The Alps in the Summer

Tuesday August 13th

We checked out of the Intercontinental Hotel, which has been a brilliant place to stay in Geneva. Emm raved about a pear he had eaten for breakfast. Apparently pears are a thing in Geneva. We had a taxi to the airport, where we were collecting a hire car on the French side. (It’s worth noting that although you can take hire cars into several different countries in Europe, you have to pay a premium if you plan to collect and leave it in different countries, and as we are eventually leaving from France, we wanted to collect it in France.)

The taxi to the airport cost even more than the one we used when we arrived—44CHF. But by now, we are used to everything in Geneva being hideously expensive, partly due to the rubbish exchange rate with the pound.

The hire car is a Renault Megan and confusingly automatic. We have an accountant, a law graduate, a scientist and a general computer nerd in the car, but it defeated us. We managed to turn on the SatNav, but the radio seemed to be permanently on, and we never worked out how to turn it off. We listened to classical music as we drove through the Alps, until is became rather irritating harpsicord music, at which point we muted it. But turning it off, I am pretty sure, is impossible. It was a fun drive (I wasn’t driving) and at one point there was one country on one side of the road, and a different country on the other (not exactly hard borders here).

We drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel—there was a long slow queue to pay, and it cost us 45CHF—even leaving Switzerland is expensive. (Actually, to be fair, the tunnel is in France, not Switzerland, but it felt like it was!)

There were the most wonderful views as we drove through the mountains. There was snow, so my family sang Christmas carols (they are never silent, so carols was quite pleasant). There is something exciting about snow on mountains (like there is something exciting about palm trees. Not that there were any palm trees.)

We arrived in La Thuile, and checked into Montana Lodge. Our rooms were nice, and we had a balcony, over-looking the mountains and soaking up the sunshine—it was actually too hot to sit there in the afternoon, as the sun was incredibly warm.

La Thuile feels like a small town at the bottom of the mountains, but actually we climbed quite high before we reached the town. The air is clean and cold and whichever direction you look, there are amazing views. Mountains stretch up on one side, their peak in the clouds, behind you is a mountain with white snow icing the top, on the other side is a mountain pasture dotted with flowers, in front of you is a house made of wood and looking exactly like a musical-box so you feel you could almost lift the roof to hear the music playing. It is, I think, the most beautiful place I have ever visited.

We walked into town. The town has a lot of dogs (which is lovely) and owners who do not clean up after them (not lovely) so, as we walked, we had to be careful not to stare too hard at the beautiful views or we would step in something nasty. When I am king, I shall make a law about this. The centre of town has a river which bubbles and splashes as it tumbles down the mountain, and the hills are covered in trees (possibly spruce) and meadows. The town is full of cafes and tourist shops and places to buy ski clothes. Lots of people walking around were wearing very smart walking clothes (always bring your best clothes when visiting Italy, and it’s against the law to wear wellies…even if letting your dog poop in the street is, apparently, okay).

We ate in La Maison de Laurent. This didn’t look great from the outside, but don’t be fooled. We were seated at a long table down in the wine cellar. It was dimly lit, with a low ceiling  and bottles of wine surrounded us. The menu was full of hearty food, intended to fill up hungry skiers after a day on the slopes. It was completely delicious. I ate polenta (which is a little like mashed potato in taste) and a stew, followed by a salad, and finished with tiramisu. It was all perfect. Emm ate a vegetable soup, which was more like a stew as it was thick with vegetables and was served with lumps of crusty bread. I shall order that tomorrow.

Wednesday August 14th

We met for breakfast at 8:15 (well, most of us did). The breakfast was okay, but it didn’t feel very friendly. The coffee was served by waiters, who only half-filled the cups and then were unavailable for top-ups. There was a good variety of food, but it wasn’t as luxurious as the Intercontinental in Geneva—or maybe I’m just tired. Once the person who always loses his room key had collected it from the breakfast room, we met on balcony to plan the day (always a delight and an apparently essential activity when married to my husband).

We (using term loosely) decided to walk up a mountain (del Rutor). I agreed to come if it did not involve any narrow pathways with a sheer drop on one side. Even though my head knows that fear of heights is completely silly, I know from past experience that my head cannot force my body to behave likewise, and when faced with sheer drop my legs go all quivery and absolutely refuse to move and my lungs stop breathing and heart threatens to stop beating, so I tend to avoid sheer drops when possible to avoid embarrassing situation where I am clinging onto a rock completely unable to move feeling like a total wombat. Family promised no sheer drops.

We visited the supermarket and bought food for a picnic lunch, and chocolate for after the climb, when we would need a sugar-fix.

Drove to carpark and parked car (11.30). Walked towards mountain. Jay was eating his chocolate (11.35). Some things never change in life.

Walked through pine trees, past waterfalls, over little stone bridges, up the mountain. Every so often, we glimpsed snowy peaks above us. There were lots of other people walking, most of them wearing proper hiking gear complete with poles—but I’m sure the people wearing flip-flops were just as comfortable.

After walking up for about an hour, we sat and ate our picnics. I suggested we could walk back to the car. I was ignored.

Continued walking up. Views on all sides completely perfect whenever we emerged from the trees.

The pathway became narrow, and we rounded a corner to find a sheer drop on one side. I said that I needed to go back. The family suggested that I found a rock to sit on, and they would collect me on the way down.

That’s the thing with my family, you have to be quite resilient to be part of it—you can opt out of things, but no one is going to sit out with you. I suppose this is my fault, it’s how I raised them—they could decide to not eat what I cooked, but there were no alternatives offered.

So, I sat, and waited. It felt like a long time, especially when random men spoke to me on their way up the mountain. But the view was perfect, and I wasn’t murdered, and eventually family returned and we all walked down the mountain together.

Dinner at La Maison again. Perfect end to a nearly perfect day. Our next stop is Genova.

Hope your day is almost perfect too. Thank you for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

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