Nus to Châtillon, 16.4km
Our solution to the bag transportation issue was to take the 7-minute train journey to Châtillon, drop our bags at the hotel and return to Nus, all for 8€. The only problem was the hike up from the train station to the hotel, carrying 4 packs between us. Paul, being Paul, left Lois at a coffee bar enjoying a coffee and croissant while he lugged our 2 bags up the hill.
Seeing that the coffee shop sold panna cotta in small takeout quantities, we bought 2 of these to add to our lunch of cheese and ciabatta. It is May 1, a national holiday, but we found one bakery in the town open.
With light rain falling, we again took up the Chemin des Vignobles, with its frequent informative signs. We learned that the “adret” or south facing side of the valley, being warmer and more arid than the “envers”, was much more developed agriculturally, with the cultivation of wheat and oats at higher levels (now abandoned), and abundant vineyards and orchards lower down, as we have seen. Thus, the major settlements in early times were located in this part of the valley and became a preferred route of communication for trade over the Alps.
We could see the castle of Fenis (12th-14thC) across the valley, which is apparently the finest example of a non-single unit gothic castle in the Alpine region. We read that the castles in the valley were not self-contained entities in constant war with other fortresses, but that medieval lords, sharing the same needs and external threats, banded together, communicating among themselves by means of homing pigeons and visual systems employing mirrors, flags and smoke during the day and fires at night.
Walking through Chambave, we found an open bar where we stopped for hot chocolate and a cannoli. Later on the trail, as we were sheltering beside an overhang drinking tea, a fellow walker appeared. Ad, who is Dutch, had walked from Bristol (via Canterbury) to Reims last year and is trying to complete the walk this year. He was complaining that the weather was “bad, bad”!
Along with vineyards and fruit orchards, including figs beginning to ripen, the path took us through deciduous forests of oak, chestnut and birch (among those species we identified). We had a few more very steep declines on narrow, rocky paths, which were slippery in the rain, but manageable with our new poles.
The Costello di Ussel overlooks the town of Chatillon as is “the first single body castle in Val d’Aosta, which was the last evolutionary phase of medieval castles, and marked the passage between the contemporary castle in Fénis and the rigid forms in Verrès”