We’ve just finished a week in Chamonix Mont Blanc, popular for winter sports and an all around mountain and woods based good time. I’ll tell you something though… Vianne Rocher from Chocolat is absolutely a hoax, because there is no way a person can live in a place with that sort of supply of chocolate and macarons and be as skinny as she is in the film. I am in no doubt both le pain and le chocolat chaud are catching up on me – two weeks in Paris with a boulangerie at your literal doorstep followed by this, and it’s no real surprise. It’s still disconcerting though, when that moment you put on a pair of jeans and they (lol) break at the zipper happens, or your tights are just a bit too tight and you have to struggle between squatting and standing repeatedly, to get them on. Anyway I’m telling myself it’s a small price to pay for the delicacies relished over a three week period. I always fantasised about experiencing a small-town chocolaterie like the one in the film. The chocolat chaud made from real melted chocolate with fresh crême on top… all goodies made through the French door in the cave style kitchen; a huge batch of chocolate bubbling away in a large cauldron over a real fire, and all that. Justification shall always make one feel better, I suppose. Anyway on an unrelated note, I have been equally startled and bemused by how many times I have recently used a public toilet and been forced to drip dry (for want of a better description, for the male readers.) At least five times over a one week period, with each time a toilet in a different area being used, I have realised too late that there is no papier. Coincidence I am sure, but baffling nonetheless.
Chamonix was quite delightful, I must say. A little too touristy, exemplified by the haughty nature of some of the working people we encountered as well as the tendency by some to quickly continue an exchange in English, that had begun in French. It seems that a momentary pause to consider a choice could be mistaken as misunderstanding, thus prompting the language swap, and I found myself actually encouraging the French over the English – because that is one of the main reasons I am there. To speak French! What a revolutionary idea…to go to France and speak the language of the country. Just crazy. I do completely understand this propensity to switch to English, as many times I witnessed an English speaking person come into a shop without even attempting a bonjour. These people do not have my support at all. Imagine coming to Australia from a non-English speaking country and just outright speaking your own language…it seems disrespectful. I am certain it would be appreciated by the locals if you actually made some effort, as a foreigner.
The chalets in the area are typical of the region, and generally nothing short of stunning. Huge timber structures built for holding masses of snow in the winter, some with stone roofing and all generally beautiful. I have been spending some of the period in which Arlo is asleep exploring the surrounds via foot, at a pace which could be considered by any seasoned runner as “slow.” I’ve seen some beautiful sites! In terms of exercise though, I was relatively stiff for about 48 hours after 3.5 days of snowboarding alongside Shane. Day three was the best; we went to Grand Montets – which we found out once we were there, is actually more popular for skiers. We discovered why upon our arrival at the top of one slope…I watched Shane (a seasoned snowboarder and generally agile sportsperson) slide down the first part on his butt with me calling out “BRAKE! BRAKE!” It was first thing in the morning and the sun hadn’t yet hit the snow, so it was like a concrete hill. When we tackled that one three more times later on, it became my favourite. The skiers had ripped it up a bit and the temperature had eased the cold hard ice. Overall I only had one hard fall on the way down at the end of the day – the type that makes you feel your brain move in your head (and no mum and dad, I wasn’t wearing a helmet. But I’m obviously fine…for now.) My untamed love for sliding down snow covered hills on a piece of laminated fibreglass stands unperturbed.
Having been so close to Switzerland whilst in the French Alps, of course we indulged in a raclette feast. Our hosts had thankfully included a little raclette grill in the accomodation, so all we needed were our ingredients. Being a two year old, Arlo did not appreciate the effort or taste of anything involved in the meal. Never mind, his time will come.
We have arrived at our next destination, Aix-En-Provence. It’s about half as noisy as Paris; I’ve only heard one siren since we arrived last night. We’re in a busy area with many winding, intricate streets jam packed with restaurants, bars, doggy poops (nobody cleans up after their dog in France) cafés, fountains, cobble stones, boulangerie and chocolaterie (someone help me). I’ve just been for my first run around the area and I really like the feel. There are lots of people around, despite the public holiday and many shops being closed. Our accomodation smells a bit gross and gets really stuffy if all the windows are shut, and it also needs a new floor and a fan in the bathroom. We had to rearrange the furniture to accomodate a toddler, but that may well be standard for every parent, everywhere she goes. Step one: where are the hazards!?
One more thing – le pain et les croissants have been the best BY FAR in Paris. Undoubtedly. Flaky, crunchy and soft in all the right places. What is actually quite funny too, is how frequently I have seen people walking down the street munching on the much-coveted end of a baguette. It’s not a stereotype that French people eat bread. French people EAT BREAD. And I know why. Because it’s delicious, it doesn’t have as many preservatives (I know this because if you haven’t eaten it by the end of the day, it’s usually stale the next) and it goes with every meal. The French do lots of things differently to what we do in Australia, many of them better choices, in my opinion. I’ll touch on those next time.
Ciao ciao : )