Travel diary: France and on to Switzerland

It’s been an excellent week, mostly spent in the French mountain village of Chinaillon at Chalet Balaena, but we also made it to Switzerland to spend time with old friends from home.

12/7 Monday Our first day in Chalet Balaena was a tranquil – we basically stayed in and worked all day, at least we got a lot done. We headed out in the late afternoon to explore the town of Chinaillon and buy “un pain”, and some food for dinner. Because the supermarket opens at 4pm, we had a very late lunch and a correspondingly late dinner – though not late by South American standards!

On the route of the Tour de France, Chinaillon, France13/7 Tuesday One of the reasons we were in France was to watch the Tour de France go through the village where we were staying. Accordingly, we set off at about 10am with Wink and Brett to find the perfect spot to see the action – this was on the side of a hill, just over the col. We joined the small community of campervanners who had obviously been there at least overnight, if not for a few days – seems to be a popular holiday around here, to follow the Tour across France.

We were there in plenty of time to see the caravane go past – this is the procession of sponsors’ vehicles, from motorbikes to intricate floats, which precede the cyclists along the route. Many of them throw out gifts – I got two hats, some Haribo sweets and a couple of packets of laundry liquid. There was an hour’s wait between the end of the caravane and the cyclists coming past, but luckily Wink had come prepared and we had a glass of wine. The cyclists themselves whizzed past in a matter of minutes, surrounded by support vehicles. It was amazing to see the speed they go, especially downhill.

We headed home for lunch and an afternoon of work – it’s nice to work with the view of picturesque chalets with mountains in the background!

Hiking in Chinaillon, Alps, France14/7 Wednesday Wednesday is market day in Le Grand-Bornand, the larger town which Chinaillon is technically part of (I think), so we headed down the hill to buy some apricots and have a look around. It was also Bastille Day but there weren’t any celebrations during the day, and the fact that there was no transport back up the hill after 6pm meant that we couldn’t stay for the evening festivities. Le Grand-Bornand is a very pretty town, with an incredible carousel next to the centrally located church. We had an ice-cream near the river before catching the cable car back up the mountain – sadly it doesn’t go straight to Chinaillon, but it meant we had a good hike home before a late lunch of reblouchon cheese, salami and tomato.

We had a nice relaxing afternoon and evening, I read a lot then we had a game of Catan. And of course, it was all accompanied by local wine.

Canal in Annecy, France15/7 Thursday A work day at home, we ate good food, drank good wine and I thrashed Craig at Catan. Nice.

16/7 Friday We had a nice lazy morning then headed through Chinaillon for a short walk in the hills before lunch. We ate at a small restaurant/bakery/ice-cream parlour, they put on an excellent menu del dia (it’s just called a “menu” here, I don’t think that’s descriptive enough). We had a quiche to start, followed by fish (being Friday) and a lemon meringue pie to finish up – I could barely finish it all, and we were so full that we had to spend half an hour at home before heading off on our longer hike of the day. This started at Chalet Balaena, went straight up for 200 metres, then circled back around through the village.

In the evening we had a drink with Wink, Brett, and their friends, then had a relaxing evening in.

Maia playing chess in Geneva, Switzerland17/7 Saturday Brett was driving into Annecy, and very kindly gave us a lift in – it was awesome, because getting there ourselves from Chinaillon would have involved two buses and a lot more time. We spent about three hours walking around Annecy, which is an incredibly pretty city built on the shores of Lake Annecy and canals feeding into it. Then we hopped on a bus which took us to Geneva, where we found our way to Paul and Kirsty‘s house. They’re old friends from home and ex-flatmates from our England time, who we haven’t seen for almost four years, since we left St Albans.

We got to meet their gorgeous baby Maia and went out for a tasty chicken meal, accompanied by local wine for us and local beer for Paul. Yum.

18/7 Sunday Ah, the perfect Sunday. We got up late and Paul cooked breakfast, then we sat around for a couple of hours playing with Maia before walking to the park. Craig and Paul played a game of giant chess, then we went to Kirsty’s favourite cafe to drink coffee, chat, and relax for an hour or so. In the evening we walked to a different park for a picnic – the weather was perfect (i.e. not too hot) and the only problem was Maia getting food all over herself. Awesome.

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