Day Two: Vevey to Aigle 25.4 km (15.8 miles)
I need to get something off my chest. About ten years ago while visiting this same area in Switzerland I jumped over the turnstiles at Chateau Chillon and toured the castle without paying the entry fee.
I know. There’s no excuse. It shouldn’t matter that the castle had closed early, before its posted closing time. It shouldn’t matter that I was certain I’d never come this way again and I felt like they’d robbed me of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a carefully restored 12th century castle. It should matter that I knew that French (or French speaking) tourist sites post as their closing times the point as which the final visitors must leave, rather than the time the final visitors must arrive. I had frustratingly arrived in between those two times. Slightly outraged at the custom that had once also cost me a view of the Bayeux Tapestry, I hopped the gate when no one was looking and took a self-guided tour of the castle’s musty but fascinating interior.
Turned out it hadn’t been a one-in-a-lifetime visit after all. The official Via Francigena leads right past this fairy tale pile and as I walked by it today I was smugly and (mostly) unrepentantly satisfied I didn’t need to pay the admission. I’d already seen the inside.
My return to the scene of the crime took place after I’d rolled out of bed in my stifling room across from the noisy bell tower in Lausanne. It was after I stopped for breakfast at what I’m sure will be my last Starbucks in two months. It was after my train ride to Vevey where I’d finished yesterday and certainly was after the gorgeous 10 km walk on the lakeside trail through Vevey and then Montreux. But it was before I finally made it to the end of the lake, before I had lunch on a pier and before I said a sad goodbye to the gorgeous lake and turned left for the first part of the days long climb up the Rhône River Valley toward Italy.
Seeing me go by, I now believe the Castle called upon the Universe to pay me back for my crime by getting me lost for half an hour, by making the sun exceptionally hot, by making the air humid, and by making the trail straight, flat, paved and dreary. Except the beauty of the mountains on both sides could not be spoiled by the Castle’s revenge.
As an aspiring pipe organist, I couldn’t believe my good fortune in stumbling, right there on the trail, upon the Museum of the Swiss Organ. Sadly it was closed and locked. No entry even for turnstile jumpers like me.
After arriving at my destination at 4:00 I showered and fell asleep on the bed until 9:00, my best sleep so far, but a jet lagged one coming at the wrong time of day. Aigle has a nice, central commercial district complete with shops and restaurants. I caught a pizza there before returning to my room for a hopefully long and restful snooze.
Hiker’s notes: Vevey to Villaneuve, except for a couple of km on the road, is a lakefront promenade paradise. Enjoy it while you can. After the turn up the valley the stage is mostly alongside either a small canal or the train track, so pray for a cool day. Before Rôche the GPS tracks keep you to the left of the canal and forsake the well marked bridge crossing to the other side. Believe the signs, not the GPS tracks. The GPS way was literally impossible due to the inadvertent presence of a giant mountain and clearly must’ve been drawn from someone’s desktop rather than by a real walker. After Rôche, stick to the road alongside the tracks all the way to the Aigle (pronounced “EGG-luh”) station. It’s dreary, yes, but far shorter than the wandering track to the left that adds little but distance to the stage. Note that the price at Hotel le Suisse has increased from cf70 to cf100. Though I had a reservation there I cancelled it at checkin and opted for a nearby B&B at cf60 where the kind owner is thoughtfully doing my laundry.