© 2011 Aaron Gex, France countryside on the way up the mountain

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First, let me say thanks to Zach since our trip to Divonne Les Bains, France and the nearby Geneva, Switzerland area was really a perk related to Zach’s participation in the Junior Varsity basketball program at ISZL. It was a real pleasure to, at once, support him and enjoy a little time away in such a beautiful area, dipping between 2 countries for 2 days.

Rather than rising at 4AM on a Saturday morning to get Zach to Rail City in time to catch a bus to his tournament, we decided to travel to Divonne Les Bains, France as a family, then take Zach to the tournament in the morning. This was a great move as we enjoyed a peaceful night of sleep – once we found the hotel. We circled a small block four times before Zach said, “Hey, I think that’s it!” We were looking for a Park & Suites hotel, however the building had signs on it reading, “Residence & Business.” Anyway, once we arrived we were pleasantly surprised by the amenities. We had a very clean suite with a full kitchen, comfy beds and quiet surroundings.

On Saturday, we drove across the border to Zach’s first three games (see previous post). Once the games were done for the day Zach traveled to a hostile with his teammates while Kim, Katelyn and I ventured off into the hills. In typical form, we decided to just drive. We had asked a local grocery store checkout clerk for his restaurant recommendation. He explained that he lived quite far away and wasn’t familiar with restaurants in the area. However, he did explain how we might get away from the town into less touristy surroundings. He said, “Just drive until you see a sign with the name ‘F…..something’ … uh … well … just look for a sign with a long word that begins with ‘F,’ then turn right.”

We drove out of town, though we never found that sign. We zigged and zagged up the mountain until we came to a scenic outlook where we stopped to admire Mont Blanc across the valley. Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Europe. I walked up a small incline where I met a couple that had also come to photograph the mountains. I offered to take their picture there and they were obliged. I then asked them if they knew of any restaurants nearby. They said we should drive over the pass, then continue along the roads through the ski village and we would find some great places.

We continued to drive another twenty minutes, passing several restaurants peppered throughout ski areas. We were getting hungry, so we decided to turn around and pick one. As we pulled into a driveway, we realized it led to a restaurant. It was nearing 4:30 so we decided that was the place to stop. As we drove to the front of the restaurant we noticed we were the only customers. The owner had just arrived and was unloading fresh produce. Then, a local couple arrived for later afternoon drinks. We were no longer alone, so decided to head in (we figure, if the locals visit the place, it must be good). It was certainly early for dinner, by European standards, but we were greeted with menus and took our place in a warmly lit dining area near a rather chilly window.

We soon realized that none of the people knew English. Now, we’ve certainly been working to learn German, but our French vocabulary is pretty much limited to television French. We knew how to say hello, please, thank you and goodbye. It was the difference between “hot” and “cold” that tripped us up. Kim and Katelyn wanted hot tea. Simple proposition, right? We spent a few minutes trying to understand how to order hot tea, then the husband of the local couple heard our struggle, took mercy on us and came over to our table to translate for us. He was so kind, but I had to laugh. You see, here in Switzerland we’ve run into many locals who, when asked if they speak English, typically say, “A little bit.” Then, they proceed to converse in English with better aptitude than some Americans. The gentleman at our table operated in pretty much the same manner. He helped us order our meal, then smiled and returned to his wife.

The meal was amazing. They delivered the raclette machine built for two, which warmed both our dining space and Kim and Katelyn’s tummies. This wasn’t Swiss raclette. They piled on the fresh ham, salami and other meats, plus three types of raclette cheese. My filet of beef melted in my mouth as the flavors of the creamy wine sauce burst with flavor on every part of my palette. The pockets of the morels released an earthy, open festival of flavor. A top quality, fully satisfying meal.

We finished, then started the process of paying our waitress. I wanted to tip her, but didn’t know how to offer the tip. First, I tried adding an amount to the bill, but she didn’t understand. Then, I simply handed her some cash. She then smacked her forehead to signal she felt simple as she didn’t realize what I was trying to do. I felt simple because I didn’t realize how to convey my gratitude. She smiled, thanked me and wished us well.

Before leaving the restaurant, we ventured to the toilet. Too much information you say? Well, wait until you see the photo of the hall to the restrooms. I’d explain, but just take a look.

It was dusk as we left the restaurant. The sun was casting a grapefruit glow on the other side of the mountain. Thankfully, we found a few spots where we could pause for photos. One such spot offered a fantastic view of the glowing city below and the stars above. This same spot also provided a little cardiovascular boost. It was the same area where I had captured Mont Blanc and taken the photo of the couple who gave us directions to find restaurants. However, now it was very, very dark.

As I walked up the hill to get a good spot for a few photos I heard rustling in the nearby bushes beyond the gravel landing. The rustle was loud enough to give me pause, so I made some noise in the general direction of the brush. I proceeded to take many photos, trying out different time exposures to capture the glow, but limit the grain. On my last shot I suddenly had a chill down my back. I turned to my left to hear a deep, heavy breath only feet away – you know, like that of a bear or … something. My mind quickly informed me that a rustle in the brush that moves into a breath and steps next to me means … time to run! I ran to the car, Kim opened the door and we drove off. With my heart racing we raced back down to the town.

When we arrived at the hotel Katelyn cooked up a birthday surprise. She decided to do a little blind fold taste test. Kim and Katelyn prepared some sweets in the kitchen while I relaxed. Katelyn then put her winter hat over my eyes and wrapped her sweatpants around my head for good measure. The first treats were great. The two ladies had done a nice job of picking chocolate, cookies and other items that went down easy. Then came the final “treat.” Ever had Nutella wrapped in salami? Neither have I since it spent a whole half second in my mouth. A surprising end to a filling day.

Comments

  1. tammy
    Posted February 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm | #

    Wow. Great and Amazing Pics. I cant believe I could count the stars in that one photo.

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