Kids playing in the water fountain on a warm day in Martigny.


The animal kingdom is destined by nature to serve, and that service is fulfilled in alleviating the temporal and physical needs of man…

-Saint Bernard


The next morning, I awake with the sun just peeking over the serrated mountain ridge across the valley.  It shines over the middle of my balcony, through the large window and glass door, directly onto my bed and in my eyes.  Misty clouds hang around the jagged peaks and the early morning light glints off the meandering Rhone River as it winds its way through Sion.  The air is still and cool, enticing me to go for a hike along the steep, but walkable, slopes.  Birds sing tunes unfamiliar to me and the smell of dewy grass, white pine and green shrubbery tickles at my nose.  What a glorious morning greeting in the midst of the Alps!  If Waldo were here, we would be out roaming around, looking for sticks.  (I want to check on him, but it’s too early.  There’s a six-hour time difference between here and Massachusetts, so I’ll have to wait until at least 2 PM).  It’s so early, and I am still tired from my journey, so I decide to go back to sleep for a bit.  I pull the curtains to get the light out of my eyes and I’m soon, once again, unconscious.

Reawakening at about 9 AM, I walk up the hill to Chez Michele.  My luggage indeed showed up last night, but not until around 1:30 AM.  After a cup of coffee and a croissant, Bill, Michele (his wife), Ted, William and I take the bus to Sion and catch the train to Martigny, a village at the mouth of the Rhone Valley.  The plan is to visit the Saint Bernard Museum there, and maybe, pet the puppies.  In the past, Martigny was a starting point for pilgrims to cross over the Alps to get to Italy.  Some 20,000 people a year hiked over a high pass, two-thirds of them in the winter.  Needless to say, many trekkers got into significant trouble and some monks founded a hospice near the summit to care for them.  Dogs were bred, the Saint Bernard, to help them rescue the travelers when they were in need.  It’s a myth that they carried kegs of wine or brandy around their necks, but sometimes they did carry milk from cowsheds.  One dog, named Barry, saved over forty people during his lifetime and is still a remembered hero in the area.

The museum is housed in a building on the edge of town.  They still breed and raise the dogs whose ancestors saved so many.  Unfortunately, since Covid, they don’t let visitors pet the puppies any longer, but you can still see them lolling about in the shade, trying to get out of the heat.  The temperature is about eighty degrees or so, but with all that fur, it must be hard to stay cool.   The museum also has artifacts and pictures of what the trek was like when the pilgrimage was still popular.  Now, of course, there are trains, roads and tunnels that pass through the Alps to Italy.

Also in the town are Roman ruins, including a bath and a small colosseum.  Martigny housed a Roman settlement (Octodurum) from the first century BCE until the fifth century CE.  What’s left are structures that are recognizable, although a mere shadow of what they once were, and stabilized so one can wander through them safely.  I walk through the entrance to the colosseum and, once in the middle of the arena, have the strongest urge to shout, “Where are the lions?  Bring ‘em on!”, but there is no audience to appreciate it, so I demur.

The town of Martigny itself has quiet cobblestone streets and a twelfth century church.  There are open plazas sporting artful water fountains that kids play in and many a nice café.  I had a cappuccino and then go searching for some local brandy.  We visit a distillery outlet, but all they have is apricot brandy, Abricotine (fruit brandy they call eau de vie or water of life).  The stuff is good, for sure, but I’ve already tried some and I’m looking for something different to bring home.  In addition to the ubiquitous grape, apricots can be found everywhere in the valley.  Abricotine is a local specialty.

Our tour done, we returned to the train, and then the bus, and got back to Haute Nendaz at about 8 PM.  Not at all a late hour for French dinner, but I am hungry.  We go out to a local restaurant where I enjoy a fine meal and a glass of Gamay vin rouge.  A long day, lots of walking and interesting things to experience.  A quick text tells me Waldo is doing fine and I’m off to bed.

Waldo would have loved all the walking and meeting all the people, for sure.


Brother Bill in front to a 12th century church.

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