June 30, 2013. I know. I know. Up to this point I have been writing about writing and rejection slips. But I just returned from a trip to the French Alps and people insist that I talk a little about it and show some photos. I should point out that the French are largely a charming people and their country is simply splendid. I have been going there off and on since the ’70’s and generally have been very pleased with the results. It DOES help if you speak at least a little French because often they cannot speak English or don’t want to. But, interestingly enough, if you fumble along with high school French, they will help you out with high school English, and usually the deed gets done. The first picture here is a ring of mountains and me. I am especially fond of my picture because you can’t see me. I was relatively photogenic in my youth; I am now in my old age. Hence, shadowy pictures are wonderful.
This trip took place the first week of June–a good time to visit France because the weather is generally pleasant and the tourists have not begun to storm the place. I traveled with a 73-year-old peripatetic (not pathetic–peripatetic) lady who has traveled the world and has great energy. Unfortunately, her hip was broken from a previous trip but she hobbled along gamely. Also, she had inherited a boyfriend since we made the arrangements, and he was not happy about THIS arrangement, but c’est la vie. Ou, en ce cas, c’est la guerre.
We flew into Geneva because it is closer to the French Alps than Paris, and drove directly to the medieval town of Annecy, which is known for its medieval buildings, canals, lovely lake (see above), and many, many tourists. The weather was terrible on the first day–cold and rainy–but for the rest of the trip it was sunny and lovely. Meanwhile, by the way, there were horrific floods being recorded through many of the neighboring countries–particularly Germany and the Czech republic–where some of the regions received two months worth of rain in two days. After one day in Annecy we drove through the mountains to Chamonix. The drive was so spectacular that we contemplated often just stopping and spending a night in some of the lovely towns we passed through, but forged on, and were glad we did. We found an excellent hotel near the center of Chamonix: looking out over the spectacular Mont Blanc–all snow-capped 14,000 feet of it. Not many people in Chamonix this time of the year–the ski crowd was gone and the summer crowd had not yet arrived, and the hotels were giving discounts. We spent the afternoon wandering around the town and eating at a very friendly restaurant which had a menu in French and English, and the waitress spoke enough English for us to communicate. I should point out that France, Italy, and Belgium all have terrific pizzas. They are not like American pizzas in that they tend to have a thinner crust and seem to be healthier for you. They pile a lot of vegetables on them, and even a fried egg if you request. One could just eat pizza in this country and do well. I ate a few! A river runs right through the center of Chamonix with many restaurants lined up along it so you can eat well while hearing the water. Here is a picture:
The next day we took the cable car up to the top of Mont Blanc (this was not cheap–something like a hundred bucks apiece) where it was cold and blustery. To say that the view was spectacular would be an understatement. People were hiking up and down the steep embankments and paragliders became paraskiiers as young people who seemed in terrbly good shape launced themselves downward, skiing over the terrain until they ran out of snow and then drifting for a way using their sail until the next patch of snow, etc. When they reached the end of the snow many thousands of feet down, they leaped off the mountain and floated over Chamonix. I envied them and wished I were younger.
So I am finishing this week with a French joke which is actually TRUE. Next week I will continue my narrative of the French Alps and talk more about their marvelous cuisine and a very unusual museum we visited in Switzerland. Cheers!
John F. Kennedy and Jackie were having lunch with Charles de Gaulle and his wife in the early sixties while de Gaulle was embroiled in a tough presidency. Mrs. Kennedy could speak French but her husband could not, so she asked Mrs. de Gaulle in English, “What will you be looking forward to when your husband is no longer president of France?”
Mrs. de Gaulle replied, “A penis.”
There was an embarassed silence for a moment before de Gaulle cleared his throat carefully and said to his wife, “My dear, I believe that is pronounced ‘appiness.”