Category Archives: Switzerland

Day 1 of the Via Francigena

In keeping with our style the Fab Five (new name thanks Cathy & Kevin) decided to head out a day early.

We all met up yesterday at the Hospice du Grand Saint Bernard in the Swiss Alps.

Cheapmeister, Bill and I came from Martigny, Switzerland by train and bus. Darrell and Roxanne came from Aosta, Italy by taxi.The bus ride was nail biting and thrilling at the same time.

It was foggy, windy, cold and blustery at the top.We layered up and walked to Italy (200 meters) for cocktails and hot chocolate. Our dorm room slept 16 (8 sets of bunk beds) and had equal amount of cubbie storage space. Spotless. Lucky for us nobody snored.Our dorm We woke to stirring of our bedmates followed by soothing music that was played throughout the Hospice. Lovely.

Coffee and bread for breakfast. Certainly not the breakfast of champions. However, we came prepared so no worries.Miraculously it was a clear and glorious day! We layered up for the cold and within 500 meters stripped down. What a contrast from the day before.We walked approximately 11 miles mostly downhill – a 3660 foot drop. It was stunning beyond description.Our bodies were shouting at us by mile seven. Knees, hips, back… all asking us what the hell we were doing to ourselves.

We shouted back and kept walking.

Now showered up, clothes on the clothesline. Staying at a 1000 year old monastery/hospice. Roxanne and I are writing and the boys are at the bar.

In the other part of our building is a group of walkers who are here for spiritual reasons and are practicing a vow of silence.


“After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value.” – G.M. Trevelyan

Now here’s Rockenstein…

Our reunion with Bill, Paige, and Chappy at Grand Bernard Pass, Switzerland was as fresh and invigorating as the rolling fog and crisp wind.

We were all warmed up by tea elegantly poured by the Monk named Frederic.We spent the night where 40,000 of Napoleone’s soldiers once hung out and for 300 years the Saint Bernard dogs sniffed through fog, ice and snow finding those of us who got lost. The Fab Five are keenly aware of this precious moment in time to show up able bodied and willing to walk 620 miles to Rome, Italy.

Why? For the pure joy of being able to walk the Via Francigena.

Internet is really slow so no videos today.

A Brief Interlude

Tonight I glimpse out the restaurant window to see a lone boy with his soccer ball kicking drills off the side of the glowing church. The boy and ball were intermittently illuminated by the light shining toward the quickening darkness of the sky.This, a common sight, witnessed around the world. Children and their football. Making memories, developing life skills, freeing their minds and all the while massaging their muscle memories.

The innocence of this moment leaves a lasting impression.

Slowly Making Our Way

Martigny, Switzerland seemed liked a great place to rest up and acclimate to the time change before we start walking the Via Francigena.

This charming community of 18,000 people of which 25% are expats rests at 1545 feet above sea level and at the base of the Alps. The hillsides are lush and bursting with grapes. The hills are starting to turn falls colors but the flowers are still happy and colorful.

Home to the St. Bernard Museum, a Roman Amphitheater, the La Bâtiaz Castle and one old wooden bridge (1823).A three night stop gave us ample time to explore, rest and eat our way through town.

Tomorrow we head north to 8,100′ where we will spend two nights at the Grand St. Bernard Hospice – founded nearly 1,000 years ago. Starting in the 17th century monks at the hospice bred and raised the St. Bernard rescue dogs to help with snowbound travelers. Today there is no need.

Hunters, pilgrims and Napoleon have laid their weary heads upon this spot high in the Alps.

Tomorrow five pilgrims from Nevada will be added to the list.

Images of Martigny…Postings and photos are all from my iPhone. Here’s my first attempt at loading videos. They appear sideways on my screen but play in the correct direction. If it’s harsh (or sideways) looking at it on a computer please let me know.

Follow us as we walk the Via Francigena

map credit ©️OutdoorTravel Thanks for the map!

That’s right.  Approx. 1000 kilometers.

This time it’s the Via Francigena (fran chee gena).

From ancient and medieval times it connected Canterbury to Rome. Today most pilgrims start in the Swiss Alps. Luckily, unlike our predecessors, none of us have to return home by foot.

Different from the famous Camino de Santiago where over 200,000 pilgrims annually walk the 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain the Via has only a combined 2,500 walkers, bikers and horse riders.

Bill and I walked the Camino de Santiago Frances in 2013 and in 2016 walked the Camino de Santiago Portuguese with Vino Verde Man, Chapmeister and Rockenstein . It was so utterly perfect that the five of us, on September 3, 2018, will step out the door of our hostel at the Great St. Bernard Pass in Switzerland and make our way to Rome.

The first two days have us descending 6,000′ in elevation. Hello knees…In the meantime, we walk to build up our strength. Unfortunately, the last couple of days have us walking at the local community center as our hometown has the most hazardous air in the USA caused by the horrific fires in California.

Curious about what’s in my pack??

If you didn’t read my ultimate packing guide from the last pilgrimage hop on over and check it out.

I made some adjustments – more than expected in the consummate search for perfection.

Here’s the list (new means different from last time):

  • New pack – the Osprey 24 liter Sirrus
  • The same Nike shorts which unfortunately have been discontinued.
  • New (update – North Face changed the material and the new ones are too thick)  North Face Everyday Pant
  • New North Face on the Go Skirt (forgoing the skort)
  • Target tank top
  • New Athleta Speedlight Tee
  • Same Lulu Lemon Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve
  • Smartwool – one each – Mid-Weight and Light-Weight long sleeve shirts
  • A crazy and stupid indulgence – hippie palazzo pants from Walmart – who said ya can’t be groovy on a pilgrimage?
  • New My Trail Co rain gear – jacket and pants. Jealous of Rockenstein and Vino Verde  when they stepped out in the torrential rain all duded out with their My Trails rain attire. They stayed dry when I soaked to the bone in my cheap $1.99 rain poncho.
  • New REI 650 Down Jacket
  • OMG – I get to wear new but the same  Altra Footwear Lone Peak 2.5 shoes!! YAY!! Shoes are the most important part of this whole list.  Altra is now on version 3.5 with 4.0 coming out any day now. They changed their design and frankly the changes do not work for me. Geared up to wear the Altra Timp Trail – actually hiking in them with a friend when I realized she was wearing my favorite 2.5’s. Where did you get those???? Rockenstein! The zero drop wasn’t her thing so she passed them on. Well, that generous friend who only wore them twice gifted them to me. Doing a happy dance every time I put them on. Thank you Boo!
  • Crocs backup shoe for the end of the day, showering, etc.
  • Tights, undies, bras, merino wool gloves, a neck buff, homemade pillowcase with velcro to stuff my down jacket in to make a pillow.
  • Travel size toiletries.
  • Sea to Summit Traveller silk sleeping sack to keep the cooties away.
  • PackTowl ultralite beach towel

All weighing in at 11 pounds. Of course, I’ll be wearing some of those clothes so my pack will be lighter.

You men might be wondering what’s in Bill’s pack.  Basic black and flip flops!

We’re super excited. Jump on board and walk with us. Tell your friends to sign up for our blog –  Instagram Story @paigeshawdotcom and Facebook @billandpaige.

See you there!

Around the World in 72 days

By the numbers:

72 days from Reno, Nevada west to Charleston, South Carolina.

39 beds

27 flights and approx. 40,000 miles

24 trains

23 countries

10 buses

9 boats

numerous taxi’s


1 camel



*photo – A bit of home in Frankfurt, Germany



The train ride from Milan to Zurich was picturesque to say the least – Lake Como, Lake Lugano and the snow swept Alps. Simply striking.

Switzerland may be the most beautiful country in the world according to this author.

Zurich, in northern Switzerland, is the third most expensive city in the world (CNBC) and all lit up for the Christmas season.

Brrr… it’s cold and it’s only the beginning of December. Lured by the Christmas lights on the famous Bahnhofstrasse (one of the world’s most exclusive shopping areas) we bundled up and headed to Central Altstadt (Old Town) on the Limmat River to find the Christmas market. Charmed by the historic buildings, the silvery river and lit up bridges we walked until our toes froze like little marbles.

*click to enlarge photos