FRANCE: Through the Alps
I think I have left my heart behind somewhere in the French Alps.
Although it was so cold we each wore at least three layers of clothing, there was a beauty, a freshness and, for me at least, a real sense of deep peace to be found among those snow covered mountains and fir trees.
I have already written about how much I loved the alpine village of Chamonix (pictured) but the journey back down through the mountains to Annecy and the spa town of Aix-les-Bains was just as magical.
In Annecy I wandered through a bustling market. The houses were built around a series of canals, creating a little Venice. I found the Art Cafe, a local bar tucked away at the heart of a tiny island that once housed a prison, and tried my first taste of Croque Monsieur (a toasted ham and cheese sandwich).
The passageways on the island were cold and dark and it was not hard to imagine how awful it must have been to find yourself imprisoned there.
After lunch I went for a long walk around the edges of the beautiful lake in the rain, and then back inside for a wonderful chocolate crepe.
That night we enjoyed a quiet evening in Aix-les-Bains. I had intended to have a massage at our spa hotel but all appointments were booked out, so instead I took another walk in the rain around the marina where the fog shrouded mountains tumbled into Lake Bourget.
It was here that Queen Victoria came to ‘take the waters’.
The following morning luck was with me as I scored the front seat as we wound down through narrow winding mountain passes with no guard rails to stop our large bus from plunging over the edge. Despite our perilous position, the incredible skill of our driver Georges (pictured) ensured that we felt both exhilarated and perfectly safe.
Georges was a real treasure who patiently spoke to me only in French. Understanding my love of the language he gently repeated himself whenever my face wore a look of confusion, and beamed happily whenever I managed to push myself to say things like “Good night my friend – I hope you have sweet dreams” instead of the usual ‘Bon nuit’.
Because of Georges my confidence grew every day.