Thursday, 22 February 2018

St Augustine Way - Bussana Vecchia, Italy - Menton, France

Day 17. Bussana Vecchia, Italy to Menton, France 32km
Total walked: 379km
The final walk day.
Well today is the last days walk for a few months as I need to return home and earn some money to pay for the final leg....walking through France. At the moment I have self funded all the new Pilgrim walks.
I have spent a lot of time planning, walking this route virtually at home and editing walk notes which has certainly made this journey much more enjoyable. So yet another good reason to return home.
I woke early with the room still bathed in darkness and was heading out of the village just as the first crack of daylight was creeping into the sky. There was not a soul around as I wound my way through the narrow streets, not even a bird or cat to disturb the deafening silence.
The path down from the village is one of the original routes and in parts it had deep gouged channels, steep, slippy stones, overgrown in sections and basically just a nightmare to walk on. At the bottom and safely on the road I really did feel like kissing the tarmac in relief at arriving.
Ahead of me I had a day of ups and downs again, but this time more like pimples as opposed to mountains, with the maximum altitude to gain.....a dizzying 70m!
I negotiated my way to the outskirts of Sanremo after a breathtakingly beautiful descent from Poggio. The whole of that journey providing me with enviable views across the sea. At the old railway line once more I followed it into town. Despite the path clearly being marked one side for pedestrians and one side for cyclists, most people using it had other ideas. I bobbed and weaved my way along trying to avoid hot sweaty runners of all shapes and sizes. Cyclists zooming along in their attempts to break through the sound barrier. Dog walkers with their leads stretched across the path, blissfully ignorant of their dog squatting. After several days of relative peace and quiet behind me it looked like today was going to be filled with a cacophony of sound, smell and general irritation.
And relax.................
In the centre of Sanremo I slowed my pace not only because of the amount of people, but also to get the feeling of what the music festival was about. Along the main street there were several radio stations interviewing people, some were just talking others singing away, I have to say not always in tune, as if they were on X factor. What is it with everyone wanting to be just famous these days? The main Piazza was transformed into a heady mixture of mobile radio studios, stages, food and drink vendors, entertainment stalls. I'm sure everyone was having a good time, but just now it was not for me. I quickened my pace and left it behind me.
Back on the old railway line again I was soon bobbing and weaving along as swarms of people were heading the opposite way to me and into town. The day continued to be uneventful as I followed the coastline through Ospedaletti, Bordighera and Vallecrosia. Yes there were some fine views, ahead and behind me as I passed round the bays but in the main it was just monotonous unfortunately. On reflection I have to admit that I really can't remember much about that part of the day, just walking on the pavement by the side of a smelly main road, passing almost seamlessly from one town into the next. Lost in my own thoughts and dreams.
Mid afternoon was totally different and after leaving modern Ventimiglia and ascending into the old town my mood picked up. The town was originally called Albium Intemelium and goes back to the Quaternary period 2.58-0 million years ago. Today the main evidence is from the Roman period with examples from the 2nd century including the Roman Amphitheatre on the outskirts of town.
My walk notes directed me into the Cathedral of St Micheal and it was not a disappointment. The church was built in the 10th century on top of a pagan temple and then entrusted to the Benedictines. In the 11-12th century it was rebuilt in a Romanesque style. The original 11th century baptistry survives with a huge font in the centre of the room. Its presence make a bold statement about its importance and beauty. After paying my respects and saying thank you for a safe journey, I walked out of the church door.
The old town is not very big and after walking through the old gateway, Porta Del Fontanin, I was once more travelling uneventfully along the main road for the final 6km to the border and into France.
It was 4pm now and after walking most of the day without any real pause for a rest, I made my way straight to the hotel to drop my bag off.
Whilst sat in a bar by the sea, drinking a beer, I completed the final video blog I'd been making for the last two days. In it I reflected on the last three weeks and I introduced my permanent travel companion, Wee Man.
The Via della Costa is not a well walked path, in part because of the challenging terrain but also as there are some stages that just walk along the main road, through the trappings of modern civilisation including its noise, smell and concrete jungle. Myself I have viewed it as a means to an end.
These 17 days and 379km have completed stage two of my journey from Rome and the new pilgrim walk, The St Augustine Way - A Gregorian Mission. Sometime this year (2018) I hope to complete the final leg that will take me from Menton on the Via Aurelia footpath to Arles. From there I will create a footpath link through all the places that St Augustine stopped at enroute to Canterbury and the first Augustinian Abbey in England.
In 2019 the route will be complete for others to follow should they wish and just maybe I'll complete it then as one complete walk!
I hope you've enjoyed walking the Via della Costa with me, thank you for reading about my adventure. 

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