Day 24 — July 24, 1996 (Wednesday)
24.07.1996 - 25.07.1996
Lots of wind, thunder, lightning and rain last night. We awoke to a wet world — but the tent was dry inside except for Ed’s sleeping bag where the bottom was against the tent. Hopefully it will dry by tonight. Had breakfast at camp and headed north along the lake to Annecy, across the top of the lake past my favorite building in town — the Prefecture — and on up to Thônes. On the way we passed a real Fantasyland-type castle. It could be the model for Disneyland, only it was real. Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard web site
Thônes wasn’t on our list of things to see, but it looked like an interesting town so we parked and started to explore. One of the first things we found was a tiny museum of the area with a wonderful diorama of an early Savoy village. We walked past all manner of little shops with wondrous aromas escaping. There was a lovely little church that we photographed and then changed some money at Credit Agricole — since the Swiss had taken all our cash yesterday. We still think the Swiss Customs lady cheated us. Thirty-five dollars to go into Switzerland for three or four hours is ridiculous! [As noted earlier, we later discovered it is a one-year road tax for the superhighways.] Museum of the Countryside of Thônes
Decided to stop in the next town for lunch, but St. Jean d’Sixte didn’t have much in the way of restaurants so we drove on to La Clusaz and actually found a parking place. Naturally we had to check every restaurant in town. Ended up going back to Restaurant de Savoie in the Hotel Les Airelles right by the parking lot. It was très chalet and done in Provençal colors (blue and yellow). Our very nice waitress knew about ten words of English but really tried hard to please. She was terrific and even helped us with our French. We ordered the 78F menu which was a crudité, plat du jour and dessert. Two waitresses couldn’t explain what the plat du jour was, but we decided we’d take a chance. Good choice! The plat turned out to be breast of chicken between two thin slices of ham and baked in a fondue-like cheese sauce. Ed had a fruit tart and I the Marquis au Chocolat for dessert. Add a great cup of coffee and we voted this our second favorite meal in France. Hotel-Restaurant Les Airelles and Restaurant de Savoie web site
We had a seat by the back window so Ed watched the ski lifts serve summer tourists until it started to pour and all outside activity ceased. We stayed dry in our cozy little restaurant with our very pleasant meal and waitress. As we finished, the sun came out as if on cue.
There were more rain clouds above us and it was starting to get foggy, so we decided to retrace our steps to Annecy and avoid the higher mountains. Ed parked at the Château again while I whined, but it is free so you can’t argue about the price. We walked down (and down and down) into the old town, and it soon started to rain ever so lightly. We appreciated the medieval habit of building the second story out into the street to create a covered walkway even if it was just to save on taxes. It keeps you dry when it's raining too. Wandered around for a while, but the tourists were pretty thick so I suggested the park by the lake. Just as we got there, it started to pour — with thunder and lightning. Up went umbrellas as everyone ducked for cover. We were all either at the boat ride office or under large trees — not too smart in an electrical storm. The rain let up a bit and quite a few people left. Ed and I found a dry park bench and swan- and people-watched for a while.
A cool breeze came up so we went in search of a very elusive salon de thé. We found Notre Dame Cathedral — not nearly as impressive as St. Pierre around the corner — and heard a nice little group of students playing Rossini on a street corner — violin, cello, bass, clarinet and accordion. I’m sure Rossini would have approved of the accordion. It was great fun and drew a good crowd.
We bought sandwiches and tarts and headed back to camp in a real L.A.-style traffic jam. Our fifteen-minute drive took nearly an hour!
It had poured rain all day and since there was grass on only three sides of our tent, unfortunately the front was covered with splashed mud. Our experience with mud ruining our tent zipper in Santa Fe two years ago showed us we had to wash the front of the tent before we unzipped it. The only way was to use our Evian drinking water — cheaper than a new zipper! I washed it down and Ed refilled the bottle at the pump and we washed some more — then unzipped to find everything dry except a very small puddle under my air mattress. We were really lucky. Many European tents don’t have floors, so they lay down plastic tarps. The rain runs onto the tarp and right into the tent, so many of our neighbors were digging drainage trenches and putting stones around their tents.
We had a pique-nique inside our tent and are in for the night. Sure wish a wind would come up and dry the tent for our trip to Beaune tomorrow!