Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yay For The Last Day Driving

Dinner at the Vieux Leysin was phenomenal. We were given a great table towards the back, next to the bar. Arlette wanted to get the local white wine to go with dinner which she said was called Fendant. She has never had it, which is a great surprise to me, but has always wanted to try it since she first read the Tintin adventure L'Affaire Tournesol (In English The Calculus Affair).

In this story Tintin, along with his boozing friend Captain Haddock, are visiting a scientist in Nyon, Switzerland and he offers them a bottle of local Fendant wine for their enjoyment. Haddock is quite the drinker and eagerly awaits a glass, but unfortunately each time the professor is going to open the bottle he goes off on a tangent and poor Haddock is left staring with ill disguised longing at the bottle. Before they can drink, there is an explosion and the house is destroyed. Haddock does get his wine in the end as he saves the bottle and drinks it as he is carried away on a stretcher. This happens to be Arlette's favorite scene in all the Tintin adventures and the opportunity to drink the same wine was too much to pass up. ( I can't believe I am actually talking about this) The woman behind the bar was listening to our conversation about the wine and joining Arlette, they laughed uproariously in describing the scene to each other. It turned out that she is also a huge Tintin fan. I know this scene very well myself since I love Tintin and his dog Milou is my cycling mojo. (I have a Milou decal on all my bikes but one mountain bike, which happens to be the one I crash the most...hmmm)

The woman explained to Arlette that they don't have Fendant since it comes from a completely different region (maybe 20 miles away. Fendant also happens to be the popular Swiss varietal and is called Chasselas in France). Anyway, she offered us an excellent Yvorne from Aigle Les Murailles down the road and it was very, very good. The meal at this restaurant was awesome and the vegetarian dishes were incredible.

The woman asked Arlette where she was from and Arlette responded with, "Lozere in France." The woman came back with, "What a coincidence. Your waitress is also from Lozere." The waitress, who was in her mid twenties, immediately adopted us and spent most of her evening ignoring other customers and talking to Arlette about home. Arlette got all the personal details, "Father is ex-mayor of Le Luc. Grandfather and grandmother own the Hotel-Restaurant de la Gare. Etc..." Arlette promised to go visit her family, the Coulons, next time she drives through Le Luc, which means she will make a special visit just to say hello. I did feel bad because there was a German couple that were dying to leave, but they were continually ignored by the staff who spent their time jawing with us. What can I say? The residents of some countries obviously recognize my family's inherent quality and so treat us as we deserve to be treated. So the poor Germans received what their compatriots had dished out to us the days previously. (It doesn't make it right, though......much....)

After the wine and a glass of Génépi (the official liquor of the Haute Savoie and Alps) the hike up the hill to the hotel was taxing. Poor Arlette had to stop a couple of times to catch her breath. This was a momentous occasion for me as this is the first time I have ever seen her show any weakness in walking as she usually walks at the same pace that she talks. In St Roman, she walks about 10 kilometers a day. I forget that she is 79 years old. I just hope I am in as good of shape as she is when I, hopefully, hit 79.

I woke up to sun above and clouds below:

Arlette at breakfast: "Are you trying to kill me by giving me straight orange juice? Where's the Vodka?"
The entrance to the Bel-Air hotel. Notice how unpretentious the name is by not having an "E" at the end of "Air."

We hit the road and headed to Martigny to catch the route to Chamonix, France. Right after Martigny we found La Cascade. The roar of the water was loud enough to be heard as one drove by with the windows up.

Almost to Chamonix and Mont Blanc looms ahead.

Arlette was adamant about about us taking the cable car up to the top of the Aiguille de Midi, a peak right next to Mont Blanc. It was quite a wait for a cable car, but was worth every moment. The cost for the ride up to the peak was very expensive. It was about $50 a person. The entire ride takes about 30 minutes and that includes one stop to switch cars. You climb about 9000 feet and the views are jaw dropping. It did get very crowded on the first gondola. The first stop is prime for para-sailing and these guys just force their way into the car with their giant packs. It does look like fun though.

I would prefer to be climbing like the guys in this picture:

Mont Blanc, another 3000 feet higher in altitude.

We skipped elevator ride that would take us up to the actual tip of the Aiguille (which means Needle) because our stomachs started to growl as it was nearing two o'clock in the afternoon and lunch was beckoning. We found a little restaurant nearby after we descended to Chamonix. Once again the food was excellent. This is the first trip to France that I have taken where every meal was memorable for all the right reasons. I enjoyed a Mont Blanc lager while Arlette chose a Leffe instead. She really prefers Bavarian brew over all others but I am getting her to appreciate the Belgian ales more and more.

After being verbally accosted by a bombastic neighboring diner for awhile (I think he was hitting on Arlette, really!), we headed, finally, towards St Roman which was still five hours away.

My final view of the French Alps before we hit Grenoble and the autoroute home.

The rest of the drive was in the dark and not much was said as we were totally fragged. We arrived at the house at 9:30pm and drank a celebratory Karmeliten beer which is brewed by monks and called Sturm Bio (Bio for Organic). It's awesome and is now my official second favorite brew after Duvel...and maybe Bohemia... We also had a very nice bottle of Cairanne Cotes de Rhone wine with cheese and olives and spent until midnight rehashing the entire trip. We were too tired to drink the Veuve Clicquot. That'll wait until next trip.

Tomorrow- The TGV to Paris.

1 comment:

Anna said...

The dinner was phenomenal??? The pictures you took are phenomenal!! I clicked on each one, which is why it took me so long to read it, and each is just wonderful. I'm glad I got to see Arlette's outfit, I pictured it as much more Bavarian. It was just a bit subtler than I imagined and I thought she looked great! I also want to be able to walk uphill at her age after a good meal.