(4.7) (29 votes)
Chamonix, Province and Paris, France
September 16, 2003
Pros: delightful picnics of fresh French breads, stinky cheeses,
creamy yogurts, divine pates, smoked meats..
watch out for the train station attendants!
France was a gastronomical delight! We started our eating tour in
Chamonix, which is in the French Alps in the valley underneath Mt.
Blanc, right on the border of Switzerland and Italy. The hiking
was fantastic as expected, and seeing the glaciers stretching down
in the valley from the tops of the mountains was beautiful. We did
an above the tree line hike, which made for some amazing views of
Mt. Blanc, and an along the valley hike through the forest and pastureland,
which reminded us of Switzerland. The hikes were made all the better
by our delightful picnics of fresh French breads, stinky cheeses,
creamy yogurts, divine pates, smoked meats and incredibly fresh
fruit -- the likes of which you simply cannot get back in the States.
The next stop on our gastronomical tour was a beautiful french farmhouse
in the heart of Provence. Since we arrived without a car we were
essentially stranded at our B&B. This horrible fate meant that
we had to hike in the vineyards all day and at night be subjected
to brilliant 8 course dinners prepared by our very hospitable and
able hosts who spoke little English, but definitely knew the language
Paris, our final stop in France, was a delight on the senses. This
city is nothing short of beautiful. It being our first time, we
did the typical touristy things - the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame,
the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, a walk down the river Seine - and
loved it! Our favorite was the Musee de Orsey, which has some of
the most famous Impressionist paintings. But of course, the Louvre
was spectacular and overwhelming, and we got to see many of our
favorite French revolutionary paintings as well. Of course, we also
managed to sneak in several excellent restaurants where we dined
to our hearts' content.
Alas, France was not all perfect. While we did met some exceptionally
nice people, who went out of their way to be helpful in all sorts
of ways, the rumor that the French aren't fond of tourists was confirmed
in the train station attendants. Susan knows a bit of French from
school, but its all mixed up with Spanish from work, which makes
for a confusing combo. So everytime we sidled up to a train attendant,
we would say bon jour and, rather than subjecting them to our dreadful
language skills, ask in French if they speak English. Invariably
we would get a very curt "non" accompanied by a bored
or hostile look, and we would delve into our French. After five
minutes of confusion, the now angry train attendant would begin
to speak perfect English. Time and again. It got pretty frustrating
for us, and made train travel not so fun. But at least the food
and wine made up for it and more, and we definitely want to return
to France in the future!
But the trip moves forward, and now we're off to Italy for pasta
and renaissance art! Au' revoir!