Thursday, 13 December 2012


Wednesday 12 December

Monday was a quiet day, as usual after we've been away for a day.  When we got up the sky was heavy with rain? snow?  We didn't know, but as the snow started falling out of the trees in big lumps it was clear that a mild thaw had set in.  Some time later we had the expected precipitation in the form of sleet, of course.  Luckily not heavy and it didn't last long.

Tuesday started off as a bright sunshiny day.  An excellent day for a trip, but since we didn't wake up early we decided it shouldn't be a long trip.  We settled on Chambéry, a town some 2 hours from Montfalcon.

It was a bit daring, driving into the mountains after all the snowfall, but most of the trip would be on motorways and reasonably busy roads which we expected to be free of snow.  It proved to be a fantastic drive through the mountains as you can see from the following pictures:

Once in Chambéry it doesn't take long to find a car park.  After the long drive we are in need of a toilet, so that's our next stop.  We discover a coin operated toilet in an underground car park.  The first one I have seen in years.  Next stop is the tourism office to pick up a map of the town and some information.

We've been told that there still is the 'old city', so that's what we are heading for.  The streets in French towns and villages are generally too narrow to accommodate two cars, but these streets beat them all:

No room for cars...

A fruit and vegetables shop

I was surprised to see that my favourite brand for children's clothes still exists after all those years.
The boys used to walk around in 'Petit Bateau'... ;-)

Hard to see, but this street is line with shops which are hidden behind the pillars that form a walkway

One of the unusually wider steets

All those facades, so real French...

A church (forgotten its name)

The Fountain of Elephants (without running water in winter)

Beautiful close-up

After our walk through the beautiful ancient streets we are getting real cold and hungry, so we are going in search of a restaurant where we can get warm while having a nice meal.  We find one at the square opposite the church: Le P'tit Bar au Marché.  It is as picturesque as its name suggests!  And I need to tell you the story about the meal we have there.  Since the people don't speak English communication is partially in French and partially with gestures, which makes it all the more interesting...  We are seated and I order the plat du jour which happens to be right for this cold winter day: Pot au feu.  Frank wants a cup of coffee to warm up and meanwhile we wait for our meal to be served.  Comes the lady from behind the counter and asks something in French, but too fast for me.  She tells me in her best English: "Come with me!"  So I do.  I follow her to the kitchen where she and the cook show me a marrowbone with marrow and ask me if we want that too.  It appears to be part of  the pot au feu.  As we are game to try anything I say yes, so withing minutes we have our plates in front of us:

We also get the usual basket with baguette.  We are told that this is the way one eats this food: "Cut the marrow out of the bone, spread it on a piece of bread, sprinkle with salt and eat it with the rest of your meal."  Well, it may be unusual but it is delicious. Long live the local food!

For dessert Frank has a kind of flan with fruit (berries, cherries and such) and I go for Crême Caramel. We buy those in Australia in the supermarket, but this one is a lot bigger and home made, which means that you get the real taste of the caramelised sugar, which tastes so much better that the mass produced caramel sauce!  

Enjoying our meal
We finish with the traditional very small cup of black coffee (unlike the big one next to Frank's plate) and get ready to spend another hour of so to view the rest of the town:

Hotel de Ville

Look at the mountains at the end of the street

Le Château des Ducs de Savoie

Macquette of the old castle

Maquette of the new castle

When in search of a toilet at the castle Frank discovered this one.  An old, real French, toilet.  All of a sudden I didn't feel the need any more.... ;-)

Mountains in the background
To finish off the day just a few more pictures of the drive back home:

Those fir trees really tower over the tiny cars...

The sun setting over the mountains

Christmas decorations in the streets on the way to Roybon
Wednesday is another quiet day which we spend cleaning the house and also on another walk to the feudal castle on the hill behind the house.  In St Antoine L'Abbaye we had wanted to buy holly (houx in French), but Gabrielle told us to walk up the hill behind the house and we would find all the holly we wanted.  So we did this afternoon.  The sun was out and it was a beautiful afternoon for a walk, although quite strenuous going uphill.  It's not quite like mount Warning (in Australia), but you get your daily exercise!

When we were higher up the hill we were surprised that we could not only see the alpes in the distance, but also the Mont Blanc.  The sky was so clear and the sun was shining brightly.  It was a beautiful sight.  On the hill we are just above the house, which lies below in the valley.

Mont Blanc in the centre

This tower is part of the ruins of the feudal castle of Montfalcon

The ruins of the castle with the Mont Blanc on the left just above the trees
We found the holly alright, and lychens, chestnuts, acorns...  We took it all home where I put this nice Christmas decoration together in a basked that I found in the cellar.  The Dutch readers amongst you will probably understand how happy I was to be able to put this together.  It's an old Dutch tradition to have kerststukjes around the house, put together with holly and dennetakken. I don't have and red ribbon or tinsel, nor do I have the traditional red-and-white mushrooms, but this will do me fine...  The red berries provide the necessary red colour anyway.  I've also put some holly in a vase, bought a basket with hyacinths as I mentioned before and we've hung up a star, so bring on Christmas.  We can do without that tree and the nativity scene just for this year. :-)

I'm off to bed now.  The day has been long enough... ;-)  See you around.

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