Well what a busy couple of weeks it’s been for us.
The highlight of course has been the coming together of family and friends to celebrate Phil’s 60th Birthday.
As a base for the celebrations, our friends and fellow “travellers” Steve and Lizzie had given us the use of their home in the French Alps, while they were off doing their own six week 4,600 mile coastal tour of Spain. We were blown away when we arrived at their beautiful home, high in the mountains, overlooking the stunning Lake Geneva, an amazing setting for a Birthday to remember.
Over the course of the next ten days, we were joined – at various times – by all of Phil’s kids, partners and grandchildren, our best friends, Jan and Colin, and Steve and Lizzie returning from their travels. What’s been months in the planning gave us a fabulous week of celebrations; truly a birthday to remember with a treasure trove of memories to take away.
Travelling is such a fun and life changing thing to do, but the hardest part of spending so much time travelling is being away from all the special people in our lives: mums and dads, brothers, sisters, kids, grand kids, our friends, our neighbours. Of course we miss seeing them all, but technology is so good nowadays that most times it doesn’t feel like we’re far apart at all. With Video calling, Facebook and WhatsApp chat groups, we still know what’s going on in everybody’s lives. While nothing beats a hug, seeing people’s faces as we chat to them, or watching videos of special events means we can still share in, and be a part of everybody’s lives.
So, birthday apart, what else have we been up to recently.
We’d stopped in at Annecy, a beautiful old town sat at the northern end of a turquoise lake in the foothills of the Alps. We couldn’t understand why all of the camp sites and Aires were so full in mid October until we realised we’d arrived the day before the “Retour des Alpages” – Annecy’s annual carnival where all the farmers and artisans come down from the hills and display and parade through the town. Having had to park our van “Elton” 5 miles down the lake, we caught the bus into Annecy on carnival day, and spent the day wandering through the streets viewing the crafts and trying out far too many of the food and drinks on sale. Highlight of the day was the grand parade through the streets, a typical carnival parade which was completed by herds of cows and sheep being shepherded through the massive crowds of people – that was fun to watch! The buses were busy on the way home so we decided to walk along the lake back to Elton – a long walk on tired legs and full bellies!
We were too close to Chamonix not to pay a visit. Chamonix is one of France’s most famous ski resorts and sits high in the snow covered mountains with Europe’s largest mountain Mont Blanc towering above them all. We love ski towns, there’s always a sense of excitement about them. They sleep in the summer, with many of the shops and restaurants closed, but they come alive in the winter months as the ski crowds arrive. Our purpose for this visit was to take the cable car up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, a peak close by Mont Blanc. Well we’ve done many ski lifts in our time but these cable cars, which each hold about 100 people were something else entirely. We took the first lift up to the mid-point station, where we transferred to another lift that took us to the top of the Aiguille du Midi at 3,842 metres. This second lift was a very scary beast, as we neared the summit, the car was travelling vertically for the last 100m up the sheer cliff face. We were glad to reach the top, where the views across the snow covered mountains, across the mountain peaks, and across to Mont Blanc were simply sensationally spectacularly stunning. It wasn’t cheap, it cost us €120 to ride the cars to top, but it was worth every scary penny (or cent!)
We had one last fabulous free stopover in France at an Olive Mill that was part of the French Passion network.
The owners seemed delighted to welcome us onto their Olive Farm, where we’d arrived at harvest time. They were really happy to show us round the mill and to show and explain to us the oil being extracted from the olive fruits. We came away once again singing the praises of French Passions, and with some very tasty, and beautifully fresh olive oil!
We’ve travelled down through the Alsace and the whole of the Eastern side of France and enjoyed every minute, but with our mountain visits and birthday celebrations complete, it’s time to get moving down into Spain. The weather’s turned noticeably colder in France in the last couple of weeks, and it’s always been our goal, to get to the warmer weather for the winter.
France, we’ve loved you as always, we’re almost sorry to leave you, but we will be back.
Spain here we come.
(If anyone’s interested, we keep a record of all of our stopovers on a Google Map – see ” Our Stopovers” link at the top of the page, or click HERE)