I'm still here! Still in the mountains! But only until next weekend, then it's back to the family home near Milan for a few days and then I'm flying home again! It's hard to believe how long I've been here, and although I shall miss it here I'm also looking forward to going home (I've got lots planned and lots to do before the next leg of my adventures!) - and I know that these last ten days (TEN. HOW) are going to fly by.
On Thursday I experienced my hardest hike yet - however it was not so much the going up that I found difficult so much as the coming down again, which took nearly two hours. We also took the ski lift up part of the way so that made it even easier!
By 8am on Thursday we were in the car on the way to said ski lift. We arrived at 8.20am, as Mama B had thought that it opened at 8.30am. Wrong! It opened at 9am. I grumbled inwardly at the thought of the extra half hour I could've slept that morning!
I'd been on a ski lift before (the school ski trip in year 8, although I was shocked to realise that that was SEVEN YEARS AGO YOU GUYS HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE) but that still didn't comfort me - it was quite a bumpy ride. I was for once more glad to begin the actual hiking.
The climb was hard, but by 10am we'd reached Becco di Laris (at 2231m) and took a break: Mama B insisted on this photo of me.
Too bright to see, obviously. And as per the views were stunning!
We continued onto a small but very beautiful lake (Lago do Vercoche) where we made time for peach juice boxes (like my favourite thing ever) and biscuits.
After this we began the descent: and oh how it dragged on. We were heading for the spot by the stream that we'd picnicked at last week with the family's friends - it took us about two hours to get down there though, and nearly all of the time going down rather than across anywhere.
By the time we did reach the spot, I was in a bit of a foul mood (not that I said such to the family). The main reason was that my knees were aching (I think I've got my mother's knees), but also that I was very tired, hungry, I had a headache and my shoulders ached. Luckily when we eventually sat down at our desired spot, most of this was remedied (the Percy Pigs if brought from England had accompanied us on this trip, and they seemed to help). After lunch, we continued the trek down the mountain and went home, where I promptly made myself a cup of 'tea' and later fell asleep on the sofa.
Friday was a 'day for relaxing' as declared by Mama B - I was glad for it since my legs were still aching unbelievably. Mid-morning I was peckish and so enquired after what we were having for lunch - I immediately regretted it. 'Cuore', said Mama B. Heart. Oh boy. (As I claim to eat nearly everything I thought I'd give it a try, but needless to say I was not a fan). Luckily for me dinner made up for this - we went out to a local restaurant to eat dinner with the same family we'd picnicked with the day before. We ate antipasti first (which included salami, hams, lardo, goat's cheese, roasted pepper and bread) followed by a choice of either pasta or tortellini in sauce or ragu, or polenta and meat (I chose the second option: I'm becoming a fast fan of polenta. This time it was baked with a cheese called fontina and was absolutely delicious).
On Saturday afternoon the family and I ventured out to visit a castle near Gressoney called Castel Savoia (so named as it was built in the 15th century Lombard style that was used in South France, especially in Savoy). The exterior is just stunning.
The castle was only finished in 1904 (it's quite new compared to some of the other castles in Vallee d'Aosta) and it's also nicknamed Queen Margherita's Castle, as it was predominantly built for her.
We took a guided tour of the castle and had to wear these covers over our shoes, to protect the floors from damage. They were fun to slide along the floors in - and since nearly everyone in the group found this way too tempting it meant that we couldn't always hear the guide.
On the ground floor there's a beautiful central staircase and open-plan rooms. The ceilings are all beautifully decorated (in the Medieval style, so my English brochure tells me).
This amazing contraption was her sled: Queens don't often have to walk up and down mountains, apparently.
In her castle, Margherita had a little reading room with her own chair by a beautiful stained glass window, much like the others in the building (the view from it was stunning). I decided there and then that I would like a castle with a reading room and a view like this.
From this window you could also see the beautiful rock garden, with typical plants of the Alps and also margheritas (daisies!). It was a lovely trip.
This morning I helped prepare mushrooms that Papa M and his friend went off to hunt for in the wee hours - washing, chopping and sorting, what fun...
Tomorrow night we plan to stay at a small hotel in the mountains - to get there we must hike a long way, and then a long way back the next day. Hopefully I'll make it and be able to write about it in the next few days!