Today’s photo shows the Grand St Bernard mountain which I had crossed the day before. You can just about make out the road on which I had traveled down the climb on the previous evening. It had taken me about an hour to descend to Etroubles from the Grand St Bernard Pass and it would take me another hour just to descend the rest of the way down the mountain to Aosta.
Total cycled today – 35 km. Total cycled so far – 455 km. Mostly downhill today and the easy day’s cycling was badly needed after a tough day’s climbing on Friday. If Ireland were playing any other team than France, I would have cycled all the way to France today. But as I didn’t want to go to France until after the game on Sunday in case I jinxed Ireland, I didn’t plan to go too far today and so it was after 11 before I left Camping Tunnel in Etroubles.
Thunder and lightning on the road to Aosta. The sun was shining as I set off down the mountain towards Aosta but after about half an hour the sky darkened and the heavens opened. I had to stop and take shelter in a lay-by and was stuck there for about 30 minutes waiting for the downpour to stop. I had checked the forecast before I left and Accuweather predicted only 20% chance of rain while Yr.no said rain wouldn’t start until 2 o’clock. Both were dead wrong and there was so much water streaming down the mountain I had to stand on the kerb to keep my feet dry.
The rain was that heavy that even some cars stopped. There was so much rain that Travoy was almost washed away by the torrent of water flowing down the hillside. The rain started to ease after half an hour but as I was soaked through, I had to put on 5 layers of clothes on to try and keep warm on the descent. I had planned to go into Aosta but as I was so cold and wet, I kept cycling along the Aosta Valley just to try and stay warm.
Sign on outskirts of Aosta. Motorways in Ireland, UK and France are depicted in blue but here in Italy , they are in green and national roads are in blue. Most Autostrade in Italy are tolled, however the tolls are not as expensive as in France. For example, the toll for a car on the Autostrada from Aosta to Rome is about €50. The same distance (750 km) in France the toll would be about €60. Tolls for tunnels, though, are dear. Had I driven through the 6 km long St. Bernard tunnel, it would have cost me €25 in a car and €39 in a motorhome.
View of Aosta from near Parleaz. Aosta has been a strategic town since Roman times and has some of the best preserved Roman ruins anywhere in the world. The town is mostly laid out on a east-west axis alongside the Dora Baltea river with mountain ranges to its north and south. In Roman times, 3,000 people lived here and nowadays, the town is home to about 35,000 people. In the top half of this photo, you can just about make out the road up to the small ski resort of Pila to the south of Aosta .
Roman ruins of Porta Pretoria, Teatro Romano and Arco di Augusto in Aosta. Aosta was first founded by a local tribe, known as the Salassi and wasn’t conquered by Rome until 35BC. The ancient town walls of Augusta Prætoria Salassorum (the Roman name for Aosta) are mostly intact and are over 6m high and enclose a rectangle 725 by 571 metres. There were a total of 20 towers and four gates in the wall though only 8 towers and 2 gates remain. One of the gates is known as the Porta Pretoria and it is a double gate with three arches and was the eastern entrance to the Roman city. The Teatro Romano or Roman Theatre could hold up to 4,000 people and was a mini version of the Colosseum in Rome. The Arco di Augusto or Arch of Augustus was a triumphal arch dedicated to the Emperer Augustus and it has survived intact for over 2,000 years.
Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome. My route the last few days between Montreux in Switzerland and Aosta in Italy had mirrored that of Sigiric, who in 990, walked all the way from Canterbury to Rome on the Via Francigena. It had taken me roughly 24 hours to cycle from Martigny to Aosta, a journey which took Sigiric the Serious 5 days to complete while on his pilgrimage to Rome. In all, Sigiric, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, spent a total of 80 days travelling from Canterbury to Rome on foot.
Paulo Seth from EyeCycled.com cycled the Via Francigena this summer. Paolo left Canterbury on Saturday July the 30th and arrived in Rome on August the 28th. He cycled a total of 2,050 km in just 29 days or an average of 68 km a day. On August 13th, Paolo climbed the Grand St. Bernard Pass and he stayed the night at the famous St. Bernard Hospice. The next day, he posted a photo of the lake from his bedroom window. Compare his photo with the one I took of the same lake just 6 weeks previously. All the ice flows had melted and the good weather had attracted a lot of tourists and cars. 2 weeks after crossing the Grand St. Bernard, he arrived in Rome and received a certificate, known as the Testimonium, from an office near St. Peter’s Square to show he had completed the Via Francigena. You can read all about his trip on his website and also on his Facebook.
Profile of the Via Francigena between Besancon in France and Ivrea in Italy. On the 2015 Tour de Travoy, I had spent a few days on the Via Francigena between Langres and Chalons-en Champagne in north-eastern France and had met an Australian man who was walking the whole way to Rome following in the footsteps of Sigiric. The route is not as popular as the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Spain but apparently up to a 100 people complete the Via Francigena on foot each year. It certainly would have been easier to walk up the Grand St. Bernard Pass than to try and cycle up it. Via Francigena is Italian for “the road that comes from France” but here at Aosta, I would turn right and leave the Via Francigena for another year.
Toll plaza on the E25 motorway near Aosta. This has to be the most scenic toll booth plaza anywhere in the world. This is a toll plaza for the E25 motorway which goes from Aosta in Italy to Chamonix in France via the Mont Blanc tunnel. From this toll booth, it is roughly 20 km to the Mont Blanc tunnel, which connects both Italy and France.
The Castello Sarriod is a famous landmark in the Aosta valley. Near the town of Saint Pierre is the Castello Sarriod de la Tour. This castle is almost a thousand yearrs old and was occupied by the Sarriod family up until 1923 before being handed over to the Italian state. The Sarriods were one of the most powerful families in the Duchy of Savoy which ruled over most of Northern Italy and south-eastern France prior to Italian unification in the 19th Century.
Maurice Garin sculpture in Arvier. The town of Arvier is famous as the birthplace of Maurice Garin in 1871. It was Garin who won the first Tour de France in 1903. Garin only lived in Arvier until he was 14 before his family emigrated to Northern France to find work. Maurice worked as a chimney sweep before turning professional in 1892. He won the 2nd Paris Roubaix race in 1897 and was one of only 60 riders to enter the inaugral Tour de France in 1903. 2/3 of the cyclists abandoned the race but Maurice cycled 2,400km around France in 94 hours to win the first ever Tour de France. His winning margin of over 3 hours to the second placed rider is still a record to this day.
Mural showing Maurice Garin at an electrical substation near Albertville. Maurice Garin also won the 1904 Tour de France but was later disqualified as he had allegedly traveled part of the way by train. He was given a 2 year ban and decided to retire from cycling later that year. He lived the rest of his life in Lens and only returned once to Arvier to see the Tour de France pass through the town in 1949. He died in 1957 and is buried in a cemetery in Lens and in 2004, a cobblestone was placed on his grave to signify that he had once won Paris – Roubaix. Here in Arvier, a stone sculpture was also erected on a roundabout to signify his birthplace.
Tour de Travoy business card. At the campsite in Arvier, I pitched next to a French campervan. The driver of the camper-van could speak English and he asked me about my trip. So I gave him one of my business cards which I had printed before setting off on this year’s Tour de Travoy. The business card has my website address printed on it and also my Twitter username. I had 100 cards printed but he was the first person to actually get one. He told me one time he was in Finland and met a cyclist who was towing a canoe behind him on a bike. The cyclist would cycle for a bit and then canoe across a lake with his bike and luggage. The canoe had a buoyancy limit of 120 kg and the cyclist, his bike and luggage weighed 110 kg or just under the limit.No doubt the cyclist had a long trailer with him as a canoe certainly wouldn’t fit on Travoy .
Euro 2016 coverage on Italian TV. I tuned in my TV tuner computer trying to get the Wales – Northern Ireland game on TV. But eventhough, I picked up about 60 stations not one of them was showing the football. One station called Top Calcio 24 were showing a show in which 5 pundits were discussing the latest transfer gossip in Italy but they didn’t once mention Euro 2016. Another station called RTL 102.5 TV had a presenter and 2 pundits talking about the Wales – Northern Ireland game as they watched it live. It was a bit like Final Score on BBC in which a presenter and some pundits discuss all the goals and action from that weekends football games. But on Final Score, there is always lots of games to talk about which makes the show interesting. However, on RTL 102.5 TV their was only one game to cover and as the game between Wales and Northern Ireland was terrible, the pundits just looked incredibly bored. It turns out that the Northern Ireland – Wales game was only being shown in Italy on pay-to-view by Sky Italia. Rai had the rights to 27 games including all the Italy games which they were showing free to air but they didn’t seem to be showing the Northern Ireland – Wales game at 6 or the Croatia – Portugal game at 9. Perhaps they showed the Switzerland – Poland game at 3 and I missed their broadcast.
Freesat in Italy is known as Tivusat. As well as on digital terrestrial, RAI channels in Italy are also available free to air on a satellite service known as Tivusat. What is interesting about RAI’s coverage, is that they paid €70 million for the TV rights for only 27 games or about €2.5m per game. It is rumored that in Ireland, RTE paid about €2.5m as well but for all 51 games or only about €50k per game.While RAI were only showing some of the Round of 16 games, they did plan to show all the quarter-finals, both semi-finals and the Euro 2016 final. Indeed, the first quarter final on June 30th between Poland and Portugal was due to be the first broadcast in Italy of a game in 4k Ultra HD. Images of the match were filmed by 14 Ultra HD cameras located at the Vélodrome Stadium in Marseilles and then sent to a RAI studio near Paris and then beamed via Eutelsat to Italy. They were due to be transmitted on a unique Ultra HD channel set up on Tivusat just for Euro 2016. In all, 7 games were to be shown in Ultra HD ( 4 quarter-finals, 2 semifinals and final) via Tivusat. It was estimated that about 1 million Italian homes already had either a Ultra HD TV or set top box and would be capable of receiving the broadcast via a standard satellite dish. In the UK, some Ultra HD channels are available via fibre optic broadband such as BT Sport but these are mostly pay -to-view channels whereas the Tivusat broadcast was one of the first ever free to air broadcasts of a live event in Ultra HD anywhere in Europe.