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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

GR653A Day 1: Ventimiglia-Menton

On the road again! Starting where I left off in October 2016, at the railway station in Ventimiglia, just over 10 km from the French border.

This time, I have company! Mariella, from my book club, is crazy enough to join me!




Before setting off, we take a look around the old town of Ventimiglia, where we are lucky enough to run into the new parish priest, a very elegant French priest from Brittany in a long cassock, who takes us back to his office to stamp our pilgrim passports. It takes him a while to dig around in various boxes and find the stamp, as he's only just arrived at his new posting! 

The Cathedral of Ventimiglia

The baptistry

In the crypt

Angels in the crypt

We leave Ventimiglia behind and head towards the border along the route of the old Roman road, the Via Julia Augusta, which has in some stretches become a modern highway, while in others it still retains something like its original form.





A lot of illustrious characters have walked this way!

Here, the Sentiero Liguria sign only points one way. This is the end of the line for the region of Liguria!

The border is coming closer! 
Almost in France... But in our very last kilometre in Italy, we come across a couple of typically Italian distractions.

First, a beautiful pebbly beach with crystal-clear emerald green water!



After a refreshing October dip, we round a headland and come across one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, the Balzi Rossi. In these caves remains of an amazing variety of prehistoric fauna, everything from reindeer to rhinocerous and elephants, have been found, along with burials of early humans and one of the oldest human remains in Europe - a 41,000 year old baby tooth! 

I guess some Cro-Magnon kid forgot to put it under the pillow for the tooth fairy. I take a picture of it, but the guard makes me promise not to publish it. So you'll have to go to Balzi Rossi and see it for yourself!



After looking around the museum at Balzi Rossi, we take our last few steps in Italy and, for the second time in my life, I walk across an international border on foot.

Approaching the border crossing on foot

Border graffiti: Fight fortess Europe!

We're in Menton. And the first thing we come across is a marker for the start of the GR 653A, the path linking the Via della Costa across Liguria and therefore the Via Francigena to Rome with the Camino de Santiago!


Here too we obtain a stamp at the parish church before checking into our hotel. Then we head out to look for something to eat, and find a corner supermarket where all the deli items nearing their expiry date are sold off for €2! We choose a selection and picnic on the beach: dinner for two, including smoked salmon, pasta salad with chevre and cherry tomatoes, couscous with roast chicken and a baguette, all for €6!


So ends our first day on the GR653A, Ventimiglia-Menton, 15 km.


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