Here in the mountains there is a simple motto, Le Bonheur est Simple! This means a lot in parts of France, most of the shops take a two to three hour lunch break, they often don’t open until 10 am and shut at 12, when there is a mass exodus up or down the mountains, because of La Grande Bouffe, ( Lunch). Lunchtime is sacrosanct!
But it also means a very relaxed approach to life, taking the cows in the spring to the Alpage ( summer meadows) where the owners often stay with their herds in little Mazots ( small wooden sheds) without electricity nor running water. It also means sitting and having a cup of coffee with friends or un petit verre ( a glass of wine or genepi).
On Saturday, we decamped down the Mountain to Chamonix, the very pretty Mountain town, the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924. It was the Brits who developed Chamonix as a resort in the late 1800’s as part of La Grand Tour! And of course it does help to have the highest mountain in Europe, namely Mont Blanc!
It is possible to go up the Aiguille du Midi Cable car both winter and summer, but is expensive, €61 for adults and €52 for children, or you can go halfway ( half the price) to Le Plan du Aiguille, where in summer it is possible to travers the mountain to the upper station of the Montenvers train. There is another train The Tramway, which also provides the climbing route for Mont Blanc itself. There are other cable cars in Chamonix ,which are also cheaper and go up the other side of the town, which then gives the visitors a wonderful view of Mont Blanc.
But I digress, we went to Chamonix to go to the market, yes, Saturday is market day. We have never been to this market in winter before and so it was interesting to see how innovative the traders were in an effort to keep warm. The fruit and vegetable sellers had plastic tents surrounding them, along with heaters inside, as did the flower seller. Others worked outside with portable heaters or just thermal clothes, boots and gloves.Always at these markets are the fruit and veg sellers, the cheese people, the sausage and cold meat sellers, the fish man and two sellers that I can not get my head around. The Pain d’Epices, which is basically gingerbread but drier and the Nougat seller! I did ask the Monsieur “The what and the why? The answer, quiet simply , ” They have a sweet tooth and eat it like chocolate !The other almost permanent residents of the markets, are the cooked chicken seller and the Choucroute seller, the chicken people always have a large queue for their chickens and not such a big queue for the Choucroute, but nonetheless a queue.
We also visited a Fruitiere, ( have not worked out where this name came from, but is a cheese maker, or farm products, cheese butter, eggs etc.) This was the Coopérative Fruitière en Val d’Arly Savoie Mont Blanc, the selection of local products was impressive and we ended up buying a cheese, similar to Mont D’Or but made in the Val d’arly and with raw milk.
I had planned Peking Duck for dinner, but this had to wait and so Le Bonheur était Simple, Dinner became cheese and potatoes and salad!
Also whilst in Chamonix we visited a museum, which gave a potted history of the town and a tearoom, which was awash with Macaroons! I must remember to bring #1 grandson here in the summer as not only did they have Macaroons but Meringues as well, both of which he loves ( as do the others).On our return journey, down the mountain road which I really dislike , we came across in Cluses, a dreary town halfway between Chamonix and ourselves, the only protestors of Les Gilets Jaunes, I have to say they were not very impressive!
So far on this visit, I have learnt three new French words, Spaghetteria, Omeletterie, and Boulonerie! The first two are obvious but the third ? Bolt Department! The French government often tries to prohibit the anglicisation of French words, but maybe they have better things to worry about at the moment.