July 21, 2019
Breakfast was between 6:30 am and 8 am, so as we were in a 6-bed dorm, when other people started to get up then we had to get up as well. Breakfast was porridge, bread and jams plus orange juice—not bad really considering our location.
We had a short day’s walking today, downhill all the way to Les Chapieux in the valley. Both of us still had very sore quad muscles, so going downhill was hard work. The trail was quite braided and if you didn’t like one steep bit you could try another one. But the views were spectacular.
After about 450 meters of descent we came to Chalets de Plan Varraro, a group of buildings which appeared empty. But as we passed by we came to a large flock of sheep attended by two dogs and a shepherdess with binoculars. The steepness of the hill decreased marginally but by now our legs were getting quite tired.
We stopped at the Chalets de Raja, another set of abandoned farm buildings, and had a snack by the micro-hydro generator on the stream there. As we crossed the stone bridge we were amazed to see hundreds of cyclists zooming down the hill on the nearby highway. They kept on coming, hundreds and then thousands of them. As there were so many we decided it must be L’Étape du Tour, a citizen cycling event which replicates one stage of the Tour de France.
When we got to Les Chapieux it was about 11 am and we found that we couldn’t access our room at the Auberge de la Nova until 2 pm. We sat for a while at the picnic tables outside the auberge for a while but soon got bored. So we put our day packs in the storage area with our big bag and walked over to the Tourist Info. We were planning on taking the bus tomorrow to the parking lot for Refuge des Mottets so we went in to buy bus tickets. The lady there confirmed our guess about L’Étape and told us that there were over 15,000 riders taking part.
By now it was lunchtime so we went to the little village shop and bought sandwiches and drinks. We sat at the picnic table outside; it was a lovely day and it was nice to sit and relax.
After finishing our sandwiches we walked along the road through the village for a short distance to look at the memorial to the French soldiers who fought in the Resistance. Les Chapieux was a crucial location and the auberge where we were staying had housed numerous Resistance fighters. The Germans came from Courmayeur in Italy over the Col de la Seigne (where we would be walking tomorrow) and attacked from several directions, including from the Croix du Bonhomme (where we had walked today). There was fierce fighting at Raja, which might explain the condition of the buildings there.
At 1:30 pm we were told that our room was ready. Hooray! It was a lovely room with a big window. Both of us had showers, which felt amazing, and afterwards we did some laundry and hung it around our room. We went over to order sandwiches for tomorrow from the village shop and on our way back we saw a couple of people, the man wearing a “Vancouver” cycling shirt. We stopped and chatted for a while.
Dinner was at 7 pm. The auberge was full, and several groups had their own tables. We were seated inside with a motley crew including a young American couple and three French-speaking Irishmen. The set dinner was chicken broth followed by slow-cooked beef and rosemary roasted potatoes. As with all of our dinners so far there was a cheese plate (including the local Beaufort cheese) and then dessert, blancmange with a gooseberry sauce. All of it was very tasty.
When the meal was finished we went for a short walk before returning to our room. Bedtime was later than last night because today we had a private room.