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.
Yesterday we decided to go on an adventure. We wanted to visit the George de la Diosaz in Servoz as we missed it last year. So we headed to the town hall to get our guest passes for the train. Unfortunately the town hall closed at 12 (for lunch) and we arrived at the office at 11:59. In a typically French fashion we were turned away. So we healed our wounds with a thick Italian hot chocolate at Green Soft Bar, where the charismatic waiter spoke to me completely in French. You may be thinking “What were you expecting Emma, you’re in France.” That’s very true, but it so often happens that when they catch even the slightest glimpse of an accent here, they reply in English. That’s actually really kind, but it’s also a little disheartening when you want to practise a language other than your own. So I laughed and chatted with the waiter as he asked me if I wanted a ‘proper hot chocolate – so thick you have to drink/eat it with a spoon’. My favourite kind!
We soon decided that instead we would hike to Glacier des Bossons – we have a thing for glaciers. Off we went walking through the woods, passing perfectly blue lakes with hidden caves and old ruins. It felt like we were in a fairytale. Once we arrived to Les Bossons Ben decided we would take the chair lift up to the glacier. I have a real phobia of chair lifts after being stuck at around 60 foot in the air above a lake when I was 12. I decided I would power through though and fight my phobia…guess what happened? Yep, half way up, it stopped. I have the worst luck! After a little cry and managing not to throw up (go me!) we were on our way again. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to have my feet on solid ground. It was all worth it though (at least I’m telling myself that now) as the view was beautiful. The small chalet offering food and coffee next to the glacier was perfectly placed, so we sat in the sun looking on at the slowly disappearing natural beauty.
Oh yeah we walked back down, and I rewarded myself with a gigantic burger at Monkey that evening.
Minimal make-up (or none at all) has become a daily occurrence when I’m on holiday, as I opt for a more natural look. Of course it helps that pretty much all of the women in the South of France are sans make-up…or just know how to cleverly disguise it to look as if they aren’t wearing any. This time I took it a step further and let my hair keep it’s natural curls and frizz. It’s odd to think that only a few years ago I would never have left the house without styling my hair and throwing on some make-up. It’s empowering and kind of wonderful to feel so comfortable in my own skin.
Of course my clothing follows the same path lately. Minimalistic with clean colours. The old white blouse and jeans combo can never fail, take my word for it. Pair it with some ballet flats (a French favourite), an oversized bag (for all the cheese and grenadine you’re going to buy later) and some subtle shades (very mysterious, darling), and you’ve got yourself the perfect holiday look.
Admittedly our first full day in Chamonix was always going to be a lazy one. That didn’t stop me waking up at 8am though to go to the boulangerie for baguette and croissants (you gotta be early to get the pick of the best). It did mean that I took a rather leisurely stroll back to the apartment, making sure to take a few photos here and there. Each chalet in town seems to be unique to it’s owner, baring marks of their personality and history. As someone who admires architecture this is perfect for my holiday snaps. After devouring my croissant amande we took a stroll into town and did a bit of window shopping.
It was intended to be an actual shopping trip, but Ben (he’s after some new kicks) can never decide when it comes to clothing. Usually it’s me who is after a new outfit or the latest beauty product, but I’m actually pretty content right now. I guess I want to remember this holiday through experiences, rather than material items. That’s why we had to stop off at one of the best sandwich places in Chamonix. The hole-in-the-wall food vendor is usually populated by skaters and snowboarders (depending on the season), taking me back to my high school days. Good nostalgic comfort food. Whilst we were sat enjoying our poulet frites baguette, a sudden cheer erupted in a crowd that had somehow gathered around us without our knowledge. A marathon was happening, and the stars were the waiters and waitresses from the local bars and restaurants. Their task? To carry a tray of filled glasses and bottles around the town as quickly as possible. Not something I’d personally want to partake in, especially in the hot sun. Yet everyone was smiling as they competed against each other.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 4:30am and hopped on a night bus to Victoria station. No I wasn’t going on a still-drunk adventure, I was off on holiday! We caught the train to Gatwick with our gigantic suitcase and were whisked through drop-off and security pretty quickly. In fact everything went very smoothly and before we knew it we were sat on our Easy Jet plane bound for Geneva (with a spare seat beside me – score!). Our travels didn’t stop at Geneva though, as we boarded the Alpy Bus to Chamonix.
If you were reading my blog this time last year you may have noticed a slight similarity. You see, we have a family apartment in Chamonix and Ben and I love nothing more than running away to it in the Summer. Ski season is wonderful in Chamonix, but the weather in Summer is amazing (clear sky and a hot sun), and it’s much more relaxing not having to fight the hoards of skiers/tourists for the last baguette every morning.
As I type this I am currently sat outside on the porch looking directly at Mont Blanc (the third most visited natural site in the world behind Mount Fuji and the Niagara falls), and I realise just how lucky I am.
I really want to share my travels with you as it’s not something I get the chance to do often (due to work and life in general). Therefore I plan to bring you a daily travel diary complete with photos and a summary of what I’ve been up to (more than likely from the previous day). I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Salon de Thé Mat’cha | Japanese Tearoom | Hotel Cretes Blanches, 16 Impasse du Génépy, Chamonix
Never would I have expected to find a Japanese tearoom in Chamonix. However I was pleasantly surprised to find one on my recent holiday to France. I happened to pass a sign and saw the Japanese kanji for tea – 茶 – which peaked my interest. So we went back the following day and were greeted by a wonderfully serene setting by a hotel.
The hostess is a very sweet Japanese lady who speaks French, English and Japanese. We were both in such awe, especially as it gave us a chance to practice all of our languages. We were shown the wide range of teas, which she brought to us in beautiful red lacquer boxes. After carefully explaining the origins and tastes etc of the teas, we were left to make our decision. After choosing our tea sets we chatted with the lovely hostess in Japanese about our travels. I have to say she really made the experience worthwhile, and showed such kindness to us. You all know I’m a big fan of matcha and Japanese tea and this only fed my love for it. My set came with candied sweet potato too, which was absolutely delicious.
Mat’cha offers traditional Japanese tea sets, as well as regular tea and coffee. They also offer a small lunch menu consisting of one item, which is served Tuesday – Friday. The menu changes day by day, and includes popular Japanese dishes such as curry, sushi or bento. Also on offer are well known Japanese sweet treats, such as chiffon & matcha cake, taiyaki and more. We didn’t opt for a lunch as we had actually just eaten and weren’t aware that they did lunches. However we agreed that we would certainly go back again to try out the lunch menu.
Mat’cha is a part of and connected to Hôtel les Crêtes-Blanches.