14 Sept 2016
Bon jour mes amis,
We have had very full, fun days which have left little computer time. I’m more than a little disappointed that while I’m out of the country you’ve allowed the stock market to go to hell in a hand basket! Coming home tomorrow so will try to straighten things out when I get back.
Today is our last full day in France (in the background you will hear the sound of much sobbing). But since I last reported in we have had incredible days each incredible in their own way. We returned to Annecy so that Rob an Kim could see it. This time the sun was shining and it was a weekend so the city was more alive and vibrant than when we saw it the first time. It’s a city that’s so perfect, one would guess it was created by Disney but it’s real! We spent the day strolling trying to absorb the beauty of the architecture, shops, gardens, canals without neglecting the food and drink. On the drive there and back I continued to piss off more Frenchmen! But, what else were we going to do today?!
The next day we took the telecabine, which is short for ski lift, that’s right outside our door to the “first” top of our nearby mountain. I say “first” top because because once you arrive at that point there are other lifts that during the season will take you higher and higher. From the point at which we disembarked there were crazy people filling their para-sails with air and jumping into the abyss from the rock face, in the hope they would float off into space, which they always did. It was beautiful to watch them float out toward the lake and maneuver their sails back and forth across the sky. The first few steps must be a real adrenaline rush but after that it must be heaven, until they have to land! Somehow they set themselves down in small green patches of grass right next door to us.
We took a rather long meandering path which seemed to take us gradually higher to a point that had the most spectacular 360 degree views of distant mountain peaks, valleys and hillside fields stitched like patchwork quilts, the entire lake, most of Switzerland (I think), Geneva, Montreux, Lucerne and I’m pretty sure Chicago. We followed mountain ridges which just kept giving us views with new incredible perspectives. It cannot be captured in words or photographs, you just have to see it and I so wish that you all could. The descent was fairly steep in some parts, so much so that we stopped for our picnic lunch at one point and didn’t think it wise to open the wine until the footing was better. An unusual decision for this group. A very short time later, with confidence renewed, we found yet another remarkable view which was celebrated with the pop of a cork!
After the steep descent, the trail opened into a meadow where cows and horses grazed together but it was the cows that seemed to have an unusual affection for Rob. Who knew? Looking back from there, high on a rock face there appeared to be an alcove cut in the rock and a white figurine. Even with field glasses it was hard to determine what the figure was. My companions assumed it to be a Madonna because there are many nearby references to Christendom. Only with my peculiar visual acuity was I able to identify it as Elvis, which would make sense – he being the father of “rock” and roll! We terminated our four hour hike at the nearby and now familiar L’Orson Bar and celebrated the day with a very tall beer. But really, what else were we going to to today?!
The closest wine district to where we are is Beaujolais. It’s about a 2 3/4 hr drive but I couldn’t really return from France without visiting the wine country. Our precious, little, British navigator was fairly determined to keep us off the main highways no matter how we programed her ( Loosely translated, this means it took us much more than 2 3/4 hours.). We “almost ” have her figured out in time to come home, yet mysteries abound. The entire trip we have had her programmed for “Fast” thinking she would find the fastest route for us, but as astute as we are, we kept noticing highways parallel to us where traffic seemed to be moving much faster. After “a lot” of work with the touch screen Susan found the “motorway” setting. Tip for guidebook: When in a French rental car, if you want to get somewhere quickly don’t try to get there “fast” because that won’t be quick!
Visiting vineyards in Beaujolais is not like visiting vineyards in New York where they they actually want you to taste their wine! Here you can follow the signage on the “wine trail”, see thousands if not millions of grape vines and never actually find a winery. We followed signs that led to nowhere, well to somewhere but we never figured out where that was. But the scenery was fantastic. The little villages all through the Beaujolais have tasting rooms where you can taste and buy from all the vineyards or local crus. This time of year the wineries are preparing for harvest so will give tours but by appointment only. After giving us directions for about every wrong turn available at every opportunity we realized, as did our traveling companions from years ago in Iceland, that since the British decided to leave the EU the French are not giving Margaret accurate GPS data. We enjoyed our travels up and down single track paths all through Beaujolais seeing things you would never see if you had a head on your shoulders. It is truly spectacular. Fortunately Susan made arrangements for us to stay the night at a small hotel in Julianas, which is at the north end of the wine trail. It was a really nice, romantic place, with gardens, a pool, rooms that have large shutter windows that open up to expansive views of vineyards and old stone buildings scattered across the hillsides. We got a recommendation for dinner at a place about 10 km away, high on a hill overlooking miles of vineyards, and had our best French dinner with the best wine so far.
The next morning we rose lazily, ate again, and meandered south through the wine country getting overwhelmed by “quaint” and “beautiful” in village after village. We then headed home with all kinds of misdirection from Maggie. She has suffered much insult throughout our travels but we have determined that with her help there is no destination within a two hour radius that we cannot reach in about four hours! Guide book tip: When traveling in France always depend on your GPS system. You will be lost no matter what so it’s much better to be frustrated with a machine than any of your traveling companions. I think at one point late in the afternoon, it was Maggie and I duking it out in the front seat and my three passengers having a wine and cheese party in the back. C’est la Vie. But then again, what else was I going to do today?!
We have had a wild and wonderful time and with practice I have gotten more comfortable threading the needle between the bicyclette on my right and the oncoming vehicle on my left. The back- up of traffic behind me on the roads, as well as on on any golf course, also seems to happen behind us at the boulangeries and the grocery stores, which here are referred to as Casinos. This seems appropriate because we aren’t sure what the labels say so most purchases are a bit of a gamble!
Every morning when we started out we picked up a baguette,ham, cheese, chocolate, fruit and wine ……. One more tip for the Guide book: When you are traveling in France, when you decide you are hungry, everything will be closed. When they open, you won’t have a reservation! Always be prepared!!
All our encounters with the people have been fun, despite the rumors about the rudeness of the French, and they have happily helped us communicate. This is most likely because they didn’t realize it was us they were following down the road! I am fairly certain that the last Americans that they took any pleasure in seeing on their highways were the ones that were chasing the Germans out!
Today we’re planning on a less active itinerary and staying local.
I have enjoyed sharing our escapades with you all and hope I have not discouraged anyone from traveling. The times that seemed the most problematic were really the most fun and we saw so much. Hoping we won’t have to purchase extra seats on the plane as a result of the baguettes and cheese!