David and I are now in Saint-Coulomb, a small town between the cities of St. Malo and Concale in Brittany. We arrived here at about 1:30 pm today, after having driven across France for two days. We left Thones yesterday at 9:30 am and got to Tours at 5 pm. After looking for a place to wash our linens (to no avail), we decided to go have a drink at a chateau hotel/restaurant that we stayed at the last time we were in the Loire Valley. The proprietor remembered us and kindly offered us a free house cocktail served on the terrace as we admired the beautiful view. We then enjoyed a fabulous dinner in the restaurant.
This morning, we found a laundromat in Montbazon (just south of where we stayed last night), threw our sheets and towels in a washing machine, and went to a bar/restaurant for breakfast. After our wash was dry, we got back on the road for a relatively easy 3-hour drive.
Last Thursday, the bright sun and blue skies that we had enjoyed in the Alps disappeared. We woke up to rain and decided that it would be a good day to enjoy some of the museums in the area.
Our first stop was at the Musée du Pays de Thônes, a small museum that is part of the town’s public library. Housed in a building donated to the town by Joseph Avet, a native of Thônes who immigrated to New Orleans in the 1830s and made a fortune as a merchant, the museum includes exhibits on the history of Thônes and its role in the Savoie region. I noticed many original documents in the exhibit cases, the earliest from about 1350. When we spoke to the librarian after our tour, she mentioned that these documents were found in a 16th century wooden chest that had been passed down from mayor to mayor!
After checking our emails at the Tourist Office, we enjoyed a fabulous four-course lunch for 13 euros at a roadside auberge. And wine and coffee were included! Here is the menu.
Our next stop was at the Musee de la Resistance et de la Deporation, located near the National Cemetery in Morette, about 4 kilometers from Thônes. The museum tells the poignant story of the resistance fighters of the Battle of Glieres in March 1944 (see David’s post for additional information). The museum is housed in a chalet that is similar to the ones used by the resistance fighters on the Plateau de Glieres.
And the graves of these fighters are in the National Cemetery. We found two graves of Jewish men, one of whom was the doctor. We also saw a grave with the last name of our gite’s owner; we asked him later on if that was a relative, and he mentioned that his uncle, Edouard Raymond Emmanuel Credoz, died in the siege.
Our last visit was to the Fondation pour l’art contemporain Claudine et Jean-Marc Salomon in Alex, a town about 15 minutes away. Opened in 2001 in the Chateau Arenthon, the museum houses the contemporary art collection of the Salomons (of the ski equipment company founded in Annency in 1947). David will post more on our visit on his blog.
And by the time we finished the day’s cultural tour, the sun had come out once again!
David and I went to Geneva on Wednesday to visit Otto and Lydia. On the way, we drove to Annecy, France, the capital of the Savoy region. Situated on a lake, it has a charming older city with four churches within one block!
We enjoyed our visit with Otto and Lydia, and David took this wonderful photograph of them. They enjoyed meeting David and speaking with him in French.
On the way back to Thones, we hit every single road deviation in both Switzerland and France! David had to participate in a conference call at 5 pm, and we made it to the Tourist Office at 4:59 pm to connect to the call...
The mountains we’ve seen so far pale in comparison with Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps at 4,810 meters (15,776 feet). On Monday, we drove to Chamonix, the classic French ski resort, to take a look at it. By the time we got to Chamonix, it was time for lunch, so we sat at a restaurant in the central pedestrian zone and ate Salades Savoyardes (lettuce, potatoes, bacon, reblochon cheese, and tomatoes).
We then walked down to the Aiguille du Midi cable car station to start our ascent. We joined about 20 other people in a cable car that went from 1,035 meters to 2,317 meters in 10 minutes, and then changed cars at the Plan de l’Aguille for another ten-minute ride to the Aiguille du Midi at 3,842 meters.
On the way up, I wasn’t a happy camper; I have problems with heights and vertigo. However, once we reached the top of the Aiguille and saw the views, it was worth the discomfort!
From this vantage point, you can look at the Alps in all directions and see the summit of Mont Blanc right in front of you. Here are people looking at skiers/mountaineers who had climbed to the summit and were on their way down.
And here is the view towards Italy.
On the way down, we stopped at the Plan de l’Aguille and had some water at the bar, while watching skiers enjoy beers at the end of their exertion. And I actually looked out the windows on the ride down from there.
On our way back to Thônes, we drove via the Col del la Colombiere, which offered yet more fabulous views.
Our hike on Sunday took us from one ski area to another, at about 1,460 meters (4,800 feet). We started climbing through the woods, getting respites when we reached meadows.
The views were amazing in all directions; here you can see Mont Blanc in the distance.
We took a wrong turn towards the middle of the hike and never made it to the second ski area; however, we got a good view of it from above. And we had a bad descent at the end, on a trail covered in tree roots and rocks!
When we returned to the gite, we changed clothes and went into Thônes to hear a choral concert by a group of students attending a music school in Lyon. Their voices were lovely and they enjoyed performing to a large audience in the local church. After the concert, they hung out in front of the church and we enjoyed a snack at a cafe.
We arrived on Friday in the French Alps, where we’ll be hiking and relaxing for the week. We’re staying in a gite (self-catering holiday rental) which is perched on a hillside in the small village of Le Cropt. Here’s the view from the front door – the mountain is called La Tournette.
The closest big town is Thones, which holds its big market every Saturday morning. David and I drove down the valley to Thones yesterday morning to get provisions for the next few days – fruit, vegetables, a rotisserie chicken, some bread – and to check our email. Fortunately, there is free Wifi near the Tourist Office!
We returned to the gite and got ready to take our first hike. We drove up a windy road, passing chalets and alpine farms, and parked the car at the beginning of a trail that didn’t have too much of a climb. There were alternating stretches of forest and open meadows with fabulous views. We found a place to sit for lunch and enjoyed our sandwiches and the surroundings.
After lunch, we retraced our steps and got in the car for a drive that would take us to Ugine (not far from Albertville, where the Winter Olympics were held in 1992). We then headed up a very windy road (a diversion from the main road that most likely had debris on it) to Flumet, where we took a road to the Col des Aravis (pass) with even more wonderful views.
We ended the day having chicken and left-over tartiflette from last night’s dinner at the nearby auberge along with some regional wine provided by our landlady.
David and I spent a couple of days in Malta before he gave a paper at a one-day workshop earlier this week. We were among a throng of tourists visiting the island and getting their first sunburns of the season. We took the local buses to and from Valletta, the capital city, and marveled at the clarity and color of the water.