Monday, 16 July 2007

Chamonix and Savoy

This post covers our journey through the region of Savoy.

Half an hour after crossing the border we arrived at Chamonix in the French Alps. Ski resorts are strange places in summer, you find yourself trying to imagine how much more charming the place would be with a blanket of snow everywhere. We parked up for the night in the Aiguille du Midi cable car car park for €10. This is supposed to be Europe’s scariest cable car ride up to the top of Mont Blanc. Signs in the ticket window said there was no visibility due to the clouds at the summit. About 15 motorhomes had parked up for the night so we were in good company.

The next morning we awoke (or should I say, I awoke while Sarah snoozed!) at 6am, 7.30am and finally again at 9am, but visibility remained very poor. I would’ve loved to go up to Mont Blanc but there was no point with poor visibility.

We drove off west, stopping to do our shopping at Carrefour. Somehow we managed to spend an hour and a half stocking up on food! After Switzerland blowing the budget we decided we needed a cheap night so we looked through our France Passion book which lists farms and vineyards we can stay at for free. One entry an hour away caught our eye, an ostrich farm. Driving into the heart of rural Savoy, we finally arrived in the village and followed a single track road down into a valley where the ugly creatures came into view. A sign indicated where motorhomes were allowed to stay, on a large green expanse of soggy-looking grass. A motorhomes worst nightmare!

A woman waved us down and then spoke to me very rapidly in French telling us to drive into a gravelled area with grass either side next to the ostriches. When I say next to the ostriches, a 2 metre high fence with danger warnings separated us! Almost as soon as we drove on the gravel, Ace began to sink down 6 to 8 inches. She came over once more and told me to drive fast over the gravel onto the grass in a slightly condescending tone. Sarah was fretting by this stage saying that this area was not appropriate for Ace. It then dawned on me that we both hated ostriches, we had no intention of buying any ostrich meat, so what the hell were we doing here? We slammed Ace in reverse and drove off!
Top: Sunflowers
Above left: Aiguille du Midi cable car
Left: Ace after his scary drive through the hills

It was now 6pm and we eagerly thumbed through our France Passion book looking for somewhere to stay. There was a vineyard half an hour away, so off we drove to the village of Vognes. On the way, the GPS took us up through some hills on winding roads, barely 3 metres across in places. At one stage the road was carved out of the side of the hill with rock above us and to our right with a steep drop down to the valley below to our left. Just as we were coming out of the end of this pass, a truck came round the corner and blocked our exit out the other side! He reversed and finally we got through, we pulled over to recover for a few minutes!

Below: Caveau Bugiste, Vognes

Twenty minutes later we arrived in Vognes. The vineyard was at the summit of this pretty little village and there were 2 marked gravel pitches for motorhomes, complete with water and electricity! What luxury! We walked into the cave, sampled some more wine, and walked out with a bottle of Gamay Rosé for €4.50. Behind Ace was an immaculately kept garden with rock carvings, herbs and picnic tables. Red flowers spilled out of a huge barrel for several metres giving the impression of flowing wine. We had a lovely walk to the top of the nearest hill and then around the village to admire the pretty houses and gardens. We were happy to be in a beautiful village, had a great pitch, some lovely rosé and most importantly, there were no ostriches in sight!

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