Tuesday, May 04, 2010


The morning greeted us with bright sunshine and clear skies. We were served our breakfast on the terrace with the view of the Alps that surround us. One usually thinks of a French breakfast as small, but at most B&B's this is not the case. Although there are no eggs and bacon, there is plenty to eat. Orange juice, milk, coffee drank the French way from a bowl, assorted cereals and granolas, cheese, yogurt, fresh French bread with thick crust and soft hot interior, butter, honey, and four kinds of jams.

With Caralies's husband Laurent off to work and her three daughters off to school, she tells us about things to do and see in the area. She says that rain is expected tomorrow, so she suggest we go to Chamonix Mont-Blanc, the winter resort at the foot of Mont-Blanc, the Alps tallest mountain, while the weather was still good. We take her advice and drive the 60 km to the resort. A portion of the main road is closed for some reason unknown to us, so we must take the signed detour. This puts us on narrow mountain roads which greatly enhanced the scenery and the danger. Very large semi-trucks must use the detour also and on many hairpin turns they use the entire road. Now that I'm writing this and we are alive, I can say it was great fun.

After the 2 hours drive, we arrive in Chamonix Mont-Blanc. There are several options for cable cars and trams up the mountain. There is no way to ride to the summit, but you can get close on a tramway. The tourist office tells us the highest tramway is open, but the top is covered with clouds, so we opt for a cog wheel tram to Mer de Glace, one of the glaciers on the mountain. We buy our tickets and climb aboard. After a 25 minute ride, we arrive at a station overlooking the glacier in the valley below.

Next we board a cable tramway for a ride halfway down to the glacier. The rest of the way you walk down a series of catwalks and stairs to the glacier. Once there, you can walk through the Grotte de Glace, a man made ice cave into the glacier. Because the glacier is slowing moving, each winter a new Grotte de Glace is carved out of the ice for the season. After a cold walk through the glacier, we warm back up by climbing the catwalks and 350 steps, yes count them, 350, to the tramway. We have a leisurely late lunch in Chamonix before returning to our B&B via the same detour as before. We Survived!

A note about driving in France. As a tourist, we tend to drive slow and make sudden turns. The French, whom most seem to drive above the speed limit and who secretly want to be race car drivers, especially on twisty mountain roads, consider my ability to drive with distain. It goes something like this. I going along at my tourist pace when a car approaches from behind.
When they arrive at my bumpers, they use my vehicle to "draft" for a while and to see if I'm going to speed up or get out of the way. They are so close I can see the driver in my rear view mirror mouthing the words, idiot and stupide, two french words I learned on our last trip. Once they know I'm not getting out of their way by driving off the cliff, they pass. It doesn't seem to matter to them that there is a curve or cars coming in the opposite direction, as one must arrive first. It was great fun.
The next day May 1st and a holiday in France. We went to Annecy and walked the promenade beside the lake and into the old part of the city which was crowded with locals enjoying the holiday with their families. Restaurants were doing a booming business, so we picked a busy crowded one thinking the food would be good. We were right. We each had the plat du jour, which consisted of salad, lasagna, and dessert. Cathie had beer and I had too much wine. Cathie did the driving after that. Museums and the tourist sites are closed because of the holiday, which was fine. We just walked around the old town for a couple of hours

The next day we awake to rain. After a slow breakfast, we headed out about 1 pm for the ATM and bakery. We stock up on cash and bread and then it's off to Chateau de Menthon Saint-Bernard. By the name of the Chateau, you might guess it has something to do with the Saint Bernard dog and it does. The Chateau has been inhabited since the 12th century and is the birthplace of Saint Bernard the patron saint of mountaineers. Saint Bernard de Menthon (1008-1081) was the founder of the hospices which bear his name and are widely known for his famous rescue dogs. The Menthon family still owns the Chateau and lives on the grounds in a modern house. More recently, Francois de Menthon (1900-1984), father of the current owner, was one of the founders of the French Resistance during WW-II and was a minister and prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trails at the end of the war.

For our last night at Les Columbines, we had dinner with our hosts. Coralie prepared dishes from the region which included leak soup, la tartiflette, a main dish made with potatoes, herbs, cheese and a cream sauce, thinly sliced ham, salad and cake. All of it was delicious and came with French wine. For all you wine snobs out there, the French also buy, "wine in a box". We had an enjoyable evening with our hosts and couldn't have asked for more.



Anonymous said...

It's great!!............................................................

Julie Camacho said...

They photos a beautiful. It looks like a breath taking place. Becareful while driving!!!

john neibert said...

The scenery looks beautiful. You can have that cold glacier! burr Hope you're having fun!