A few days ago I realised that I never finished my Chamonix travel diary which made me equal parts nostalgic and annoyed (with myself; because I should have done it 4 months ago). So I decided to dust off the photos and finally put them up. If anything they’ll offer a sweet reminder of what’s to come when Britain finally decides to end it’s childish fight with the sun – flowers, clear skies and light, glorious light!
As a little treat Ben took my up La Flégère, one of his old snowboarding haunts. I’d been reading about how picturesque it was, and I was sad that I’d missed a photo tour by a local photographer, so he decided we’d recreate our own photo walk. During ski season this is a well frequented spot, however in Summer it becomes a haven for wildlife and flowers. Walking around the mountain lakes and looking out into the distance at Mer de Glace was spectacular. I didn’t put my camera down once. A lot of the flowers were beginning to wither, but we got some pretty lovely photos anyway. Although it was the lake with a mountain view that really took my breath away. It reminded me of just how beautiful Chamonix really is, and how lucky I am to have experienced it.
It’s been just over two weeks since we returned from Chamonix, and already I’m craving French food and long walks in the mountains. My nostalgia got me thinking; what better way to remedy my withdrawal symptoms than with a blog post? I have yet to publish the photo diaries from my last few days in France, so now seemed as good a time as any.
A walk alongside the river to La Praz is perfect for a mild day in Chamonix. We headed back via train and wound up in our favourite omelette restaurant…yes an entire restaurant dedicated to omelettes. Afterwards we went for another walk around the outskirts of town, and to the mountainerring/crystal museum. Unfortunately it seemed as though we chose the worst time to leave as we were greeted with torrential rain. So we ran through town, ducking and hiding under canopies before deciding that cake and hot chocolate were in store. After only a few minutes of nibbling on a Mont Blanc we had already forgotten about our wet clothes and the impending walk back to the apartment.
One day in particular I found myself taking more than my usual share of food photos, so I thought I’d round them all up in one post. Whether it’s a sweet snack, or a regional speciality I always have time for French food.
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day (although I beg to differ) but it’s not always easy to choose what to eat. The typical French breakfast is simple; croissant, maybe a pain au chocolate, bread, butter and jam. It’s a carb overload, but boy is it satisfying. Fresh French bread can not be beaten, and even though I’m not a convert to croissants, I don’t mind this particular offering.
Bread does leave me slightly full though, so instead of a ‘proper’ lunch I opted for an English take on a French favourite – macarons with tea. The French supermarkets may carry a wide selection of teas, but I can never find a particularly decent one, usually having to settle for imported British tea. How English is that? I can’t even last a week without a cup of tea. Anyway, I do enjoy pairing teas with sweet snacks such as cake or chocolate, but macarons have to be one of my all time favourites. Can you believe I originally discovered this amazing treat in Japan, not France? I don’t know how I’d managed to miss them for all those years, but it was the Japanese who wowed me with their own unique versions. True, matcha and sakura are not your typical flavours in France, but I can always go for pistache, cafe, or chocolat.
Now as for dinner…
The overuse of cheese to some, is complete heaven to me. I’ve always loved cheese and would gladly give up all other foods for it. So of course a fondue was on the cards whilst we were in Chamonix. In fact fondue is always on the cards in this particular region. It’s a speciality, and you’ll find it in almost every restaurant. Some do it better than others (I speak from experience), and it doesn’t just come with bread (I always recommend potatoes and ham). You’ll probably want to share with someone, although I’ve tackled one by myself and come out alive on the other side. Speaking of the other side… after all that cheese you may want something a bit sweeter, and my personal favourite is Coupe Mont Blanc – an almost sickeningly sweet ice cream dessert topped with pureed chestnut and cream. It’s safe to say I’ve been hunting it down in London since I first had it several years ago. Alas I have had no luck so I knew I had to have it during our trip. Our waiter winked at me as he place the dessert in front of me. It was as if he knew I’d waited a whole year for this…so he’d given me a whole years worth to eat. Everyone around me laughed (with me), but little did they know I’d easily demolish it…and demolish it I did.
Yesterday was all about getting back to nature. We hopped on the train and headed to Servoz, a small village that reminded both of us of our time in the Japanese countryside (thanks to the lush greenery and the lack of anything apart from a train station). Walking through the village and small hamlets we happened upon a house that I am 100% certain either has been, or must be featured in the next Wes Anderson movie. It’s perfect, right? I wonder if it’s for sale…
Servoz was not our final destination though, we were there to find the Gorges de la Diosaz. The gorge has seen the public walk it’s paths for hundreds of years…even at night (no thanks!). The trail starts with a cave that tells a rather sad story, and a monument dedicated to a poet who died at the gorge. The walk continues with a variety of bittersweet stories and facts about the area. The various waterfalls that litter the gorge aren’t very strong at this time of year (Spring is better), but they were still impressive. The steep footpaths that wrap around and over the gorge are worth visiting for alone though, as they offer spectacular views. The gorge itself is a thing of beauty, and it’s almost humbling to walk the footpath and be reminded that humans can’t control nature (although some of us would like to think otherwise). The walk is around an hour and a half, with plenty of stunning views and hidden secrets to find. The inscriptions carved into the rocks and the remains of the old footpaths in particular made me feel as though I’d been transported into another world.
Les Gorges de la Diosaz has reminded me of how wonderful and magical nature really is.
As a little girl holidaying with my parents meant museums, art galleries, trying food we’d never seen before, and learning the language basics (hello, please, thank you etc) of the country we were in. Naturally this has shaped the way I travel today. It also means I tend to dislike sitting on a beach for hours working on my tan…although that may also be down to the fact that my pasty white skin shrieks at even the thought of sun. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind relaxing on the beach or taking a dip in the pool if my companions want to, but when it comes to planning my own travels I take a different route.
After finally getting our guest cards from the Town Hall yesterday, we grabbed a coffee (the French do a good decafe) round the corner as we waited for the museums to open up again. Note: shops, pharmacies and museums etc close around 12 until about 2-3pm for a long lunch in the South of France. Several coffees later we went for a stroll around town, before we ended up at the Musée Alpin. The museum tells the story of Chamonix and Mont Blanc throughout the years – offering a great chance to test the ol’ French reading skills. I loved seeing the old Winter sport advertisements and reading about the women who had conquered Mont Blanc (girl power!). The museum also happens to have an amazing exhibition of Chinese paintings on right now, which was worth the visit alone.
We had intended to visit a couple of other museums too but the draw of Richard’s ice cream stand was too much in the insane heat. So we went for “deux boules” of salted caramel butter and macaron ice cream. Yes you did see and read that correctly, macaron ice cream. It was basically chocolate with a macaron on top, but that’s still pretty darn awesome. And yes, the salted caramel butter ice cream was as deliciously decadent as it sounds.