turn left at Via ------". Reaching into my pocket, I saw that it was switched off, and then I realised that a guy a few feet from me had the same device on ... with the Aussie voice issuing directions.
(*interesting that it’s a rue rather than a via now that we’re in Italy.)

Not much later, as we finally made our way through Turin's streets, the voice told me to "make a left on Corso Vittorio Emmanuel aye aye (II)". Right away mate.

Super meal at Restaurant Urbani, a few dozen metres from my hotel. I had eaten quite lightly the last two days, and downed platters of antipasti, pasta, and biscotti, plus some red wine and complementary wine liqueur. One last evening walk with Bondi, ... oh and the guy on reception wants his photo taken with him…

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